BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Three years after making his political debut, the 11th Panchen Lama, a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has been entrusted with a more important role of advising China on state affairs.
He was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body, on Monday.
The elevation comes amid anticipation that the Panchen Lama, who turned 23 in February, will make greater political contributions through his religious influence.
"The 11th Panchen Lama's participation in politics will help build up reverence among Tibetan people," said Rinchen Gya, chairman of the CPPCC committee of northwest China's Qinghai Province.
The new post will increase the Panchen Lama's involvement in social and economic issues, as he will attend bimonthly meetings to discuss state affairs in the coming five years.
"The 11th Panchen Lama is becoming more mature and has made great achievements in religious study," said Xindra Tenzin Chodrak, deputy director of the standing committee of the people's congress of Tibet.
The 11th Panchen Lama, with the secular name Gyaincain Norbu, was born in February 1990 in Lhari County, in northern Tibet's Nagqu Prefecture.
He was chosen as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995 after a lot-drawing ceremony among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Tibet's capital of Lhasa.
In 2010, the Panchen Lama was elected vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and became a member of the CPPCC National Committee.
Clad in a saffron robe, the Panchen Lama easily stands out among the dark-suited members of the CPPCC National Committee, whose annual session concluded on Tuesday.
The bespectacled lama was often photographed listening attentively to reports during sessions with an air of composure rarely found among his peers.
"Savvy, good-humored and immensely wise, he is a much-revered religious leader," Rinchen Gya said.
"I have shouldered the mission of safeguarding national unity and ethnic solidarity since I was enthroned. Now, this sense of responsibility is becoming even stronger," he said after making his political debut in March 2010 at the third session of the 11th CPPCC National Committee.
After a deadly riot broke out in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, he strongly condemned the violence, saying that it ran counter to Buddhist tenets.
"The rioters' acts not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aims of Buddhism," he said.
"We resolutely oppose all attempts to split the country and undermine ethnic unity. We strongly condemn the crimes of a tiny number of people," he said.
He also presided over a prayer meeting held in Beijing on May 21, 2008, during which time he prayed for those living in areas in southwest China's Sichuan Province that were struck by an 8-magnitude earthquake on May 12.