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Tibet-TCHRD-2014Dharamshala: - Tibetan groups in exile demand the immediate release of the kidnapped Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima from captivity, and urge the international community including governments, human rights groups and other civil society groups to pressure China in his release.

"The disappearance of the Panchen Lama demonstrates the extreme hostility and suspicion with which Chinese government views Tibetan religion and its clergy. The act also represents the manipulation of Tibetan Buddhism for political purposes as is evident in the Order No. 5 issued by the Chinese government to control and institutionalize the Tibetan reincarnation system, a move that essentially prohibits Buddhist monks from reincarnating without government permission," Tsering Tsomo, Executive Director at Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in her statement issued on April 25, marking the 25th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama.

In May 1996, as international pressure mounted, China admitted to holding the XIth Panchen Lama "at the request of his parents" for "he was at the risk of being kidnapped by separatists and his security had been threatened." Subsequently, in a series of conflicting reports, China variously claimed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was living in Beijing, and in Tibet, with his parent wishing not to be disturbed and wanting to lead a quiet life, etc. China also claimed that the "perfectly ordinary boy" was in "protective custody"- this explanation defies logic, she said, adding: "If Gedhun Choekyi Nyima were just an "ordinary boy" as China continues to claim, why would the Chinese government resort to such means as to abduct the boy and continue to detain him incommunicado."

The rights group said that 'In 2005, on the tenth anniversary of young Panchen Lama's disappearance, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in a communication sent to the Chinese government called the act of secretly holding Gedhun Cheokyi Nyima "grave interference with the freedom of belief of the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine their clergy in accordance with their own rites and who have been deprived of their religious leader."

The interference in the selection process of the 11th Panchen Lama is yet another example of the many forms of religious repression in Tibet," she further said, adding that "The 'patriotic education' campaign in Tibet's monasteries and nunneries that has been intensified in recent years seeks to indoctrinate certain beliefs into the psyche of the monks and nuns in Tibet, such as recognition of the unity of the Chinese motherland, the denunciation of the Dalai Lama, putting ceiling on the number of monks and nuns allowed in monasteries and nunneries, and the forced recognition of the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama. If monks and nuns refuse to agree to these points they face harassment, expulsion or even arrest."

She said her organisation "remains deeply concerned about the whereabouts, well-being and the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family members. It is appalling and unacceptable that as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the government of the People's Republic of China continues to engage in enforced disappearance, a serious international crime that violates multiple human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other major international human rights instruments."

The rights group is urging "the international community including governments, human rights groups and other civil society groups to pressure China in releasing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family members without any conditions and delay." "We believes that one of the most important steps toward the protection of international human rights system is to ensure that states are not allowed to set unlawful and negative precedent."

Speaking about the life and death of the previous Panchen Lama, Mr. Tsangtruk Top, a Tibetan researcher based in India said: "the 10th Panchen Lama strongly advised Tibetan people to keep alive their spirit to be a Tibetan and be for the Tibetan cause."

He reminded Tibetans across the globe with a important message given by Panchen Lama in 1985, in Lhasa: "His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I are spiritual friends". Tibetans inside Tibet are keeping their unweaving faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that is the freedom cause of Tibet."

"At the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meetings and the recent Universal Periodic Review in October 2013, China confidently claimed that all its ethnic minorities have human rights- political, economic, cultural, social, educational, religious. But the case of continued abduction of Tibet's spiritual leader Panchen Lama reflects China's gross violation of religious and political rights of the Tibetan people in Tibet," Tashi Dolma, president of the Tibetan Women's Association said in her statement.

"It also shows that even after 55 years illegal occupation of Tibet, the Chinese government has failed to assert its political or religious legitimacy and authority over Tibetan people and in Tibet. Last year in November, China was re-elected in the UNHRC thus making them obligated to improve the human rights situation in both China and Tibet," she said, adding TWA and its global network of 56 regional chapters call on the Chinese leadership to disclose the whereabouts of the 25-year old Panchen Lama."

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