Tibetan exile groups say China is arranging for the government-appointed Panchen Lama to visit a troubled monastery in western Gansu province despite resistance from local monks.
The groups say flyers have been distributed at the Labrang monastery saying the lama is not welcome. The monastery in Gannan prefecture was the scene of deadly protests against Chinese rule in 2008.
The French news agency quotes a hotel manager in the area saying security has been stepped up ahead of the visit, with armed police in every street. Travel agencies tell the news service that no foreigners are being permitted to visit the monastery during the visit.
Tibetan rights groups say monks at the monastery have been told the visit will last for several months. According to one account, China wants the Panchen Lama to study Tibetan Buddhism at the esteemed monastery in order to boost his credentials with ordinary Tibetans.
The Panchen Lama is the second ranking spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism. But many Tibetans reject the current lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, because of the way he was chosen.
The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, originally selected another young man, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, to become the 11th Panchen Lama. But the youth was arrested by Chinese police in 1995 at the age of 6 and has not been heard from since.
In his place, Chinese authorities named Gyaltsen Norbu, who has backed Chinese rule in Tibet. He has been made a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, one of the country's highest political bodies.