25 th APRIL 2001
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
TCHRD commemorate the birthday of the XIth Panchen Lama
The XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima celebrates his 12th birthday today
and it is his sixth birthday in succession where he is absent. On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnate Panchen Lama. A day later, the boy and his parents disappeared from their home. The Chinese government denied allegations by the Tibetan government-in-exile and other concerned organisations that he had disappeared at the hands of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A few months after the disappearance, the PRC government appointed its own Panchen Lama.
A year later, in May 1996, the PRC admitted to holding the XIth Panchen Lama “at the request of his parents” for “he was at the risk of being kidnapped by separatists and his security had been threatened”. Thus, despite its repudiation of the Dalai Lama’s authority in recognising the Panchen Lama, and its refusal to acknowledge Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as being the true reincarnation, the Chinese government nonetheless justified the detention of the child on the basis of concern. It is puzzling to understand why the Chinese authorities would go to such lengths to provide “security” for a child whom they did not even consider to be anyone other than an ordinary boy.
Information from refugees fleeing Tibet, and travellers, indicates that pictures of the Chinese- appointed Panchen Lama are displayed prominently in Tibet, particularly in the main monasteries and tourist hotels. In the meantime, pictures of His Holiness and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are banned, throughout Tibet. In May 1996, the PRC launched its “Strike Hard” Campaign of “patriotic re-education” in monasteries and nunneries in the Tibetan region. Under the auspices of that campaign, the PRC promotes recognition of the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama and denounce Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Authorities permit no questions to be raised about the Panchen Lama or his family.
Many high level delegations and offices have raised the issue and expressed concern over the Panchen Lama’s continued detention including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights however, the PRC continue to deny any outside access to the child and his parents. In October 2000, during a round of human rights dialogue with China in London, British officials raised the issue of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In a written report to the British Parliament, Foreign Office Minister John Battle stated that, “we pressed the Chinese to allow access to the boy by an independent figure acceptable to the Chinese government and Tibetans to verify his health and living conditions. The Chinese stated that the boy was well and attending school. They said that his parents did not want international figures and the media intruding into his life. Two photographs claimed to be of the Panchen Lama were shown to us but not handed over.
Chinese officials displayed two photos from the opposite side of the conference table to the British team - one of a boy writing in Chinese on a blackboard and the other of a boy playing table tennis. There was no means to positively identify the child, the photos merely showed a boy of approximately the correct age. There was also no means to determine his location.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is appalled at the Chinese government’s continued detention of the Panchen Lama. The situation in which a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council can lay claim to be holding the world’s youngest political prisoner is one which demands clear consensus and decisive action on the part of the International Community.
Dated: 25 April 2001
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is a non-governmental organisation based in Dharamsala, India. To know more about us please visit our website www.tchrd.org