Dharamshala: A protest held by four Tibetan NGO’s and attended by over 50 school children in Dharamshala, India was held on April 24, where the whereabouts and the release of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama-Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was requested.
Hundreds of Tibetans, wearing Panchen Lama masks, gathered at Mcleod Ganj square where they demanded to know the whereabouts of His Holiness the Panchen Lama. Simultaneously, a petition campaign also took place which asked people to call the Chinese embassy in New Delhi to ask of his location.
President of the Tibetan Women’s Association- Tashi Dolma spoke at the event, “We urge Chinese government to release the Panchen Lama so that he will be reunited with his family and thousands of followers who have been waiting for his release for the last 18 years. We also urge the Chinese government to release all the prisoners of conscience.”
This year will mark the 24th birthday of His Holiness the Panchen Lama and the 18th year of his disappearance; Tibetans, Tibet supporters and Buddhists worldwide are concerned for his well being.
Tashi Lamsang, the general secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress spoke of the statement that the Chinese authorities gave in March 2010. Tibet’s then Chinese-appointed governor, Padma Choling told reporters “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family are now living a goof life as ordinary citizens in Tibet.”
Many international human rights mechanisms including the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief have backed up the request for knowledge of his whereabouts.
“The Chinese government’s intention behind appointing their own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu is but to take over the political, financial and cultural powers that come with being the head of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery” said Gang Lhamo, General Secretary of the Gu-Chu-Sum movement of Tibet. “Forced to become the 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu has to act and live a life not chosen for by himself. Tibetans in Tibet have to recognise and worship him under duress. These actions not only highlight the lack of freedom and human rights, but also how the Chinese government undermines and insults Tibetan people’s tradition, culture and religion.”
His Holiness the Panchen Lama is one of the most important religious leaders in Tibet, after being recognised at the age of six in 1995, along with his family he was taken into custody by the Chinese government and has not been heard of since. His parents were released and are under house arrest in their home town, they also know nothing of his whereabouts.
The Chinese replacement Panchen Lama- Gyaiancain Norbu is kept in Beijing where he was recently given a political title equivalent to that of a member of parliament or congressmen. He has to often make propaganda statements for the Chinese government.