DHARAMSHALA: Tibetans and their supporters yesterday observed the International Solidarity Day with Tibet to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the enforced disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama at the TCV Day School.
The Panchen Lama is the second highest Tibetan Buddhist leader after His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the pantheon of Tibetan Buddhism. After the death of the 10th Panchen lama, the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was forcibly abducted and disappeared after he was recognised as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 14 May 1995.
Once described as the world’s youngest political prisoner, the current Panchen Lama is now 26, and is considered to be among world’s longest-serving political prisoners. The Panchen Lama and his family’s whereabouts continue to remain unknown even after 20 years of his enforced disappearance. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has installed another person, one of their preferences, as the Panchen Lama.
The Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration organised a public talk yesterday to discuss the Panchen Lama’s present condition and whereabouts. The talk was followed by a documentary film “Tibet’s Stolen Child” and a photo exhibition on Chinese government’s continued repression in Tibet which led to the wave of self-immolation protests.
The speakers for the event were Mr. Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Mr. Thubten Samphel, Director of Tibet Policy Institute, Tsering Tsomo, Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, and Mr. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Secretary of DIIR.
In his keynote speech, Mr. Penpa Tsering condemned the Chinese government for deliberately attempting to interfere in Tibet’s centuries-old lineage of finding reincarnation of Tibetan lamas. “The soul purpose of abducting the Panchen Lama is to deprive him of Buddhist studies and thereby hindering his spiritual influence on the future Tibetan generations,” he said.
He also explained that the Chinese government is attempting to use the Tibetan people’s spirituality as a political tool to serve their own imperialistic agenda. “However, the spirit of the Tibetan people is indomitable and their faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the reincarnation chosen by His Holiness will not waver,” he said.
Ms. Tsering Tsomo, Director of TCHRD said, “In the name of law, the Chinese government is implementing political agendas thereby violating religious freedom in Tibet”. She also emphasised the legal implications of the case of enforced disappearance of the Panchen Lama under International Human Rights law.
Mr. Thubten Samphel highlighted on the contributions made by the previous Panchen Lama, the China’s claim on the Panchen Lama and the reincarnation issues.
Mr. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations, read out the statement of the event.
“This is an aggressive attempt by an atheist Chinese government to legitimise its control over the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice of reincarnation. In this context, and given his crucial cultural and religious role, it is critical that the 11th Panchen Lama receives a spiritual upbringing that is free from political interference”, the statement read.
“We once again appeal to the international community to launch concerted efforts to urge China to release the Panchen Lama and all political prisoners in Tibet. We renew our pledge to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Tibet and pray for the earliest resolution of the issue of Tibet”, the statement added.