By Tendar Tsering
Tibetans and supporters in Dharamshala gather to sign petitions demanding the release of the XIth Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who turned 23 today. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, April 25: Speaking to Phayul over phone, an official in the Press Section of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi today said that the XIth Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is in “mainland China along with his family.”
“He is currently in mainland China along with his family and he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” the press officer, who declined from giving his name told Phayul.
When asked why the XIth Panchen Lama doesn’t want to be disturbed, the Chinese official, instead of giving a straight answer, blamed the Dalai Lama for “fabricating the truth.”
The XIth Panchen Lama, who turns 23 today, was abducted at the age of six along with his family, shortly after he was recognised as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Despite repeated international pressure, the Chinese government has refrained from disclosing the well-being and whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.
Coinciding with the XIth Panchen Lama’s 23rd birthday, Tibetans and supporters worldwide organised campaigns demanding his release.
In Dharamshala, the exile Tibetan headquarters, a group of four major Tibetan NGOs conducted a day-long petition drive demanding the Panchen Lama’s release. Signatories were also urged to call the Chinese Embassy to ask for the whereabouts of the XIth Panchen Lama.
“This year marks Panchen Lama’s 17th year of abduction by the Chinese Government after being recognised,” a joint release by the group said. “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s abduction is not only a violation of Tibet’s religious freedom but also a human rights violation.”
Following the XIth Panchen Lama’s abduction in 1995, Beijing handpicked another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu to occupy the seat of the Panchen Lamas.
In a release, the exile base of the Panchen Lama’s traditional monastery, Tashi Lhunpo in south India, said the abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima were in clear contradiction to China’s claims of “democratic and religious freedom” in Tibet.
“Chinese authorities continue to claim that the people under their rule enjoy democratic and religious freedoms. However, this has repeatedly been proved wrong by the very fact that the Chinese authorities have detained the 11th Panchen Lama for 17 long years since he was only six years old, refusing to provide any verifiable information of his health, well-being and whereabouts and depriving him of traditional Buddhist education,” the statement said.
“The abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the rightful Panchen Lama, and the instalment of Gyaltsen Norbu in his place is evidence enough of the fact that Tibetans in Tibet do not enjoy any special child rights, human rights or religious freedom, and that Chinese authorities have no regard whatsoever for these rights and freedoms,” the statement added.