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Saudi Arabia to get first alcohol shop
Saudi Arabia has said it will open a shop in Riyadh selling alcohol to a select band of non-Muslim expats, the first to open in more than 70 years. The clientele will be limited to diplomatic staff, who have for years imported booze in sealed official packages known as diplomatic pouches. Saudi officials said the shop would counter "the illicit trade of alcohol". Prohibition has been law since 1952, after one of King Abdulaziz's sons drunkenly shot dead a British diplomat. The new store will be located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter west of the city centre, according to a document seen by the AFP and Reuters news agencies. A source familiar with the plans told Reuters the shop was expected to open within weeks. There will be limitations, however: Thirsty envoys would need to register beforehand and receive clearance by the government No one under 21 will be allowed in the store and "proper attire is required" at all times inside Drinkers will not be able to send a proxy, such as a driver Monthly limitations would be enforced, the statement said. However - according to the document seen by AFP - these will not be particularly stringent. Patrons will be limited to 240 "points" of alcohol per month. One litre of spirits will be worth six points, one litre of wine three points and one litre of beer one point. There are also no suggestions that the clientele will be widened to "ordinary" foreigners in the kingdom without diplomatic privileges, who officially have no access to alcohol. While alcohol will become part of Riyadh life, drinkers would be wise to be mindful of where they drink and how they behave afterwards. Under current Saudi law, penalties for consumption or possession of alcohol can include fines, jail time, public flogging and deportation for unauthorised foreigners. The document also said authorities are planning a "new regulatory framework" that would also allow "specific quantities" of alcohol to be brought in by diplomats to "put an end to... an uncontrolled exchange of such goods", it added. For years diplomatic staff have had to use their "pouches", which cannot be tampered with by authorities in their host country, to bring in limited amounts of alcohol. The moves are the latest in a series of initiatives known as "Vision 2030" to liberalise Saudi society under the crown prince and de facto ruler of the country, Mohammed bin Salman. Other Gulf states operate similar alcohol regimes. However, the UAE and Qatar also allow the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims over 21 in hotels, clubs and bars. There is no suggestion from the Saudi document that the government there is considering doing the same. While alcohol is forbidden under Islam, Saudi Arabia had until 1952 held a conciliatory attitude to its presence inside the kingdom. That changed after Mishari bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a prince, shot dead Cyril Ousman, the British vice-consul in Jeddah, in 1951 for refusing to pour him another drink at a function. A year later, King Abdulaziz imposed a total ban on alcohol. Mishari was convicted of murder. Source: BBC
UN: India calls on China to commit to human rights, gender equality at Universal Periodic Review
The recommendations were given by Indian diplomat Guarav Kumar Thakur during the 45th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations. ndia has called on China to steadfastly uphold its commitment to human rights and gender equality, while asking it to play a constructive role in the realisation of aspirations of developing countries. The recommendations were given by Indian diplomat Guarav Kumar Thakur during the 45th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations. India gave China three recommendations during the UPR which included, "Continue taking steps to ensure fullest enjoyment of basic human rights by its people through inclusive and sustainable development." Secondly, India told China to "continue taking measures to promote gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls." Lastly, India urged China to "continue to play a constructive role in the realisation of aspirations of developing countries including through reform of mulitateral institutions." China's human rights record is facing international scrutiny during the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, taking place from January 22 to February 2. This review is a unique opportunity for member states to hold China accountable for its human rights obligations, according to analysts and rights advocates. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer-review process under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, where UN Member States assess each other's human rights records, their fulfilment of human rights obligations and commitments, and provide recommendations to the State under review. This is China's fourth appearance before this mechanism. The last one was in November 2018. At the time, countries called out the existence of mass detention camps for Uyghurs a few months after they were revealed by a UN committee. During China's 3rd UPR in November 2018, China received 346 recommendations from 150 countries, and accepted 284 of them, with many questionably noted as 'accepted and already implemented.' Despite a seemingly high acceptance rate, China broadly rejected recommendations on the rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans, cooperation with the UN and unrestricted UN access to all regions of the country, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, the death penalty and the ratification of international treaties. Since 2018, mounting human rights abuses have been largely documented by a range of UN human rights bodies. After the narrow defeat of a resolution calling for a debate on the situation in Xinjiang at the Human Rights Council, in September 2022, the UPR is one of the few spaces left where China's record can be openly discussed, challenged and scrutinised on the basis of UN information. This is also the first UPR session since the publication in 2022 of the UN 'Xinjiang Report', which found that Beijing's actions against Uyghurs and other minorities could amount to 'crimes against humanity', and which Chinese diplomacy has worked hard to suppress. In the absence of a UN Human Rights Council debate on the human rights situation in China, the UPR is a rare moment of global scrutiny of the country's human rights crisis. Source: ANI
Bayer ordered to pay $2.25 billion in latest Roundup case
Roundup is a weedkiller that contains glyphosate, which researchers have called a "probable carcinogen." Bayer says that studies show its product is safe, and the company will appeal the verdict. A subsidiary of German pharmaceutical giant Bayer was ordered to pay $2.25 billion (€2.07 billion) to a Pennsylvania man who said he developed cancer from exposure to the company's Roundup weedkiller. A jury found that John McKivision developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma as a result of using Roundup for yard work over several years. The verdict includes $2 billion in punitive damages and $250 million in compensation. "The jury's punitive damages award sends a clear message that this multi-national corporation needs top to bottom change," Tom Kline and Jason Itkin, McKivision's attorneys, said in a joint statement. Bayer said in a statement that it disagreed "with the jury's adverse verdict that conflicts with the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and worldwide regulatory and scientific assessments, and believe that we have strong arguments on appeal to get this verdict overturned and the unconstitutionally excessive damage award eliminated or reduced." A spokesperson for the company told the AFP news agency that it plans to appeal the verdict. Thousands more claims Roundup is among the top-selling weed killers in the United States. It was originally produced by US agrochemical company Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018. Bayer phased out sales of the household version of Roundup last year. Bayer has said that decades of studies show that Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, are safe for human use. But in 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen." Around 165,000 claims have been made in the US against the company for personal injuries — mainly non-Hodgkins lymphoma — that were allegedly caused by Roundup. The company has paid out billions in various settlements in recent years.
Bouchra Karboubi: Referee against all odds
Bouchra Karboubi is one of five female officials at the men's Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. As impressive as this is, she has yet to reach her ultimate goal. One day, when Bouchra Karboubi was 14, her brothers tore up her linesman's flag. They did not want their sister to bring "hchouma" – or "shame" – on the family. About 23 years later, Karboubi is one of Morocco's most famous women – at least for anyone who has a passing interest in football. The 36-year-old is one of five female officials at the 34th edition of the men's Africa Cup of Nations. "I'm really proud," Karboubi tells DW. "This assignment is a dream come true for me. When I started refereeing many years ago, I never dreamed this would happen. But I worked hard for it. And today I'm standing here. It's simply wonderful." Fraternal resistance Karboubi grew up with her four brothers in Taza, a large, conservative city in northeastern Morocco, where at the time it was generally considered shameful for a girl to wear shorts and stand on the same pitch with men. That's why her brothers were dead set against their sister's passion for football. They also objected when Bouchra showed an interest in the refereeing school that had just opened in Taza in 2001. "But I said to myself: I love football – why shouldn't I give it a try? Even against my brothers' wishes," she says. This was followed by the torn-flag incident. After that happened, she simply grabbed a needle and thread and stitched the flag back up – before running the line in her next match. Bouchra was on her way, and even then, it seemed that her career as an official was pretty much unstoppable. Climbing the ladder In 2007, she went to Meknes, a north-central Moroccan city, to study business administration. By then, parallel to her studies, Karboubi was already refereeing first and second division matches in the country's women's league. In 2014, she passed the fitness test required by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation to referee men's matches. She began by officiating lower-level men's games, before going on to be nominated for international matches on the African continent in 2016. Karboubi gained her first major international experience by refereeing a match at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2018. Two years later, Krarboubi, who by then had joined the police force, was allowed to referee a match between Maghreb de Tetouan and Olympique de Kourighba, her first in the top Moroccan men's league. Two years later, she became the first woman to referee the Moroccan men's cup final. The 3-0 victory of Al Fars over Atletico de Tetouan was almost an aside in the media reports about the game, with all of the focus on this breakthrough by a female referee in men's football. Chief among five female officials Since then, Karboubi has been seen as something of a symbol for the progress of women's rights in the Arab world. She is the only female referee at 2023 men's African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. However, she is joined by four assistant referees: Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda, South Africa's Akhona Makalima, Bivet Maria Cinquela of Mauritius and Diana Chikotesha of Zambia. Dreaming of a men's World Cup Karboubi in particular has naturally been a focus of media interest. "It went well," was her own assessment of her AFCON debut in the match between Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau in the preliminary round. She got through the game without any major incidents and remained inconspicuous as a referee. "A good sign," she says. However, AFCON is far from the ultimate goal for the Moroccan referee, who also officiated at the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. "To referee a match at the men's World Cup one day – that's my ultimate goal," she says. It seems a safe assumption that if and when that happens, her brothers will no longer have any objections.
Witchcraft in Malawi: A real threat for the elderly
The root causes of poverty are complex, but witchcraft is usually not tabled as one. However in East Africa, attacks on senior citizens accused of bringing misfortune on their communities through magic are on the rise. Just days before Christmas, 78-year-old Eliza Supuni was bludgeoned to death near the town of Mulanje in the Southern Region of Malawi. Her motionless, bloodied body was rushed to a local health center just as she took her final breath. Supuni was pronounced dead on arrival. The perpetrators of the brutal killing were her three grandsons, who reportedly attacked the elderly woman with metal bars and stones, according to local eyewitnesses. "A post-mortem established the cause of death as internal bleeding as a result of fractured ribs on her right side of the body, secondary to assault," Innocent Moses, the police liaison officer for the district, told DW. Moses said that the three suspects then tried to flee to neighboring Mozambique, but added that they have been arrested in the month since the gruesome crime. He stressed that on the day of the crime, they allegedly injured two other elderly persons. "Their age range is between 19 and 23. They will be charged with murder," Moses added, highlighting that the maximum sentence they face is life imprisonment. But what made the three men murder their own grandmother? 'Witchcraft' as excuse for social ills There had been a series allegations saying that Supuni had been engaging in witchcraft — especially since one of her sisters had died earlier in the year during the delivery of her baby through Cesarean section. Health authorities described the death of Supuni's sister as a "natural death" — but this did not convince some of the locals in a country were cases of mob killings targeting senior citizens accused of witchcraft are still widespread. Elderly women and people with albinism are particularly at risk of facing such accusations. According to Malawian law, raising accusations of witchcraft is a crime punishable by law — however, that law is hard to enforce in what is one of the poorest nations of the world. World Bank data from last year shows that 72% of Malawians now have to survive on less than €2 ($2.16) a day — up from just under 70% in 2019. Many locals meanwhile associate this growing state of poverty directly with witchcraft: A 2022 Afrobarometer survey found that 74% of Malawians associate witchcraft with suffering misfortune in life, including illness, poverty and untimely death. Attacks and killings not limited to Malawi As poverty rates continue to rise, so do the numbers of killings linked to accusations of witchcraft and magic. Records from Malawi's Ministry of Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development show that the number of witchcraft-related attacks and killings targeting elderly persons went up by a quarter from a total of 21 cases in 2022 to 29 in 2023. But the issue isn't exclusive to Malawi. Neighboring countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania also have their fare share of violent attacks on the elderly linked to allegations of witchcraft, as do nations in West Africa. "In Tanzania, the elderly continue to be accused of witchcraft, and constitute the majority of victims of killings over witchcraft suspicions. Elderly persons — especially those with red eyes — are repeatedly accused of witchcraft simply because of their age, which is a form of discrimination," says Anna Henga, Executive Director for the Legal and Human Rights Centre, one of the leading human rights bodies in the East African nation. Henga further says that African countries must do more and take deliberate measures to protect the elderly while also raising awareness about misconceptions. Felistas Phiri, projects officer at HelpAge Zimbabwe, agrees with Henga's assessment, saying that many people in her country do not understand how certain illnesses that primarily affect the elderly — such as dementia — work, and that they tend to interpret the signs and symptoms of such conditions as signs of witchcraft. "The older persons that were once seen as caretakers, as fountains of wisdom and knowledge are unfortunately now seen as wizards. They are stripped off of their dignity and importance. This is why we must continue to promote sustainable livelihoods for all older people," Phiri told DW. A 2015 report by the parent charity of HelpAge Zimbabwe, HelpAge International, ranked Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania as the 10 worst countries to grow old in, having measured issues like income security, social connections and the physical safety of the elderly. No dignity for Malawi's elderly The Malawi Network of Older Persons' Organizations (MANEPO) recommends that social security schemes, including a universal old persons' pension, should be introduced in the impoverished county. This would not only provide those having to live under the poverty line with somewhat of a lifeline but would also help proactively to deescalate this rate of killings, as income safety and stability — especially for senior citizens — would shield them from being accused of engaging in witchcraft to induce misfortune on others for their own alleged benefit. MANEPO says that accusations of witchcraft go as far as implicating innocent senior citizens of causing droughts and deluges. "Lack of appropriate social protection schemes to address poverty in old age, fractured social support systems at family and community levels, and the loss of personal dignity due to poverty make the elderly vulnerable to witchcraft-related accusations," MANEPO notes. 'Legalizing witchcraft' There are other approaches also being tabled to address Malawi's escalating witch-hunt: In 2022, a Special Law Commission actually made a surprising recommendation after reviewing Malawi's Witchcraft Act — which is a piece of colonial-era legislation dating back to 1911, still being applied in such cases today. The committee said the country should begin to recognize witchcraft as something that exists — in order to allow the law to be the stage to address such accusations rather than allowing for mob justice to take over. "People's beliefs cannot be suppressed by legislation," said retired Supreme Court Judge Robert Chinangwa, who headed the commission, emphasizing how deeply many communities believe in the existence of witchcraft and sorcery. Meanwhile, Michael Kaiyatsa, Executive Director for the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), said that continuing to criminalize witchcraft should help curb such attacks, adding that recognizing it as a real phenomenon, as was recommended by the Special Law Commission, would make the issue of delivering the burden of proof in a court of law problematic. "It is the good practice of law that for someone to be convicted, the prosecution might have [to deliver] proof beyond reasonable doubt. How is that going to be in witchcraft cases, as we know this is [meant to involve] supernatural powers?" Kaiyatsa said.
Neuralink's telepathy brain chip: How 'weird' is it?
Brain implant devices could have a transformative impact on human health. Now Elon Musk's company Neuralink has tested its implants in a human trial. Neuralink has implanted its first "brain-computer interface" (BCI) chip inside a human brain, according to the company's co-founder Elon Musk. On January 29, Musk wrote on his social media platform, X, that results were "promising." It's been eight years in the making: Since it was founded in 2016, the company has been developing a computer chip designed to be implanted into the brain, where it monitors the activity of thousands of neurons. The chip — called Telepathy — consists of a tiny probe, containing 1,024 electrodes, attached to flexible threads thinner than a human hair. Each electrode records the electrical activity of neurons in the brain, but does not "control" neurons. Neuralink has said it aims to help patients overcome neurological conditions such as blindness and paralysis. However, Musk has described other ambitions for the brain chip that are reminiscent of science fiction. "The future is going to be weird,ʺ said Musk in 2020. As well as treating health issues, Musk has said he wants to link the brain with computers to allow information and memories from deep inside the mind to be downloaded, like in the 1999 science fiction film "The Matrix." Musk has also said he wants to provide people with "super vision" and achieve human telepathy, which he said would help humanity prevail in a war against artificial intelligence. Sci-fi or reality? But are any of Musk's sci-fi ideas feasible? Short answer: no. ʺWe cannot read people's minds. The amount of information that we can decode from the brain is very limited,ʺ said Giacomo Valle, a neural engineer at the University of Chicago in the United States. Juan Alvaro Gallego, a brain-computer interface researcher at Imperial College London, agreed, arguing it's hard to imagine BCIs reading our minds in this lifetime. ʺThe fundamental problem is that we don't really know where or how thoughts are stored in the brain. We can't read thoughts if we don't understand the neuroscience behind them,ʺ Gallego told DW. Clinical uses of BCIs grounded in reality Musk first showcased the Neuralink technology in 2019, introducing a pig with a Neuralink chip implanted in its brain and a video of a monkey controlling a pong paddle with its mind. But the potential for BCIs goes far beyond animals playing games. Gallego said the technology was first developed to help people paralyzed with spinal injuries or conditions like Locked-in syndrome — when a patient is fully conscious but can't move any part of the body except the eyes — to communicate. ʺIf you [could] translate their internal communication into words on a computer, it would be life-changing,ʺ said Gallego. In these sorts of cases, BCIs are designed to record electrical signals from neurons in the motor cortex, then send the signals to a computer where they are displayed as text. The motor cortex isn't typically thought to be involved in thinking. Instead, it's where instructions to move are sent out to the body, like the tongue and jaw muscle movements for speech. What the electrodes are really recording is a motor plan — more precisely, the end result of all the processing in different parts of the brain (sensory, linguistic, cognitive) required to move or speak. So BCIs aren't really recording your thoughts, but rather the brain's plan to move a finger here, a leg there, or to open your mouth to make an "aah" sound. ʺScientists also showed they can read the motor cortex's intent to draw a letter,ʺ said Gallero. ʺUsing complex modelling [with the connected computer], this allowed paralyzed participants to type 90 characters per minute, which was a breakthrough.ʺ BCIs help people feel and walk again Another breakthrough occurred in 2016 when Barack Obama, the US president at the time, shook Nathan Copeland's robotic hand. Copeland, who was paralyzed after a car accident, felt Obama's handshake as if they were touching skin to skin. ʺThis demonstrated a different capability of BCIs. Rather than using electrodes to record from the brain and interpret intended movements, they instead stimulated the brain with tiny currents to produce sensation,ʺ said Gallego. In Copeland's case, a BCI called the Utah array was implanted into his brain to improve the functioning of a disabled part of his nervous system. The device, produced by a Neuralink rival, was implanted into his sensory cortex and connected with sensors on the end of his robotic hand. When Copeland shook hands with Obama, those sensors sent signals causing electrodes in the sensory cortex to stimulate the "hand" region of the brain, allowing Copeland to "feel" the president's hand. More recently, a patient with a spinal cord injury caused by a bike accident was fitted with a brain-spine interface which enabled him to walk naturally again. The device enabled signals from the brain to connect with motor regions of the spinal cord below the level of the damage, thereby bridging the injury. These new capabilities of BCIs represent the next generation of deep brain stimulation, a treatment that involves implanting electrodes into areas of the brain to help people with movement disorders. ʺThese technologies have been around for a while. Deep brain stimulation has been used to help many thousands of people with Parkinson's disease since the 1990s,ʺ said Gallego. Brain surgery for everyone? Really? For now, BCIs like Neuralink and the Utah array are only being used in special one-off cases. ʺAll the clinical applications of BCIs are still at the research stage and not implemented in clinical practice yet,ʺ said Valle. Neuralink tried to receive approval from US federal drug regulators to test its technology in human trials last year, but suffered a blow when authorities rejected the application, citing major safety concerns. FDA approval was finally granted in May 2023. The device consists of 96 tiny, flexible probes that must be individually inserted into the brain. Brain surgery is no joke. Even if the invasive procedure required to wire a BCI up to the brain goes well, the potential for infection or immune ʺrejectionʺ of the device remains long after implantation. The birth of neuroethics In the long term, Valle said, BCIs raise "a variety of ethical concerns" that will need to be considered carefully by researchers, companies, funding agencies, regulators and users themselves. The technology is giving birth to a new field of moral inquiry: neuroethics. It's here where discussions turn more sci-fi. ʺFor example, what are the consequences of privacy breaches when the data in question relate to people's thoughts? How can we ensure that a lack of access does not exacerbate societal inequity? What happens when this information can be directly input into the brain?" said Valle. After all, it's the role of science fiction to prepare us for what might come in the future. Warnings about surveillance and technological control were all there in early 20th-century novels, such as Brave New World and 1984. Have we listened to them?
A New Great Game: China, India, and the Dalai Lama
Beijing is challenging India’s historical connection with Buddhism, presenting it as an “ancient Chinese religion.” Its aim is political, its disregard for human rights is obvious. The Panchen Lama, traditionally the second-highest leader in Tibetan Buddhism, holds immense spiritual and political power. However, this role has become entangled in a political struggle between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, was abducted by the Chinese government in 1995 at the age of six. In his place, the Chinese government appointed Gyaltsen Norbu, who lacks legitimacy among Tibetans and serves more as a political mouthpiece for the Communist Party. Tibetans view Gyaltsen Norbu as a puppet, isolated and controlled by the Chinese authorities. He promotes Sinicization and communist ideology, urging Tibetans to assimilate into Chinese culture and accept the Party’s rule. This, naturally, draws ridicule and fuels non-acceptance, highlighting the failure of the Chinese government to gain true legitimacy in Tibet. It is now well known that for the last few years China has begun framing Buddhism as an “ancient Chinese religion” and is granting its citizens a certain freedom to practice it. This move holds potential benefits for both domestic and international spheres. Within China, the promotion of government-controlled Buddhism is seen as a tool for promoting social stability, particularly in restive areas like the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan communities. By emphasizing shared cultural heritage, the government hopes to ease tensions and foster cohesion. Beyond its borders, China seeks to leverage its growing role in Buddhism to gain influence in neighbouring regions. By establishing itself as a key patron and influencer of powerful Buddhist organizations, China aims to bolster its soft power and expand its geopolitical reach. India, the birthplace of Buddhism, sees the religion through a different lens. India embraces Buddhism as a tool for both diplomacy and cultural preservation. On the one hand, India uses Buddhism to build stronger ties with its Southeast Asian neighbours who share the faith. On the other, India offers a safe haven for Tibetan Buddhists fleeing religious persecution and sees the preservation of their traditions as an important duty. So, India recognizes its potential to foster both international relationships and the well-being of its diverse citizenry. The future of Tibetan Buddhism and China’s control over Tibet hinge on the selection of the next Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama, aging and nearing the end of his life, remains a symbol of Tibetan religious and political aspirations, contested by China who considers Tibet its own. Historically, Tibetan leaders resisted Chinese authority, while China, pointing to their past influence, asserts dominance. China desperately needs the Dalai Lama to return and recognize their rule. Failing that, they aim to appoint their own Dalai Lama, controlling the Tibetan religious hierarchy and solidifying their grip on the region. This, however, risks further unrest and resentment, as centuries of tension have not softened Tibetan resistance to Chinese control. China’s project is to challenge India’s historical connection to Buddhism and control the narrative around the Dalai Lama. India has consistently treated the Dalai Lama as a revered guest, recently underscoring this regard with birthday wishes from Prime Minister Modi. This action resonates deeply, as India and Tibet share a centuries-old Buddhist bond. This historical link is further strengthened by Tibetan culture’s deep roots in Indian philosophy and practices, including the concept of reincarnation and the meticulous selection of the Dalai Lama. However, this historical harmony was disrupted in 1949 when China invaded Tibet. India swiftly condemned the invasion and recognized Tibet’s independence, citing its established institutions and deep cultural ties to India. China’s subsequent aggression, both internally and towards India in 1962, aimed to erase Buddhist traditions and assert regional dominance. Ultimately, the Dalai Lama’s escape to India in 1959 and India’s acknowledgement of Tibet’s stifled autonomy cemented the complex, intertwined history between Buddhism, India, and China. Geshe Lhakdor, a respected Tibetan Buddhist scholar, argues that China’s attempts to lead the Buddhist world through spectacles like “World Buddhist Conferences” are a smokescreen. Their real motive is to legitimize their control over Tibet by installing their handpicked Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the supreme Buddhist leader. This effort has backfired. The world recognizes Norbu as a puppet, parroting Chinese propaganda. China’s obsession with this charade stems from its need to justify its brutal occupation of Tibet, marked by forced disappearances, torture, and suppression of Tibetan culture. The plight of the Panchen Lama embodies both China’s oppression and Tibet’s resistance. Under Chinese rule, the traditional role and spiritual heritage of the Panchen Lama face an existential threat. Norbu’s subservience to the Chinese government is a hollow symbol of their failed attempt to control Tibetan Buddhism. China’s disregard for human rights extends far beyond Tibet. Despite being a major world power, it fails to uphold international law and treaties, silencing dissent and oppressing minorities like Uyghurs and Mongolians. This refusal to respect basic human dignity and engage in international scrutiny exposes China’s true agenda. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people with a rich history dating back thousands of years. They have established various kingdoms and empires, but for decades have faced challenges maintaining their independence. After several attempts at autonomy in the 20th century, China established the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 1955. While initially peaceful, Uyghur grievances regarding immigration, cultural erasure, and economic disenfranchisement have intensified in recent years. Since 2017, China has faced accusations of mass detention, forced labour, and other human rights violations against Uyghurs, sparking international condemnation and concerns of genocide. Despite China’s claims of normalcy, independent evidence suggests continued oppression and hardship for the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang. Similarly, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has implemented a policy mandating Mandarin Chinese as the medium of instruction in Inner Mongolia, replacing the region’s native Mongolian in core subjects like language, politics, and history. This move sparked significant protests, with hundreds of ethnic Mongolians facing arrests or forced resignations from public office for expressing dissent. Beyond suppressing peaceful demonstrations, the CCP’s policy blatantly contradicts its own laws, which encourage minority language education. This push for Mandarin assimilation mirrors similar tactics used against other ethnicities like Uyghurs and Tibetans, raising concerns about cultural suppression and forced national unification. Chimeddorj, a local professor, poignantly summarizes the grave implications: “If our language is wiped out, we as a distinct people will also cease to exist.” The CCP’s actions highlight a broader pattern of cracking down on minority cultures and religions in the name of social stability and national unity, raising troubling questions about human rights and cultural preservation in China. The world must remain vigilant. The Panchen Lama controversy is a microcosm of a larger struggle for human rights and cultural preservation. Only through unwavering Tibetan resistance and international solidarity can Tibet achieve justice and self-determination. In conclusion, China’s manipulation of Tibetan Buddhism, epitomized by the Panchen Lama controversy, exposes a broader struggle involving human rights violations and cultural suppression. The abduction of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and the imposition of Gyaltsen Norbu illustrate China’s attempts to control Tibet’s spiritual heritage. This strategic manoeuvring extends beyond Tibet, as seen in the Uyghur and Mongolian regions. The Dalai Lama’s pivotal role in the power play signifies a geopolitical tussle between China and India, challenging historical ties. Geshe Lhakdor’s critique unveils China’s deceptive leadership in the Buddhist world, revealing a smokescreen to legitimize control. The world must remain vigilant, recognizing the urgency for human rights and cultural preservation, urging solidarity to counter China’s oppressive narrative and ensure justice for Tibet and beyond.