Tibetans observe 27th anniversary of Panchen Lama’s arbitrary detention

DHARAMSALA, 17 May: The Central Tibetan Women’s Association(TWA) announced a day-long hunger strike today to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima’s arbitrary detention by the Chinese government.

The TWA’s 58 Regional Chapters spread across the world in Asia, America, Europe, and Australia with over 20000 members will be holding “a days hunger strike in their respective places to commemorate 27 years of the forced abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama, his family and Chadrel Rinpoche, the former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and head of the search committee of the 10th Panchen Lama by the Chinese Communist Party,” TWA stated in their press release.

Calling out China for “adopting various ways to destroy Buddhism and the identity of Tibetans,” TWA demanded that the “Chinese government and authorities immediately release Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism), his family, Chadrel Rinpoche and Jangpa Chung la and the innocent prisoners.”

The Group further urged “the United Nations, the UN working committee on Human Rights Violation, members of the Parliament, International leaders, the UN working committee on child support and International Tibet Support Groups for their continued support. 

On 17 May 1995, three days after his recognition by the Dalai Lama, the 11th Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Peoples Republic of China and has been held captive since then along with his family members. He has not been seen in public ever since.

The Central Tibetan Administration(CTA) marked the anniversary by demanding the Chinese government to disclose the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and his immediate and unconditional release.

“The Chinese government must respect and uphold their international obligations through the numerous treaties they have signed and ratified over the years and also enshrined in their constitution,”  

“It is imperative that the Chinese government must immediately and unconditionally disclose the exact location and well-being of the Panchen Lama, as well as restore the Panchen Lama to his rightful place and provide him with proper traditional religious education, as befitting his position as a prominent religious figure,” read a statement issued by the UN, EU, and the Human Rights Desk of the Department of Information and International Relations, CTA.

Additionally, the CTA urged China to uphold the international obligations and treaties they have signed and to stop its religious interference.

“We also call upon the Chinese government to stop interfering in the religious practices of those living under its regime, including Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians.”

Exiled Tibetans across the world usually mark the anniversary by staging protests and rallies as they renew their call for their revered spiritual leader’s immediate release while calling on China to stop meddling in Tibet’s centuries-old and deeply rooted Buddhist system of recognising their reincarnated lamas.

Meanwhile, China maintains that the Panchen Lama is “living a normal life” and “does not want to be disturbed.”

Last week, the Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Canada said that Panchen Lama is “just a regular Chinese citizen who is living an average life” while objecting to the CTA President’s Canada visit.

In May 2022, just days after the 25th anniversary of the Gendun Choekyi Nyima’s arbitrary detention by the Chinese government, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has said that Tibet’s second-highest spiritual leader is now “a college graduate with a job.”

Born on 25 Apr 1989 in Lhari County in the Nagchu region of eastern Tibet, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama at the tender age of 6 on 14 May 1995.

Three days after his enthronement, the 11th Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Peoples Republic of China and has been held captive since 17 May 1995 along with his family members. He has not been seen in public ever since.

Human Rights organisations have called him the youngest political prisoner in the world.

Today the world’s youngest political prisoner has turned into one of the world’s longest-serving political prisoners and even after 27 years, the 11th Panchen Lama and his family’s whereabouts and condition remain unknown. In his place, another child named Gyaltsen Norbu was appointed as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Chinese government.

Regardless of the concerns expressed and requests made by numerous organizations such as Human Rights organizations, Committee on the Rights of the child, United Nation’s Human Rights Council, and Tibetan non-governmental organizations, the Chinese authorities have disclosed no information at all about the well being and whereabouts of Tibet’s lost child.

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