Dharamshala: - Tibetans across the world observed the 25th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama, one of the highest-ranking spiritual leaders in Tibet, whose whereabouts remain unknown after Chinese authorities took the 6-year old boy into custody 19 years ago.
Hundreds of Tibetans, including the officials of the Central Tibetan Administration, attended the commemoration event at the main Tibetan temple, McLeod Ganj town of Dharamshala. The event was jointly organised by the Central Tibetan Administration and free Panchen Lama campaigns.
In his statement marking the 25th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama, Dr. Sangay said that the commemoration of his 25th birthday is "an occasion of joy but also great pain. On one hand, it gives us immense joy that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was able to recognize the authentic reincarnation of the Panchen Lama."
"But this joy is profoundly undermined by the memory of the time when the Panchen Lama and his family were taken captive by the Chinese authorities. For all Tibetans, it is a source of great sorrow that to this day the state of the Panchen Lama's physical and mental health remains unknown," Sikyong said, adding "His very existence is in doubt and he has not been seen since being taken into captivity on May 17, 1995."
"Had the 11th Kunzik Panchen Lama received proper education and traditionally trained like other Lamas, by now he would be an eminent teacher teaching Buddhism to fellow Tibetans and citizens throughout the world," he stressed.
Dr. Lobsang Sangay remarked that "In the 70,000 character petition, the Panchen Lama wrote, "Before democratic reform, there were more than 2500 large, medium and small monasteries in Tibet. After democratic reform, only 70 or so monasteries were kept in existence by the Chinese government," Sikyong added, saying "this was a reduction of more than 97 percent."
Dr Sangay responded by saying, the number of monks and nuns living in the monasteries was about 7000 people, which is a reduction of 93 percent." In Tibetan areas of the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu, "...the number of monasteries and of monks reduced by between 98% and 99%."
Commenting on the death and disappearance of Tibetan people, Sikyong has reminded Tibetan people today what important things that the 10th Panchen Lama shared to his people two decades ago. "We have no way of knowing in detail the number of Tibetans who were arrested after the rebellion, but from the appearance of things it may be inferred that the number of people who were locked up reached about ten thousand or more in every area. Therefore, if we say that all these people were the enemy, we can affirm that hardly anyone is left among us Tibetan, apart from women, old people, children and a very small number of young men."
Sikyong has praised Late Panchen Rinpoche for his tireless efforts by stating that "The 10th Panchen Lama devoted his whole life to the welfare of the Tibetan people. On May 18, 1962, at the age of 24, he bravely presented to Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders the 70,000 Character Petition, a document that thoroughly assessed the nature of Chinese occupation in Tibet. It elaborately explained the Tibetan people's grievances and suggested measures to uplift them from political repression. The petition also exposed the Chinese government's use of routine propaganda regarding revolution, liberation, democratic reform and the so-called 'socialist paradise' as pure deception."
"Emphasizing the centrality of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas to Tibet and the Tibetan people and the close relationship between the two, the 10th Panchen Lama declared in 1986 at the Monlam Chenmo (the Great Prayer Festival), in Lhasa that "His Holiness and I are spiritual friends. We have no differences between us...If we are united, the Tibetan nationality will progress and Buddhism will flourish," Sikyong said.
He emphasized that "Because of the 10th Panchen Lama's efforts, a law was passed in 1987 making Tibetan the official language of the Tibet Autonomous Region."
On behalf of the Tibetan administration, Sikyong appeals to the international community to make a concerted effort to press China to release Gedun Choekyi Nyima. He said that "The international community must make it plain to China that flagrant human rights violations such as the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama cannot be papered over by business and commerce."
Sikyong also appeals to the Chinese authorities to release Gedun Choekyi Nyima, his family and other prisoners of conscience. In closing the Sikyong said "This would be a large step forward to restoring China's moral leadership in the world."
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was six years old when he was taken into custody in 1995, shortly after Tibet's spiritual leader,His Holiness the Dalai Lama, recognized him as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. Since then, the boy and his family have not been seen in public.
China has said several times over the years that the young man is safe and in Tibet, and does not want to be disturbed. Tibetan rights grup have claimed that Panchen Lama's parents are currently placed under house arrest in their hometown and not allowed to meet anyone.
In 1995, the communist regime named their own Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, to counter His Holiness the Dalai Lama's influence. However Tibetans do not recognise this, and still recognise Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama, though the regime sees the exact opposite.