Immediate Press Release:
18 years of enforced disappearance of 11th Panchen Lama
The People’s Republic of China must release Gendun Choekyi Nyima. He is the 11th Panchen Lama, the reincarnation of 10th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Gyaltsen and the real Panchen Lama of Tibetan people.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima is son of Konchok Phuntsog and Dechen Chodon; he was born on April 25, 1989 in the district of Lhari Nagchu, Tibet. On May 14, 1995, he was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and was named “Tenzin Yeshi Gendun Thrinley Phuntsok Pal Sangpo”. On May 17, 1995, a few days after the recognition, the six-year-old boy disappeared along with his family and caretakers, at the time he was the youngest political prisoner in the world. The abduction of the six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima is desperate act of china; it has galvanized an international movement for his release and for Tibetan freedom. Moreover, the disappearance of such a high reincarnate lama like the Panchen Lama reflects the wider trend of imprisonment and disappearance of “dissident” Tibetans.
The current whereabouts of the Panchen Lama and his parents are unknown. The Chinese government claims to be protecting them; they say the boy and his family are safe and in perfect health and that they do not wish to be disturbed. However, mere words cannot make Tibetans to believe and content. According to Chinese law, those who are eighteen years old and above are considered adults, capable of making their own decisions and responsible for their own lives. Now the Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima is twenty-four years old, an adult completely in the position to make his own decisions. The Chinese government, in true spirit of the law it has drafted, should allow him to exercise his right to self-determination.
After the disappearance of the Panchen Gendun Choekyi Nyima, in November 29 1995, China appointed another boy, Gyancain Norbu to take place of Panchen Lama and subsequently enthroned on December 8 1995. However, the boy recognized by the Chinese authorities is not welcomed by the Tibetans.
Even after eighteen years of disappearance of Panchen Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the faith and belief of the Tibetan people in the Panchen Lama is still as strong as ever. The years have not lessened the faith and belief in him; moreover, we still hope and look forward to seeing him again. It is high time to China to realize that religion is inseparable from Tibetan culture. For centuries, it has united the Tibetan people. Tibetan people and Tibetan culture are inseparable from Tibetan Buddhism. Disappearance of Panchen Lama is a flagrant example of the contempt displayed by the Chinese government toward the religious freedom of Tibetans, but also shows disregard of international commitments. China ratified the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, and the abduction and continued detention of the young Panchen Lama violates many of the articles of this treaty.
The Central and Regional Tibetan Women’s Association will never give up our search for the 11th Panchen Lama and never stop calling for his safe return to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. We also would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the Tibet support groups for their help. We request once again to all international committees and support groups to urge the Chinese government to accept the dialogue extended by Tibetan leaders in exile. Tibet needs your practical help to resolve its intense situation.