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Canada Should Press Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji on Child Prisoner

April 14, 1999

Montreal: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien should press Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji for information about the safety and whereabouts of the nine year old prisoner, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.

The child will celebrate his tenth birthday on April 25, 1999 and will begin his fourth year of incommunicado detention on May 17. Although Chinese authorities have admitted holding the boy, no international observer has been able to see him and there is no evidence that he is still alive. The Panchen Lama was detained with his family in 1995, only days after the Dalai Lama announced his recognition in a centuries old tradition.

"No amount of international pressure seems to be enough for the Chinese to free this innocent child", said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "The Chinese believe our government will sacrifice its values in order to access their market and Tibet's vast mineral resources. It's time we showed them otherwise by taking a principled position on this issue and preconditioning further human rights dialogue with China on release of the Panchen Lama".

Canada has engaged China in a bilateral human rights dialogue since March 1997, when it stopped sponsoring a China resolution at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). But the dialogue has not produced any information about the Panchen Lama, the second highest religious figure in Tibet.

"If China is not responding to a dialogue-only approach on human rights, then it is time to return to sponsorship of a resolution at the UNCHR" Samdup said, adding "The UNCHR is the most appropriate multilateral body to address cases of flagrant human rights abuse".

Last month the Canada Tibet Committee released a "report card" on Canada's bilateral human rights dialogue with China. To access it and background information on religious persecution in Tibet including the case of the Panchen Lama, visit www.tibet.ca.

An international postcard campaign is underway demanding that Chinese authorities free the Panchen Lama. Tibetan protesters will attempt to deliver the cards to Zhu when he visits Toronto.

For more information Thubten Samdup (514) 867-6770

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