For Immediate Release
25 April 2008
Panchen Lama celebrates 19th birthday somewhere in China
(Montreal) – The Canada Tibet Committee today demanded that the Government of China release the Panchen Lama who has celebrated 13 birthdays under “house arrest”, since his abduction by Chinese authorities in 1995 at the age of six.
In 1995, the Chinese government arrested Gedchun Choekyi Nyima and his family days after his nomination as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan religion, culture and politics after the Dalai Lama.
Following his abduction, the Chinese government played what can only be termed as ‘reincarnation politics’ by nominating and selecting their own Panchen Lama in November 1995. With recently enacted Chinese policies requiring state approval for reincarnations, the government is clamping down even further on religious freedom in China and the Tibetan people.
Panchen means "Great Scholar" and Lama is a word Tibetans use for religious teacher. Historically, the Panchen Lama has played a pivotal role in identifying the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and vice versa.
Gedchun Choekyi Nyima was six at the time of his arrest. His whereabouts and those of his family are unknown. No international body has ever been given permission by the Chinese government to visit the family, despite repeated requests from foreign governments and senior UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Shortly after his detention, the Chinese government installed Gyaltsen Norbua ‘puppet’ Panchen Lama in his place.
"The Panchen Lama has tragically lost his childhood, but it's not too late to give him his freedom" said CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis. "The Chinese government can no longer hide behind their claim that the Panchen Lama's parents are responsible for his continued detention since he’s now nineteen. China must release him and with him all political prisoners."
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, Executive Director