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习仲勋：深切怀念中国共产党的忠诚朋友班禅大师 Xi Zhongxun: In Fond Memory of Buddhist Great Master Panchen Lama, a Loyal Friend of the Communist Party
Source: People’s Net (People’s Daily)
Originally published in the People’s Daily February 20, 1989
Buddhist Master Panchen Erdini Qoigyi Gyaincain [Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen] died suddenly due to a heart ailment. The Chinese Communist Party has lost a loyal friend, and I have lost a colleague and intimate friend of 40 years standing.
Over the past 40 years, the Panchen Lama and I established a deep friendship. Prior to his trip to Tibet to dedicate a statue at Tashilunpo Monastery, he took time to bid farewell to me and presented me with a khata (ceremonial silk scarf). It was his long-established habit to bid farewell to me when he left on trips, and to have a heart-to-heart talk with me when he returned. I knew him well. He was very enthusiastic, easily excited, and when he was working he could barely control his emotions. I advised him that because there was a severe lack of oxygen in this season in Tibet, he must be careful of his health, not get short-tempered, and that he should balance work and rest. He told me that he would die happy once his project was completed. I told him that Buddha didn’t want him to go yet, nor did Marx want him to go. Who knew that this would be our final parting. Holding the spotless white khata he gave me when we last saw each other and looking toward the western sky, I am filled with great sadness.
When the Panchen Lama was alive he said repeatedly that he loved and harbored deep affection toward the Communist Party since his childhood . He said that without the Communist Party’s leadership, there wouldn’t be today’s Tibet. From my long relationship with him, I knew deeply that he meant what he said. His life experience also reinforced this.
As an outstanding representative and leader of the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama always linked the fate and future of Tibet to that of the Motherland and the Communist Party’s leadership. During various historical periods, from the eve of victory of the Chinese people’s war for liberation to the founding of New China, the Panchen Lama wholeheartedly supported the correct decisions of the Chinese Communist Party on many major issues.
In September 1949, after the liberation of Xining City, Qinghai Province, the Panchen Lama sent people to contact the Chinese Communist Party. At the time, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Peng Dehuai and I, both in charge of the work of the Northwest Bureau, got in touch with the Panchen Lama. Upon the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the Panchen Lama sent a telegram to Chairman Mao and Commander-in-Chief Zhu De hailing the birth of New China. He enthusiastically expressed his sincere love and respect for the Chinese Communist Party, and endorsing the Chinese Communist Party’s lifting of the system of ethnic repression and the implementing of the policy of national minority equality. He firmly believed that under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Tibet’s liberation would be imminent. In their reply to his telegram, Chairman Mao and Commander-in-Chief Zhu De wished that the Panchen Lama and Tibetan patriots would work hard and make joint effort for the liberation of Tibet and for the unity of the Han and Tibetan peoples. In June 1950, the Panchen Lama sent his representative Trendong Che Jigme and others on a special trip to Xi’an to meet Commander-in-Chief Peng Dehuai and to suggest proposals for the liberation of Tibet. I accompanied Commander-in-Chief Peng in meeting Trendong Che Jigme’s group. We enthusiastically supported the Panchen Lama’s patriotic act, and thanked his trust in the Party. We sent a letter to the Panchen Lama wishing for “the Tibetan people’s early return to the big and loving family of the People’s Republic to enjoy equality, peace and a happy new life.” The Communist Party Central Committee and Chairman Mao attached great importance to the Panchen Lama’s suggestions regarding the liberation of Tibet, believing they complied with the spirit of patriotism and unity.
The first time I met the Panchen Lama was in mid-April 1951, when he stopped in Xi’an with his court officials on his way to Beijing. I met him at the airport on behalf of the Northwest Bureau and the Northwest Military and Political Committee. When he stepped off the plane, I saw a handsome teenaged Tibetan living Buddha right in front of me. After he walked down the airplane ramp, he tightly held my hand and said excitedly: “We are making a special trip to Beijing to pay tribute to Chairman Mao! I will personally forward the good wishes of the Tibetan people to the Central People’s Government and Chairman Mao. At the welcoming reception, he expressed his firm support for the Central People’s Government and his determination to work hard with Tibetan patriots in all walks of life for the liberation of Tibet and the unity of the Tibetan people. “A man of great will does not necessarily have to be old.” His patriotic fervor and frank and forthright personality left a deep impression on me.
In the spring of 1951, the pro-imperialist Taktra Regent stepped down and the Dalai Lama assumed leadership. On January 27, the Dalai Lama wrote to the Chinese Central Government, reporting that he had assumed leadership and expressing his desire to seek peace. In its reply, the Central Government congratulated his rise to leadership and encouraged him to send representatives to Bejing for peace talks. On April 22, the Dalai Lama sent his representatives to Beijing, led by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, his chief plenipotentiary. On April 27, a tribute group led by the Panchen Lama arrived in Beijing. He sincerely upheld the Central Government’s principle of peaceful liberation of Tibet and expressed that he would unite all sides in Tibet to promote the realization of this principle. After many negotiations between Li Weihai, plenipotentiary of the Central People’s Government, and representatives of the Tibetan local government, and with the effort of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the Agreement on the Method of Peaceful Liberation of Tibet—a document of great historical significance—was signed on May 23, 1951 in Beijing. On the following afternoon, the Panchen Lama and his court officials paid tribute to Chairman Mao and the Central People’s Government, and presented Chairman Mao with a silk banner that was embroidered with both Chinese and Tibetan words: “Great savior of all nationalities of the Chinese people.” On the same evening, Chairman Mao held a banquet to celebrate the signing of the agreement and gave a speech. On May 28, the Panchen Lama and his officials issued a statement with “great excitement beyond words,” saying that the signing of the agreement “announced the failure of the imperialists’ invasion of Tibet. Tibetans must unite with all other ethnic groups in China and among themselves. Tibetans have started a new era for themselves.” In the statement, they also expressed their “deep respect” for the Dalai Lama’s sending his representatives to Beijing for the negotiation and signing of the agreement. During this period, the Panchen Lama sent a telegram to the Dalai Lama, saying that he would like to “do his best” to sincerely achieve solidarity with the Dalai Lama and to help him and the local Tibetan government in its implementation of the agreement on the peaceful liberation of Tibet. At the same time, the Panchen Lama cabled the political and religious officials of the Tashilhunpo Monastery, monks and laymen alike, hoping that they would unite under the leadership of the Central People’s Government and Chairman Mao to “realize this agreement and to actively aid the PLA Tibet troops in expelling forces of imperialist aggression in Tibet.”
On December 15, 1951, before the Panchen Lama returned to Tibet from Xining City in Qinghai Province, I made a special trip to Xining to see him off on behalf of Chairman Mao, the Central People’s Government and the Northwest Military and Political Committee. The Panchen Lama and his court officials sent a lama guard of honor to welcome me. At the welcoming ceremony by more than 1,000 people, the Panchen Lama gave a warm speech. He said excitedly, “It would be impossible for Tibet to achieve its peaceful liberation and for us to return to Tibet without the correct leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao and the sincere help of all Chinese ethnic groups. Therefore, we say that the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao are the Tibetan people’s great savior and our great benefactor. Only by following the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao and uniting with other ethnic groups can Tibetans be completely liberated. We have no other way out.” The Panchen Lama spoke with great sincerity. His predecessor, the (9th) Panchen Choekyi Nyima, after falling out with the 13thDalai Lama, was forced to leave Tibet and spent 26 years in exile in mainland China. He was unable to return to Tibet even after his death. Today, the wish of returning to Tibet was realized by the 10th Panchen Lama Erdini Choekyi Gyaltsen. It was natural that he felt happy and excited.
We had a cordial talk when we met this time. I told him: you must not rush in doing things when you return to Tibet. You should take the general situation into consideration. You should first of all do a good job with the internal unity among Tibetans. This way the work in Tibet will progress. I also told the people in charge who accompanied the Panchen Lama to Tibet that the principle of caution and steadiness must be carried out in all Tibet work. I emphasized two principles: First, do not do anything when the condition isn’t ripe or the higher patriotic personages and leaders don’t approve of it. Secondly, work in Tibet must be based on anti-imperialism and the patriotic united front. When I think back now, the gist of these policies of the Central government is still of great significance.
In April 1952, when the Panchen Lama returned to Tibet and arrived at Nagchu, a strategic town in northern Tibet, an incident known as the fake people’s conference to oppose the peaceful liberation of Tibet agreement, instigated by Lukhangwa Tsewang Rabten and Lobsang Tashi, two acting silon (the highest administrative official under lama), took place in Lhasa. With great indignation, the Panchen Lama cabled the Dalai Lama, asking that the Dalai Lama, “in the spirit of great wisdom and courage, and with the Buddha’s light of immense mercy and compassion,” deal severely with this incident of sabotaging the internal unity of Tibet, especially harming the political and religious prestige of the Dalai Lama. Finally, the Dalai Lama issued a bulletin dissolving the fake people’s conference and removing Lukhangwa and Lobsang Tashi from their positions of acting silon. On April 28, upon arriving in Lhasa, the Panchen Lama reached an understanding with the Dalai Lama, and they exchanged khata ceremonial silk scarves.
In September 1954, both the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama attended the First Session of the First National People’s Congress in Beijing. By then I was working in the Central Government. Until 1962, I had been entrusted by the Central Government to be in charge of contacting the Panchen Lama. Our friendship became increasingly close and deep.
As a loyal friend of the Party, The Panchen Lama was able to give the Party his honest opinion, suggestions and even sharp criticism. He was outspoken and forthright and always spoke his mind without any reserve, which were really hard traits to come by. I have always felt that it was my blessing to have made such a friend. Because of my understanding of him, I was also very honest with him. I often said to him: For the cause of the Party and the people and for the sake of the unification and unity of the country, we two can say anything to each other. You can criticize my mistakes, and I can criticize yours. Seek truth from facts. I know that he was quick tempered and got upset easily. But he was not an opinionated person. All his life, he pursued the truth, refuting evil and promoting good. He always listened to the right advice and handled everything seriously. I often said to him: It’s correct to be outspoken. But you must not get upset. You can’t finish doing good things all at once. You mustn’t get irritated. He said to me: You are an old and good friend of mine. You understand me. I know you are saying this for my benefit. I’m happy about it.
The Panchen Lama dedicated his life to the development and progress of Tibet. He actively supported the democratic reform of Tibet. In 1956, when the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee was founded, he proposed that a trial reform be conducted in areas under the jurisdiction of his court officials and then be promoted in the whole region. Taking into consideration the general situation in Tibet, the Central Government decided that the condition for democratic reform was not yet mature and thus announced a principle of “no reform in six years.” The Panchen Lama accepted the opinion of the Central Government and did not go ahead with his trial. In an attempt to keep the feudal slave system and to oppose reform, the Tibetan upper reactionary clique brazenly scrapped the 17-point agreement and on March 10, 1959, launched a large-scale armed rebellion. Due to these circumstances, the State Council ordered that the former Tibetan government be dissolved and that the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee exercise local political power. The Panchen Lama was appointed the Acting Chief Member of the Preparatory Committee and was given the power of deciding on the policy of suppressing the revolt while carrying out reform. The Panchen Lama cabled Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou En-lai, expressing his support of the order and decision of the State Council. He also replied to the Tibet Work Committee and the military region saying “I have instructed my court officials to continuously unite and closely cooperate with the sub-working committee and the People’s Liberation Army, to get ready and to ensure the safety of Shigatse city. We will work together to smash and crack down on the rebellion.” On April 8, the Panchen Lama presided over the Preparatory Committee and called on it to quell the rebellion. On April 22, 1960, the Preparatory Committee held its fourth meeting, where the Panchen Lama gave his summary report, speaking of the great significance of the suppression of the rebellion and reform, and pointing out that the year 1959 was a year when “the Tibetan people won their decisive victory.”
The suppression of rebellion and reform represented the great revolution of Tibetan society’s progress and its people’s liberation. After this, however, “leftist deviation” occurred. The Panchen Lama was very unhappy with this development, and traveled to Beijing to report on the situation. Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou En-lai, Li Weihan and other comrades listened to the Panchen Lama’s suggestions. Chairman Mao praised the Panchen Lama for his willingness to tell the truth, and made some positive and encouraging responses to his recommendations. At this time, the Central Government sent Comrade Yang Jingren to do an inspection of circumstances in Tibet. On January 5, 1961, after Comrade Deng Xiaoping listened to the report given by Comrade Yang Jingren, Deng directed that Tibet’s Democratic Revolution must guard against “leftist deviation” and rushing ahead too fast with its work, and decided on the policy of Tibet’s stable development and of no forced establishment of economic cooperatives for five years. On January 24, 1961, Premier Zhou En-lai said to the Panchen Lama and Comrade Zhang Jingwu: “Tibet’s general policy can be summarized as farmers’ private ownership of land. This will be continued for many years. The key is to increase production. It must be resolutely implemented.” After this, the Panchen Lama returned to Tibet to oversee this work, and made inspections of other areas of Tibet. In May 1962 he presented to the State Council a “70,000-Character Petition,” systematically critiquing and making recommendations about the work in Tibet and other Tibetan areas. The central leadership and State Council paid great attention to his work and felt that the majority of the Panchen Lama’s critiques and recommendations were good, but that some were too extreme. Entrusted by Premier Zhou En-lai, I went to see the Panchen Lama several times to talk with him. He was very angry and spoke some sharp words. I expressed my admiration for his willingness to speak frankly to the Communist Party leadership, but I urged him to not get upset or speak angry words. After a little while, he calmed down and said: I accept what you say. You have seen me grow up from childhood, and have helped me from the beginning. You represent the Communist Party, and are also my friend. You want what’s best for me, I am grateful for that, but I’ve said some angry words. I will be more careful from now on. But I want to state clearly that I honestly support the Communist Party. Such was the Panchen Lama, an open-hearted great master. After this I, Li Weihan, and Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, all exchanged frank views with the Panchen Lama, and after mutual consultation four good documents on combating leftist deviation and preventing extremism in work in Tibet were produced and submitted to the State Council for approval. Regrettably, in 1962, after the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth Communist Party Congress, due to the increased influence of leftist deviation, these four documents weren’t fully implemented. The Panchen Lama, Li Weihan and I were criticized for this. After this event, my interaction with the Panchen Lama was interrupted for more than ten years. During the “Cultural Revolution” the Panchen Lama, along with many Communist Party and government officials, were severely persecuted. Despite this, the Panchen Lama’s firm faith in the Communist Party and Motherland never wavered.
After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Communist Party Congress in 1978, the Panchen Lama and I reunited. When old friends meet, all kinds of feelings well up. When the Panchen Lama saw me, he said uneasily: Because of my “70,000-Character Petition” I got you in trouble, I’m very sorry for that. I answered: No one got anyone in trouble. We all got physically tempered, endured challenges and increased our experience. The Communist Party understands you.
After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Communist Party Congress, the Panchen Lama resolutely supported the Communist Party Central Committee’s bringing order out of chaos, and spared no effort to assist the Communist Party Central Committee to implement its policies. The Central Committee gave the Panchen Lama its full trust. Before the Panchen Lama’s 1980 inspection trip to Tibetan areas, Comrade Deng Xiaoping invited him to his house and said: “You are our country’s greatest patriot.” “You can do whatever you want. Don’t worry about anything.” “When you go down, you can say that the events that occurred during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ were all in error.” Don’t be afraid. Just say that these are the words of the central government leadership. When the Panchen Lama heard this he was greatly encouraged, and his faith in the Communist Party increased. In order to reclaim the time he’d lost, the Panchen Lama worked and studied day and night.
At the end of 1980, when I returned from Guangdong to the Central Government to take charge of ethnic, religious and united front work, we had more opportunities to contact each other. Our friendship became more solid. As a national and religious leader, the Panchen Lama was given more work and became even busier during this period. Nevertheless, this did not lessen our time spent together. We were as honest with each other as we had always been. Every time when he embarked on an important trip such as an inspection or a visit overseas, I always reminded him to take care of his health and safety; to stay calm and not to get upset. Every time he came back, he would come to me to have a good chat. We talked about everything. I felt happy for every success he achieved and gave him my unstinting support. Of course, if I felt that there was something he needed to improve, I would point that out without hesitation. He would also argue with me and defend his opinion if he believed that I was wrong. In 1985, the Panchen Lama strongly criticized the Henan provincial government’s appointment of the Songshan Management Bureau to be in charge of Shaolin Temple. He was determined to “get to the bottom of this matter and would not let go of it until he found out the truth.” When I saw this document, I pointed out immediately: “I appreciate your spirit in discussing the policy. But don’t get too upset.” “It is best that the monks and nuns be in charge of Shaolin Temple.” “If handling of this matter is delayed, officials will be sent there to find out why, or I’ll ask you, Great Master, to personally go there to supervise.” Finally, this matter was resolved properly, for which the Panchen Lama was grateful.
As an eminent leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama loved his faith; as an excellent representative of Tibetans, he loved his people; as a great patriot, he loved his motherland; as a loyal friend of the Party, he loved the Communist Party of China. Such was the life of the Panchen Lama.
The Panchen Lama’s love of the Communist Party of China and his becoming a loyal friend of the Communist Party were the result of his deep reflection on the fate and future of his people, his deep understanding of the Party’s guiding principles and policies, and his deep research into history and present circumstances. At a cadre conference in Lhasa in 1982 he gave a long speech, systematically outlining the relationship between Tibet and the Motherland. He eloquently concluded: “That Tibet has become an inseparable part of the Motherland is the inevitable result of long historical developments and is an irrefutable historical fact. The 30 years since the peaceful liberation of Tibet have seen more development and progress than the previous several centuries and millennia, which is also irrefutable. History and reality tell us that only under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and within the family of the socialist Motherland does Tibet have a bright future and can its people flourish and grow. Tibet’s people can have a truly happy and perfect future only by defending the unity of the Motherland, strengthening the solidarity of Han-Tibetan relations and the unity of all ethnic minorities of the Motherland, and under the leadership of the Communist Party, resolutely following the socialist road.” “History teaches us that loving the Motherland and loving one’s people are consistent. The two cannot be separated, nor should they be placed in opposition. Presently some people, by taking advantage of the historical legacy of conflict between ethnic minorities, try to undermine love of the Motherland under the pretext of loving their own ethnic group and to oppose the Motherland by raising the banner of ethnic identity. We must vigilantly guard against this, and expose the hypocrisy of these so-called lovers of their ethnic identity.” He also said: “The only correct stance is to adhere to the consistency between the interest of one’s ethnicity and that of the state, and the stance of loving the Motherland and one’s ethnicity. This will allow us to become just and honorable, selfless and fearless individuals who will benefit the people. Regarding religion, the Panchen Lama inherited the tradition of the Yellow Sect of Lamaism’s founder Lama Tsongkhapa to promote reform, nurture the beneficial, abolish the harmful, start from what benefits the people the most, and research and analyze the experience of combining religion and socialist society. We must combine the Buddhist teaching of “In a beneficent and happy spirit work for the sacred national territory” with patriotism. We must also combine the principle of “benefiting all living creatures” with the guideline of serving the people. We must also encourage religious adherents to unite under the Party’s aegis, and jointly struggle for the building of the Four Modernizations and revitalization of China.
From these years of contact, I deeply felt that my close friend the Panchen Lama became more mature. Last year when we celebrated the Panchen Lama’s 50th birthday, we wished that the Panchen Lama would make more glorious achievements for the country and people. It’s just like what Comrade Deng Xiaoping said to him: “You still have the ability to reflect and analyze, and are capable. We hope you can make more contributions to the Motherland.” And then the Panchen Lama passed away! This is an irrevocable loss.
I grieve the sudden death of the Panchen Lama, I hope that he is reincarnated. We must complete the Panchen Lama’s unfinished work of safeguarding the unity of the motherland and national unity and make new contributions to a united, prosperous and civilized socialist new Tibet, and to the common prosperity of all ethnic groups.
The Panchen Lama, our Party’s loyal friend, lives forever!
Originally published in the February 20, 1989 People’s Daily
Copy Editor: Chang Xuemei