The International Tibet Network’s Political Prisoners Campaign Working group commissioned a specialist forensic artist Tim Widden to create an image showing what the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet may look like today as 25th April 2019 marks the 30th birth anniversary of the 11th Panchen Lama Gendhun Choekyi Nyima.
His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama along with his family was forcibly taken into custody by the Chinese government after he was recognised as the incarnation of the previous Panchen Lama at the age of 6 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tibetans refer His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama of Tibet as the sun and moon of Tibet. Panchen Lama is considered and revered as the second highest religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism after His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the fact that he plays an essential role in the recognition and education of Dalai Lamas, and vice-versa apparently makes his disappearance politically crucial for the Chinese Government which goes on to show anti-religion communist government efforts to use religion to serve its political ends.
Since the arbitrary arrest of Panchen Lama in 1995, the Chinese authorities also arrested, detained and sentenced a number of Tibetans who were involved in the search of Panchen Lama.
Despite numerous calls from the international community to release him and his family, the Chinese government turns a deaf ear. The Chinese government has admitted him taken away, but no one has been allowed to verify his existence.
“He is attending school and leading a normal life like any other ordinary children” is the only response that had been airing by China in response to whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama.
The Chinese government didn’t just end in taking away the 11th Panchen Lama but they managed to install another six-year-old Tibetan boy as the 11th Panchen Lama.
Today, there are two Panchen Lamas, one recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and respected by all Tibetans and another six-year-old picked and installed by the Chinese government, known as Panchen “Zuma” Fake Panchen.
Given Chinese statement of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, leading a “normal life as an ordinary Child”, there are some pressing questions that the Chinese authority must address to the international community. Firstly, what makes China keep on declining the request of the international community, including UN human rights mandate holders, to see Gendun Choekyi Nyima?
Secondly, If Gendun Choekyi Nyima is leading a normal life as China claims, why has he been not seen in a public place?
The forcible disappearance of Gendun Choekyi Nyima has violated not only the rights of Gendun Choekyi Nyima but also violated the collective rights of all Tibetans.
Time and again, Chinese authorities are unresponsive and have failed to answer these questions which clearly show that their actions are prompted to exert unquestioned control over religion.
Although the Chinese authority attempted to disclose pictures of a young boy claiming to be Gendun Choekyi Nyima however, the pictures are not sufficient to confirm the truth about the whereabouts of Gendun Choekyi Nyima. Moreover, the pictures have never been verified for authentication.
After nearly 25 years, the deep concern for the well-being and whereabouts of Tibet’s Panchen Lama continues and with the availability of one picture of His Holiness the Panchen Lama, ITN’s new project on the Forensic Image of Panchen Lama has sparked interest and excitement amongst many Tibetans and supporters. Moreover, BBC’s interest in the case of the missing Panchen Lama and the new forensic image has made a short film called ‘Where is Panchen Lama?’ for ‘ The One Show’, a primetime UK programme. The Short film feature (Approx. 4.5 minutes long) featured interviews with Member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile Thupten Wangchen and UK Tibetan Tenzin Zega followed by the special unveiling of the image to the representative of Office of Tibet Uk, representatives from the Tibetan community in Britain and from Uk Tibet Groups.
On 25 April, a special broadcast of the segment will take place at the exiled Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in India, the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lama’s. The monastery has been vocal in pushing for information on the missing Panchen Lama. The broadcast is expected to be viewed by some 400 monks.
Indeed the day will be remembered as a significant emotional moment for the Tibetans around the globe. Hope once again is revived among the Tibetans.