We have seen reports that the Chinese Government’s Religious Affairs Bureau has made a statement rejecting the selection of a reincarnated Panchen Lama announced by the Dalai Lama on May 14. We have not yet seen the statement itself.

If the reports are true, we would be disappointed that the Chinese Government and the Tibetan Buddhist religious hierarchy have not come to an agreement on this religious question. The Dalai Lama’s statement of May 14 suggested that there had been continuing consultations with Chinese authorities concerning the search for the reincarnation. We are disappointed that these contacts seem not to have been fruitful.

We are concerned that disagreements or controversies about the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama might raise additional doubts about the Chinese Government’s commitment to respecting the religious beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhists. We note that freedom of religious practice is guaranteed by China’s Constitution.

Although we are not competent to comment on the merits of this religious issue, we would urge both the Chinese Government and the Tibetan religious authorities in exile to continue their contacts and discussions about this.