On the occasion of the 33rd birthday anniversary of Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, we feel it more than opportune time to reinvigorate our campaign to send a strong message to Beijing that the world has not forgotten about Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, despite China’s efforts to erase him from our history. We call upon the Chinese government to rightfully allow the Panchen Lama and his family to live a free life they are entitled to under the international laws and treaties that China is obligated to.
On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama endorsed Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. In response, the Chinese government arrested Chadrel Rinpoche, leader of the Panchen Lama Search Committee. On 17 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was also taken into Chinese custody along with his entire family, making the six-year-old the youngest political prisoner in the world. The Chinese government decided to ignore His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s choice and went on to select their own candidate. On 11 November 1995, the Chinese government announced Gyaltsen Norbu, the son of a Communist Party member as the 11th Panchen Lama. In December 1995, he was subsequently enthroned at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery amidst tight security with over five hundred military personnel deployed throughout the monastery compound.
In November 1995, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances expressed concerns about the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama and urged the Government of the People’s Republic of China to provide information on the case. Since then, a number of human rights bodies including the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have all urged the Chinese government for the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts to be made known. To this day, China has turned a deaf ear to these pleas and continues to deceive the world by alleging that “the Panchen Lama is an ordinary citizen, living a perfectly normal life and does not wish to be disturbed”. Therefore, the Panchen Lama’s case continues to remain one of the longest cases of enforced disappearance in the world.
China’s interference in the selection and disappearance of the Panchen Lama stemmed from their ulterior motive to assert control over Tibet as well as to lay the foundation for their manipulative objective in the selection of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the future. Given the Panchen Lama’s crucial cultural and religious role in Tibet, it is critical that he receives a spiritual upbringing that is free from political interference.
We also reiterate our earlier appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to make a visit to Tibet along with Xinjiang in May this year to assess the real human rights situation inside Tibet and particularly to press China to release information about the current status and whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.
Until China provides concrete evidence to support its claim about the Panchen Lama and his family, we urge the governments, parliaments, NGOs, and the UN human rights bodies & mechanisms to continue their concerted efforts in pressing China to comply with the existing international appeals to free the 11th Panchen Lama and his family and to let them live a free and peaceful life.
Released by: The Department of Information & International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamshala.