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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan exiles seek whereabouts of 11th Panchen Lama

April 27, 2009

Phurbu Thinley
April 25, 2009

Dharamsala, April 25 -- The 11th Panchen Lama
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima turned 20 on Saturday, but
nothing solid of his whereabouts and well being
have surfaced since he and his parents were
abducted by the Chinese authorities way back in 1995.

Panchen Lama is revered as the second highest
ranking tulku lineage in the Gelugpa tradition of
Tibetan Buddhism and one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Tibet.

Born on April 25, 1989, in Lhari County, Tibet,
Gendhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised by the Dalai
Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995 at
the age of six. Three days later, on 17 May, he
along with his parents went missing.

On 15 May, 1996, the Chinese government admitted
to holding the 11th Panchen Lama and his parents in their “protective custody”.

Tibetan Government-in-Exile claims that he and
his family continue to be political prisoners,
and have called him the “youngest Political
prisoner in the world”. Others have referred to him as “Tibet’s Stolen Child”.

Traditionally, the Panchen Lama bears part of the
responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa.

In Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet's Government in
exile in northern India, Tibetan exiles led by
prominent activist groups organized events
marking his 20th birthday to call on China to
confirm his safety and whereabouts.

Activists staged a street play showing a young
Panchen Lama under Chinese captivity. The
activist groups also conducted a signature
campaign seeking Panchen Lama's release and,
distributed "Release Panchen Lama" head gears and head bands.

The organizers have also planned a candle light
vigil in the evening and will screen, after the
peaceful rally culminates at the Main Tibetan
Temple (Tsuglagkhang) here, a documentary film- The Kingdom of a Lost Boy.

Over the years, there have been conflicting
reports about the whereabouts and well being of
the Panchen Lama, ranging from rumours of his
death towards the late 1999 to a set of photos
that Chinese officials displayed briefly, but did
not hand over to European human rights officials.
The photos reportedly showed the young Gedhun
Choekyi Nyima playing table-tennis and writing
Chinese characters on a blackboard.

In 2001, the International Campaign for Tibet
obtained a new photo purporting to be of 12 year
old Gendhun Choekyi Nyima. However, nothing is
known of the photos authenticity. Critics believe
that it could have been faked by the Chinese
authorities as a way to address growing
international pressure for information on the
safety and condition of the Panchen Lama.

Chinese Government of lately claimed that he is
attending school and leading a normal life
somewhere in China, and that his whereabouts are
kept undisclosed to protect him, but all requests
for access to Gendhun Choekyi Nyima have been repeatedly refused so far.

As of now, there is no any reliable evidence of
what has become of the Gendhun Choekyi Nyima and,
only one photo taken when he was six years old
remains the only proving clue available outside China.

Tibetan exiles and supporters have regularly
initiated numerous campaigns for the last 14
years asking China to provide verifiable
information on the well being and whereabouts of
the young Panchen Lama. “Despite repeated calls
from UN bodies to allow independent fact-finding
delegations to assess his health and general
wellbeing, Chinese authorities continue to turn
deaf ears, and have not confirmed the safety and
whereabouts of Panchen Lama,” the campaigning
groups united under Tibetan People’s Uprising
Movement (TPUM) said in a joint statement today.

"Since the kidnapping and incarceration of the
11th Panchen Lama in 1995, Tibetans and their
supporters have been adamant in seeking his
release, and the worldwide campaigns will
continue to highlight the predicament of the
Panchen Lama and the political prisoners in Tibet,” it added.

"TPUM will step up its efforts in its relentless
pursuit of its goal; to ensure the safe return of
Panchen Lama to his rightful abode (Tashi Lhunpo
Monastery) and to see the complete restoration of
His freedom and His political and religious rights,” the statement said.

Tashi Lhunpo in Shigatse, Tibet, is the
traditional seat of the successive Panchen Lamas
and is one of the most prominent monasteries in Tibet.

A branch of the monastery now based in South
India has also issued a statement today calling
on China to provide details of the exact
whereabouts and well-being of Gedun Choekyi
Nyima. It also asked China to allow official
enthronement of the 11th Panchen Lama at the
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery without any conditions and
permit him to receive the traditional Buddhist education.
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