On 17 May 2015, International Solidarity Day with Tibet, Tibetans and their supporters to make an impassioned plea for the release of the 11th Panchen Lama
DHARAMSHALA: Spokesperson for Central Tibetan Administration(CTA), Mr. Tashi Phuntsok, today briefed the media on CTA’s appeal for release of the Panchen Lama and initiatives surrounding the appeal. Secretary for International Relations, Mr. Sonam Dagpo, also chaired the event.
Addressing around 20 mediaperson present at the briefing, Mr. Tashi Phuntsok stated that “17 May 2015 is to coincide with the anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most revered religious leaders in Tibet. The Central Tibetan Administration calls upon the international community to join us in an appeal for his release. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of his gone missing at age six. Till date, his whereabouts and well-being remain unknown.”
On 14 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, aged six, was recognised by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. Within three days of the announcement, he was abducted making him one of the youngest political prisoners in the world. Declaring his case an enforced disappearance in April 2011, the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances held China responsible for his disappearance and stated that the Chinese authorities have “continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance”.
The Panchen Lama’s disappearance has attracted international attention due to his young age. Arbitrary detention and sentencing in prison without due process is common in Tibet today. According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, there are currently over 2,000 Tibetan political prisoners.
The Central Tibetan Administration’s appeal letter further stated that “A number of human rights bodies including the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have all called for the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts to be made known. However, China has turned a deaf ear to these pleas to allow contact with the Panchen Lama and continues to detain him.”
Tibetans have suffered and continue to suffer under Chinese occupation and oppression. The cycle of protests, including 138 self-immolations in Tibet reflect the Tibetan people’s categorical rejection of the People’s Republic of China’s policies in Tibet. The latest self-immolator on 16 April, Ney Kyab, called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the release of the Panchen Lama.
At various times and places in Tibet’s history, the Panchen Lama’s lineage has played a vital role in Tibetan society. The 10th Panchen Lama in particular, played a significant role in preserving Tibetan culture, tradition and language.
“The case of the Panchen Lama is not only the story of an innocent six-year old child disappearing for 20 years, but also a blatant symptom of political repression and lack of religious freedom. The enforced disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama is a vivid case of China’s aggression against Tibetan people by hijacking a centuries-old traditional Buddhist practice of reincarnation for political ends.” said Tashi Phuntsok, Spokesperson of the CTA.
The Central Tibetan Administration has appealed to Tibet supporters worldwide to call for the release of the Panchen Lama and all political prisoners in Tibet through different channels including social media. The campaign’s Facebook handle is “solidarity with tibet” and hashtag is #Releasepanchenlama