CHINA says it will soon select a rival reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama at a ceremony to be held at the Johkang Temple in Lhasa. 'A representative of the central Government will draw lots from a golden urn. But it has not been decided who it will be,' said an official at the Nationality and Religious Affairs Committee in Lhasa. The People's Daily said the six-year long search has reached 'a critical stage'. In the past few days, monks have held prayers at the Johkang Temple in Lhasa and the Tashilunpo Monastery at Xigaze. Tens of thousands of yak butter lamps have been lit in preparation for the grand ceremony. A shortlist of three boys has been selected from an initial choice of 28, but Tibetan sources claim that posters have appeared in Tibet demanding that Beijing must recognise the choice announced by the Dalai Lama in May this year. The boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, is not included in the shortlist, despite the demands raised by senior lamas at a meeting held in Beijing earlier this month. Beijing is believed to have found it difficult to force a qualified senior lama to preside over the ceremony. The Chadrel Rinpoche, as abbot of the Tashilunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lamas, had led the search team. But he was arrested in May and formally stripped of his posts in September, as were other monks at the monastery. The People's Daily said the Manchu emperors of the Qing dynasty had established the tradition that a representative of the central Government must preside over the ceremony. It should take place in front of a statue of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. In the past, Beijing's ambassador to Lhasa, known as the Amban, would be present, yet it now appears likely that a senior party cadre would play the leading part in the arcane procedure. A Lhasa official said senior lamas would decide the date of the ceremony and affirmed that a Tibetan would not draw the lots. Further details should be obtained, he said, from the Reincarnation Office of Tibet but further inquiries revealed that its telephone number was a state secret. The People's Daily report said the selection process was being held according to the wishes of the 10th Panchen Lama shortly before his death. The Dalai Lama rejects Beijing's claim to have the right of a final say over the choice of the Panchen Lama and denies that a golden urn must be used to identify the true reincarnation. China says it is not just a religious matter but a political issue. It accuses the Dalai Lama of ignoring Tibetan traditions and disrupting the search process by announcing his choice. Observers fear the confrontation will create an ecclesiastical crisis as the majority of Tibetans will respect the Dalai Lama's choice, not those of the central Government. There are also fears the resulting unrest may mean the chosen boy might never be seen again in Tibet.