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Tibet: Panchen Lama Still Sequestered by China

April 27, 2009

The Panchen Lama tunred 20 years old and has now
been a hostage of the Chinese government for 14
years. Tibetan celebrate his birthday and pray for his safety.
By Nirmala Carvalho
Spero News
April 26, 2009

He turns 20 years old today, but for 14 years
there has been no news about what has happened to
him. He became the youngest political prisoner in
history when, in 1995, Chinese authorities
kidnapped him because "the Dalai Lama had
recognized him as the 11th reincarnation of the
Panchen Lama," the second most important position
in Tibetan Buddhism. Mystery still surrounds
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, born on April 25, 1989, in
Lhari, near Lhasa, and a hostage in the hands of
Beijing since he was six years old.

After the death of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen
Lama has the task of recognizing the new
reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The current
Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, recognized the young
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama on May
14, 1995. A few days later, the police kidnapped
the six-year-old boy and his family, who have not
been seen since in spite of repeated requests
from the United Nations and international
organizations to at least be allowed to meet with
them. In November of 1995, China "selected"
Gyaltsen Norbu as the "true" Panchen Lama, in
order to establish tight control over religious practice in the region.

"The Panchem Lama and his family were abducted by
the Chinese government on May 17, 1995,"
denounces Tsering Phuntsok, minister for
religious affairs of the Tibetan government in
exile. "Their whereabouts till today are not
known." He turns 20 years old today, and the
Tibetans in exile intend to celebrate the
birthday "according to Buddhist tradition,"
praying for his "safety" and wishing him "long
life." Tsering Phuntsok explains that his
kidnapping is not only "a Tibetan question," but
"international." "It is a grave violation of
human rights and freedom of religion," he
continues, "and these importantly since the
tender age of six years, he is unheard of - his
freedom are denied and the basic freedom and
rights due to any human person are denied to him."

The minister for religious affairs attacks the
Chinese government, which is afraid of freeing
the true Panchen Lama because he is "recognized
by the Dalai Lama," and asks what kind of
"education in religious freedom" he could receive
from a communist regime that violates human
rights. "Freedom of religion is being denied to
him, and this denial of religious freedom is a serious international issue."

Finally, Tibetans issue an appeal for the
liberation of all Tibetans abducted by the
Chinese authorities. As of today, there are more
than 1,000 people who have disappeared, after
being taken away by the Chinese army sent to the
region in March of 2008 to put down the revolt of the monks.
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