Dharamsala: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was six years old in 1995, when he was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama- one of Tibet’s most important religious leaders. He was born on April 25th 1989 in central Tibet. As soon as he was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities took him and his family into custody.
The Chinese government asserted its political motive into the reincarnation search by installing another young boy, Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama. The replacement was kept in Beijing and recently given a political title in the Chinese government, equivalent to that of a member of parliament or congressman. He was routinely asked to make propaganda statements for the Chinese government.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, and his family have been missing for 16 years. This year on April 25th, the Panchen Lama turned 22. For the last sixteen years, concerned people and human rights organisations all over the world have urged the Chinese government to release the Panchen Lama, but to no avail. The whereabouts and well-being of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, is a serious concern and the Chinese government should heed the call of devotees and supporters for his immediate release.
In March 2010, Tibet’s Chinese-appointed Governor, Padma Choling, told reporters that “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family are now living a good life as ordinary citizens in Tibet.” Without evidence this statement remains empty and we demand Padma Choling to prove its veracity.
Authoritative human rights mechanisms, including the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have called for the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts to be revealed.
The 56 regional chapters of the Tibetan Women’s Association (RTWA), which are spread across the globe, are deeply concerned about the Chinese government’s unyielding secrecy about the Panchen Lama’s well-being and are organizing a global candle light vigil tonight, demanding Zhu Weiqun, Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department and China’s official spokesperson for Tibetan affairs, to give proof of his whereabouts immediately.
TWA calls on the moral conscience of the world, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and international bodies whose pressure holds some sway with his captors in particular, to join our sixteen years of anguish and our earnest appeal for the expeditious release of the Panchen Lama. We beseech the Chinese government to come to understand that this hostile gesture intervenes in the religious reverence of the Tibetan people and it is an intrusive way of maligning basic human rights.
TWA is resolute and holds a steadfast commitment to work towards achieving our goal- to ensure the safe return of Panchen Lama to his rightful abode (Tashi Lhunpo monastery) and to see the complete restoration of his political and religious rights.
The Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) has 57 regional chapters and over 15, 000 members outside Tibet. Today, TWA is the second largest Tibetan NGO and the only women’s NGO in exile that advocates human rights for Tibetan women in Tibet and works to empower Tibetan women in exile, in particular new refugee women from Tibet.
Notes to the editors:
April 25, 1989: Gedun Choekyi Nyima, son of Kunchok Phuntsok (father) and Dechen Choedon (mother), was born on (the nineteenth day of the third Tibetan month in the Tibetan Earth-Snake year) at Lhari, Nagchu District, in Tibet.
25th January, 1995: was identified by H.H the Dalai Lama to be the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.
May 14, 1995: was recognized and officially declared by H.H the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.
May 17, 1995: along with His family was abducted by the Chinese government and till this date remains missing.
May 24, 1995: the government of People’s Republic of China issued a statement describing the Dalai Lama’s proclamation as “illegal and invalid.”
November, 1995: Chinese government deemed the Dalai Lama’s actions in selecting Gedun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnated Panchen Lama to be “illegal and ineffective”, particularly as the Central Government had not confirmed the so-called “reincarnated soul boy”. In an attempt to undermine and control the Tibetan people, their religion, and their nation, the Chinese authorities nominated and selected a six-year-old boy named Gyaltsen Norbu. The majority of Tibetans does not recognize Gyaltsen Norbu as the true Panchen Lama but instead regard him as a puppet of the Chinese government. This is a malicious attempt to destroy the spiritual sanctity and religious tradition that Tibet embodies and it also sheds ample light on the current social, political and religious repression in Tibet today.
May 1996: suspicions that he had been kidnapped were confirmed in May 1996 when the Chinese leadership admitted to holding him and his family in “protective custody”.
1996: the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the disappearance of this child.
2005: U.N’s Working Group on Enforced Disappearance regards Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as a Disappeared Person.
Tashi Lhunpo monastery (the traditional seat of Panchen Lama) continues to offer a reward (currently US$33,290) for information leading to outside contact with Panchen Lama.