China is marking 20 years since the death of the second-most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism by lauding him as an enemy of separatism in the restive region as it enters a year laden with tense anniversaries.
The death on January 28, 1989, of the 10th Panchen Lama, revered by Tibetans for championing their rights, deprived Chinese authorities of a buffer against discontent in the mountain region and helped stir demonstrations and riots in the regional capital Lhasa weeks later.
But Chinese officials now champion the late Panchen Lama as a model patriot, set against the exiled Dalai Lama, who they condemn as a separatist traitor.
In the official People's Daily on Tuesday, a senior Communist Party official again lauded him as an example for restive Tibet, which erupted in riots and protest in March last year.
But the 10th Panchen Lama's political legacy is much more disputed than such propaganda presents. A leading expert on Tibet said Beijing has trapped itself by failing to accept a successor Panchen Lama who is trusted by most Tibetans.
China lost a chance to win greater acceptance from Tibetans when it put under secretive house arrest the five-year-old boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995. Beijing installed its own successor, who is spurned by most Tibetans as an illegitimate choice.
Information for this report was provided by Reuters.