Although the birthday of the Panchen Lama is meant to be a festive occasion, the current situation is not a cause for celebration. Today, April 25, 2013, is his 24th birthday, but he is forced to celebrate once again under severe restrictions at an unknown place.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima was born on April 25, 1989 at Lhari Zong of Nagchu District in Tibet. He is the son of Kunchok Phuntsok and Dechen Choedon. On May 14, 1995, he was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A few days after the recognition, the six-year-old boy disappeared along with his family and caretakers.Even after eighteen years of disappearance, the faith and belief of the Tibetan people in thePanchen Lama is still as strong as ever. During the 2012 Kalachakra, TWA interviewed a few Tibetans from Tibet regarding the Panchen Lama, and all the interviewees clearly indicated that the years have not lessened their faith and belief in him. They still hope and look forward to seeing him again.
The severe restrictions onTibetan culture and religion through the Chinese occupation of Tibet are part of a larger purpose of genocide. Over sixty years, China has implemented various laws and policies to accomplish this aim. Nonetheless, China has failed. The abduction of the six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima is desperate act by China to control Tibetan culture – but in doing so, they have 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 of “dissident” Tibetans.
Despite repeated urges and interventions from international agencies and human rights organizations calling China to disclose information on the Panchen Lama, the Chinese government has so far refused to share any details. In April 2012, the Chinese embassy in Delhi said that Gendun Choekyi Nyima and his family are safe and in perfect health and that they do not wish to be disturbed. 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 GendunChoekyi 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.
At the conclusion of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting in March 2013, President Xi-Jingping stressed the moral reform of the nation. If China truly aspires to accomplish this dream, its first step should be to release the Panchen Lama and all political prisoners. Likewise, another moral responsibility of Xi-Jingping should be to free the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Gyaltsen, who was a close friend of his father Xi-Zhongxun.
Since the enforced disappearance of Gendun Choekyi Nyima is already an international matter, China must disclose information on him. It is also high time for China to release all political prisoners, including Tulku Tenzin Delek.
From this year onward, May 17, the day China abducted 11th Panchen Lama, as determined by the Kashag and the Parliament in exile, is to be commemorated as an International Solidarity Day for Tibet.
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.
Office of Central Tibetan Women’s Association, April 25, 2013.