DHARAMSHALA: Tibetans in exile have strengthened their calls for the release of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, whose whereabouts remain unknown after the Chinese government installed its own choice in 1995.
The 11th Panchen Lama today turned 24. The human rights organisations have described the missing Panchen Lama as the world’s youngest political prisoner.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay said the disappearance of the Panchen Lama for 18 long years reflects the level of repression in Tibet. “It shows there is no political and religious freedom, and freedom of expression as enshrined in the Chinese constitution,” he said.
He said the Chinese government violates its own constitution by restricting the Tibetan people’s religious freedom and cracking down on them.
He said the Tibetan people both inside and outside Tibet should pray for his good health and release.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the six-year-old boy identified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, disappeared on 17 May 1995. The Chinese government later admitted to holding the boy and his family in “protective custody”.
Despite repeated appeals to gain access to the boy, no international agency or human rights organisation has been granted contact with the young Panchen Lama or his family. To date, their well-being and whereabouts remain unconfirmed.
The tenth Panchen Lama was known for his spirited critique of China’s rule over Tibet. His famous 70,000 Character Petition of 1962 addressed to Chinese Premier Zhao Enlai and speeches provide unique insight into the darkest years of China’s rule over Tibet and the methods used to suppress and destroy Tibetan people and their religion.
Mao Zedong denounced the 70,000 Character Petition as a “poisoned arrow shot at the Party by reactionary feudal lords” and sentenced the Panchen Lama to 14 years in prison. He died after mysterious circumstances in Tibet at the age of 51 on 28 January 1989.