(Ottawa, Wednesday, 25 April 2007) – In honour of the Panchen Lama’s 18th birthday, the Canada Tibet Committee today delivered a birthday cake to the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa which it hopes the embassy will deliver on its behalf, said Ottawa branch president Alys Muckart.
The Panchem Lama or Gedchun Choekyi Nyima is considered the world’s youngest political prisoner. In 1995, the Chinese government arrested Gedchun Choekyi Nyima and his family two months 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. 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 Norbu a ‘puppet’ Panchen Lama in his place.
Accompanying the CTC to deliver the cake were representatives from Students for a Free Tibet and a symbolic group of his Canadian peers: fellow 18 year-olds. “When most 18 year olds would now be considering their choice of university, the Panchen Lama will be celebrating his birthday in Chinese detention,” said Muckart.
"The Panchen Lama has tragically lost his childhood, but it's not too late to give him his freedom" said Muckart. "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 eighteen. China must release him."
The cake was randomly selected by a clerk at the bakery and remained sealed in the possession of a single CTC volunteer until delivery.
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, Executive Director