Panchen Lama, being groomed by China to rival exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, on Wednesday stepped out of the Chinese mainland for the first time to attend an international Buddhist conference in Hong Kong.
The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu will attend the grand blessing ceremony for Lord Buddha's parietal-bone relic flown to Hong Kong Wednesday from Chinese city Nanjing, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The 22-year-old Lama will address the China-backed three-day World Buddhist Forum at Hong Kong beginning today.
His presence in Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, is seen as an attempt by Beijing to raise his profile as this is for the first time the young spiritual leader went out of the Chinese mainland.
Jiang Jianyong, vice chairman of the China Religious Culture Communication Association said as an "important religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism and vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, the 11th Panchen Lama is highly respected and strongly supported by religious circles and religious believers".
He has attended the previous two world Buddhist forums held in Chinese cities Hangzhou in 2006 and Wuxi in 2009.