Dharamshala – Tibetans and Tibetan supporters gathered on May 17th to observe the International Solidarity Day with Tibet and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama.
The Panchen Lama is the second highest Tibetan Buddhist leader after His Holiness the Dalai Lama. After the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was forcibly abducted and disappeared after his recognition as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on May 14th, 1995.
Once described as the world's youngest political prisoner, the current Panchen Lama is now 26, and is considered to be among world's longest-serving political prisoners. The Panchen Lama and his family's whereabouts continue to remain unknown even after 20 years of his enforced disappearance. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has installed another person, one of their preferences, as the Panchen Lama.
The Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration organized a public talk to discuss the Panchen Lama's present condition and whereabouts. The talk was followed by a documentary film "Tibet's Stolen Child" and a photo exhibition on Chinese government's continued repression in Tibet which has led to the wave of self-immolation protests.
The event was held at TCV Day School, and the speakers included Mr. Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Mr. Thubten Samphel, Director of Tibet Policy Institute, Tsering Tsomo, Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, and Mr. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Secretary of DIIR.
In his keynote speech, Mr. Penpa Tsering condemned the Chinese government for interfering in Tibet's centuries-old lineage of finding reincarnation of Tibetan lamas. "The sole purpose of abducting the Panchen Lama is to deprive him of Buddhist studies and thereby hindering his spiritual influence on the future Tibetan generations," he said.
Mr Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations, read the statement of the event. "This is an aggressive attempt by an atheist Chinese government to legitimize its control over the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice of reincarnation. In this context, and given his crucial cultural and religious role, it is critical that the 11th Panchen Lama receives a spiritual upbringing that is free from political interference", the statement read.
"We once again appeal to the international community to launch concerted efforts to urge China to release the Panchen Lama and all political prisoners in Tibet. We renew our pledge to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Tibet and pray for the earliest resolution of the issue of Tibet", he added.