Panchen Lama

TWA`s unwavering and ethereal campaign for the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet


Panchen LamaTreating it as a very sensitive and urgent case involving the rights of the child and that of a mother, TWA donned a pivotal role in joining the other prominent voices accelerating the call for the release of the Panchen Lama. TWA is acutely concerned because China seeks to legitimize its rule in Tibet by claiming it plays a crucial role in the identification of Tibet’s two most important spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and in this case the Panchen Lama.

We have been and continue to demand quality monastic and spiritual education for Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and we fear that there is an intentional effort to mar the moral values of Him and a tainted effort to tarnishing the spiritual essence of Tibetan 11th Panchen Lama.

We also express our deepest sympathy for Gyaltsen Norbu and we condemn the Chinese government’s fiddling with his rights.

We are concerned about the well-bring and welfare of Kunchok Phuntsok and Dechen Choedon the parents of the detained 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.

The year 2005 was declared as the International Year of Panchen Lama, marking a decade since the abduction of the Panchen Lama. Since 1995, when His Holiness the Panchen Lama was kidnapped, TWA has held a constant vigil and conducted continuous awareness activities demanding his release from the hands of the Chinese government. In an attempt to appeal to those who can make a difference, TWA frequently writes to the United Nations Commissioner on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights and the President of China, Hu Jintao.

TWA organized a “Free Panchen Lama Concert” on the occasion of the 16th and 18th birthday of H.H the Panchen Lama where artists and singers came together to spread the message of His release through Music. In remembrance of the Panchen Lama and to call for his immediate release. We want the Chinese Government to know that we’ll never give up searching for the 11th Panchen Lama.

It is of natural understanding that one of the core issues disturbing the Tibetans is the abduction of 11th Panchen Lama and his continued detention by the Chinese officials. TWA, aware of the urgency and consequences of the situation, declared the year 2005 as “The International Year of Panchen Lama”. The crux of this year’s activities were concentrated on the case of Panchen Lama and a number of awareness campaigns were organized solely by TWA, are the Peace March, in March 2005, Free Panchen Lama Concert on April 25,2005 and a number of campaigns through printed material and significantly the representation at the CRC meeting in September 2005 at Geneva. TWA in conjunction with International Tibet Support Group and International Campaign for Tibet, organized the Global Candle Vigil on 17th May 2005 and drafted a petition addressed to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

TWA also organized a Poetry and Painting competition amongst the Tibetan schools in India and Nepal to unveil the creative compatibility and the notch of credible awareness among the school children and significantly to address and press the issue of Panchen Lama. With 16 invitations extended, nine Schools actively participated.

Yellow Ribbon Campaign

TWA launched a campaign to tie yellow ribbons on one of the trees in front of the Tsuklag-Khang (Main Temple) in Dharamsala, every Friday in order to support the call for the earliest release of Panchen Lama and for his long life. This campaign will continue until Panchen Lama is released from incarceration. TWA designed a wrist wear of an imbibed yellow and green color signifying the color of the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama. The woven hand gear signifies the inseparable bond between the two most important religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

CRC meeting

TWA’s historic representation at the 36th session of the United Nations Commission for the Rights of the Child on 20th September, 2005. Tibet delegations to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, including members of ICT – Europe, Tibetan Women’s Association – Dharamsala, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery – Bylakuppe, Tibet Bureau – Geneva.

Prof. Jacob Doek, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), asked the Chinese authorities to receive an independent body to verify the current status of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet. However, the head of the Chinese delegation to this morning’s session of the CRC responded only by stating that he would pass on the request to higher authorities in Beijing.

The call from Prof. Doek occurred when the Chinese delegation was responding to a question raised the previous day by Ms. Lucy Smith, the CRC Expert from Norway, about religious freedom in Tibet and religious education in schools. On the case of Panchen Lama, Ms. Smith had requested “more information” about his current status, adding that at the age of 16 years, he was still a child.

In response to Ms. Smith’s question, the Chinese delegate repeated the usual response that Gedhun Choekyi Nyiyma was just an ordinary boy who was attending secondary school and scoring good grades. The Chinese delegate said that the Dalai Lama’s choice of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as “the so-called soul boy” violated historic procedures and was “illegal, null and void”. The delegate addes that “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is nothing but a normal child who is receiving a good education.”

At this poiint, Prof. Doek interrupted the Chinese delegate to seek more information about religious education in schools, in particular about the status of teaching of religious discourse in schools. “Can religious groups establish their own schools?”, he asked.

Raising his questions on the Panchen Lama’s fate, Prof. Doek opened his remarks by identifying Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as “what is usually known as the Panchen Lama”. He described the case as a “thorny issue because that particular boy has been taken against his and his parents’ will from Tibet to China.”

Prof. Doek highlighted the regular denial of requests for access to the Panchen Lama, saying “lawyers assume that there is an appearance of somthing being wrong” when they are unable to verify the facts. Requesting a “candid, open and frank answer”, the CRC Chair asked the Chinese delegation to consider the seriousness of the request that an independent body be allowed to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. “I still fail to understand why it is so difficult” for China to allow access to the boy by an independent body, Prof. Doek remarked.

Describing the case as a “returning issue” to the CRC, Prof. Doek suggested that the Chinese authorities could pick the independent body and said that allowing such a body to visit the Panchen Lama “would clear the air” on the case.

The Chinese delegate responded by saying that they have not allowed foreign visitors to the Panchen Lama because “too much interference creates too many problems.” He then repeated the normal stand of China that the boy and his parents did not wished to be disturbed due to security reasons.

This year, 2008, TWA couldn’t embark on a music concert since the entire Tibetan community is in a state of mourning state in the wake of the recent peaceful uprising across the length and breadth of Tibet, which was met by brutal clampdown and made violent and bloody. Therefore in association with The Central Association for H.H the Panchen Lama, organized a day long campaign. A signature campaign in the morning along with the mass distribution of the yellow-head-band wearing slogans: Missing for 13 years, Tibet’s Stolen Child, Talk about Panchen Lama. The evening saw a formal function at Tsuglakhang which replicated the seat of the Panchen Lama (Tashi Lhunpu Monastery) with walls adorned with the excerpts from the famous speeches of the Panchen Lama. The prime-minister Samdhong Rinpoche and chairman and ADPT graced the occasion and called for the release of Panchen Lama. TWA`s statement for the day was read in public both in Tibetan and in English.

Historical background:

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, established in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama,
awaits the return of the 11th Panchen Lama to his monastery. You are
therefore asked to consider the following.

Throughout the history of Tibet, the lineages of His Holiness Panchen Lama together with the lineages of His Holiness the Dalai Lama have made an unparalleled contribution in both the spiritual and temporal field towards the welfare and betterment of Tibetan people.

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is seat to the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1447 the Monastery was founded by His Holiness the 1st Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gendun Drup, in Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city. It is one of the four great monasteries of Central Tibet and was supervised and looked after by the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas of the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat tradition. It has the glory of producing thousands of renowned scholars in the field of Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy and Tantra.

During the lifetime of the 4th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen, there were more than 3,000 monks in the Monastery and by 1959 there were 5,000, with another 2,000 monks affiliated to the monastery living outside Tibet. The Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 and the Cultural Revolution from 1966-80 both wreaked destruction on Tibet’s monastic institutions, which lost many precious scriptures, statues and images. Many monks were killed or imprisoned and only 250 were able to follow the Dalai Lama into exile.

In 1972, under the patronage of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was re-established in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. The monastery has monks coming from Tibet and the Himalayan regions of Spithi, Khunu, Ladakh and Arunachal. Occupying a central position in the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe, there are over 300 monks including many Tulkus (reincarnate lamas) studying and performing various religious practices.

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