Washington, D.C — "The rightful 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, Kunzik Gedhun Choekyi Nyima must be released and enthroned at his seat at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet," President Dr Lobsang Sangay said while commemorating the 30th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has not appeared in public since he was reportedly abducted two decades ago by the Chinese government at age six.
In a solemn ceremony at the headquarters of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, hundreds of Tibetans and supporters marked the 30th birth-anniversary of the 11th Panchen Lama in absentia. As Tibetans mark 30th birthday of Panchen Lama in Absentia, China is strongly urged to release the 2nd highest Tibetan Spiritual Leader held captive for 24 years.
The second highest spiritual leader of the Tibetans after the Dalai Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was abducted by the Chinese authorities on 17 May 1995, just three days after His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared him to be the reincarnated Panchen Lama. He has not been heard from since.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was six years old then and remains today the youngest political prisoner in the world. The ceremony organised by the Central Tibetan Administration also honoured the legacy of the 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen.
Dr Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration remembered the great 10th Panchen Lama as a true martyr of Tibet who till his last breath committed to serving the aspirations of the six million Tibetans and the noble wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“The 10th Kunsik Panchen Lama fought for the freedom and welfare of Tibetans until his last breath. At the tender age of 24, he showed courage and submitted the 70,000-Character Petition to Zhou Enlai and other top Chinese leaders. The petition recorded the atrocities suffered by Tibetans and the destruction unleashed on the Land of Snows since its invasion by the Peoples’ Liberation Army,” he said.
On May 18, 1962, the 10th Panchen Lama 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 and 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.”
“The 10th Panchen Lama’s lifelong mission to protect and promote the spiritual, political, social and economic wellbeing of his beloved people and to fearlessly stand up for the freedom and dignity of every Tibetan is an inspiration to all,” Dr Sangay further said.
In his categoric remarks, the Tibetan president strongly criticised the Chinese government for brazen interference in the centuries-old Tibetan tradition of reincarnation particularly of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas and stated that China had no legitimate authority over religious and spiritual affairs of the Tibetan people.
“It is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable for an officially atheist government and one with history of outrageous persecution of religious, linguistic and basic rights of the Tibetan people to interfere in the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition of reincarnation,” he said.
He appealed the international community to press China to ensure true freedom of religion and belief in Tibet and release the authentic 11th Kunsik Panchen Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima as a gesture of its true commitment towards safeguarding freedom of religion and belief in Tibet.
Appreciating the 10th Kunsik Panchen Lama’s legacy, Chief guest Ajay Singh Mankotia, President of Indo-Tibetan Friendship Association confirmed his solidarity with the Tibetan people in their pursuit for the immediate release of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
He reiterated that the Chinese government’s demand for respect, love, and admiration will only be reciprocated when they take a sensible step of releasing the 11th Panchen Lama who was arbitrarily arrested by the Chines authority along with his family.
“It is the lack of compassion that the Chinese government is so unaware of which makes them commit horrendous atrocities against Tibetans,” asserted Ajay Singh. He was hopeful that Tibetan people led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to Tibet in honour.
Special guest former minister Kirti Rinpoche called for unity among Tibetans, to solidarily strengthen the support for the immediate release of 11th Panchen Lama by launching campaigns that are more efficacious than any previous campaigns. He reminded the great legacy of 10th Panchen Lama who dedicated his entire life for the welfare of Tibetan people and who till his last breath fought for the rights of Tibetan people. Kasur Kirti Rinpoche thus urged the Tibetans to pursue and further promote the legacy of 10th Panchen Lama.
“It is the very motive of the Chinese government to create disputes and destroy the unity of the Tibetan people” asserted former minister Kirti Rinpoche. “This explains the sudden disappearance of 11th Panchen Lama and imposing one of their own because the 11th Panchen Lama’s disappearance meant an unquestionable control over the reincarnation of both the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.”
“However, even if the Chinese government was successful in replacing 11th Panchen Lama with another young Tibetan boy, they have shown their distrust in the boy as confinement and restriction falls upon him too,” Kasur Kirti Rinpoche said, adding: “Time and again the Chinese government repeatedly accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of being a “separatist” when in reality it is the Chinese authority who separate and continue to separate Tibetans from His Holiness the Dalai Lama through repressive measures.”
Kirti Rinpoche believes that soon the Chinese government will face the doomsday and they will realise the atrocities and the wrongs committed against the Tibetan people. He was hopeful when the time comes the Chinese government will make amendments. “I hope and pray that may the 11th Panchen Lama be released soon and may he returns to Tashi Lhunpo monastery where lies the seat of Panchen Lama,” said Kirti Rinpoche.
In his tribute, Deputy Speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok said the 10th Panchen Lama was not only a spiritual leader to Tibetans people, but one of the greatest voices for the Tibetan people who remained deprived of their fundamental rights under Chinese rule and led them through the most difficult period in history.
“Throughout his life, the 10th Panchen Lama worked relentlessly to protect the religious freedom of Tibetan people, promoting the acceptance of Tibetan as the official language, promoting rights to education and seeking genuine self-governance for the Tibetans inside Tibet.”
“As a result, he was subjected to extreme physical and mental torture during and after the Cultural Revolution and was imprisoned for nine years from 1968 to 1977 but even after release, he continued to criticize the flawed policies of the Chinese government on Tibet and remained committed to serve the Tibetan people till he passed away under mysterious circumstances at his monastery in Shigatse, Tibet.”
Ngachen Rinpoche Tenzin Tsultrim, representative of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, South India said: “The successive throne holders of Panchen Lama lineage have contributed immensely to the great spiritual tradition of Tibet and to the welfare of all sentient beings. However, the 10th Panchen Lama was one of the greatest lifelong advocates of Tibetan Buddhism and culture and worked tirelessly to preserve the rich Tibetan linguistic tradition during a crucial period in Tibet’s recent history. The fact that we have a movement for the preservation of the Tibetan language and the right to self-governance in Tibet at this moment is a legacy of his hard work and contribution.”
Since 1995, thanks to the efforts of the Central Tibetan Administration and Tashi Lhunpo Monastery the issue of the disappearance of the Panchen Rinpoche has been raised in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child and in international parliaments throughout the world, he said. In addition, he condemned China’s interference in Tibetan reincarnation system as an assault to Tibet’s historic Buddhist tradition.