The Panchen Lama, the young man enthroned by Beijing as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, has joined China's top legislative advisory body.
The 20-year-old Panchen Lama, whose name is Gyaltsen Norbu, is emerging as Beijing's choice to supplant the Dalai Lama as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism and has taken on an increasingly political role in recent years.
He has made appearances with Communist Party leaders and publicly praised Chinese rule in Tibet.
The Panchen Lama was among 13 people named to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Sunday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The CPPCC, whose annual session kicks off Wednesday, is made up of about 2,200 business leaders, religious figures, academics and celebrities. It serves in an advisory capacity to the National People's Congress, China's largely ceremonial legislature.
Despite Beijing's backing, Gyaltsen Norbu is not widely accepted by Tibetans as the Panchen Lama, a figure that has traditionally advised and worked with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's supreme leader.
Another boy, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, was named as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995. The boy and his family, who are from a remote part of Chinese-controlled Tibet, disappeared soon after and have not been heard from since.
Beijing has in recent years been enlisting the Panchen Lama in its campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 and is portrayed by China as the dictatorial head of a corrupt regime.
China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time.