By Tenzin Dharpo
TYC and SFT flag off the bike rally from Dharamshala on April 23, 2019. Phayul photo- Kunsang Gashon
DHARAMSHALA, Apr. 23: Two Tibetan pro-independence groups on Tuesday flagged off a bike rally for the awareness and reiteration of their call to release the 11th Panchen Lama, a prominent Tibetan religious figure, who has been held incommunicado by China since May 1995.
The bike rally organized by Students for a Free Tibet, India and Tibetan Youth Congress, both based here in Dharamshala, will pass through major cities along their route to New Delhi, sensitizing and spreading awareness. 30 riders carrying flags with the image of Panchen Lama printed on them began their journey earlier this morning from the Pawo Doring, a monument built for Tibetan martyrs near the Tsuglakhang temple. The rally will culminate at New Delhi on April 25 marking the birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama.
SFT India’s Director Rigzin Choedon said that the principal aim of the initiative is to spread awareness on the 11th Panchen Lama’s initial disappearance, his detention and to highlight China’s aim to subvert global attention on the matter. She urged the people to give the issue prominence on the social media for awareness and publicity.
President of the Tibetan Youth Congress Tenzing Jigme said that the initiative is the perfect springboard to categorically reject China’s Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, regarded as the “fake Panchen” by Tibetans. Jigme also said that his organization reiterates the demand of exile Tibetans to release the Panchen Lama who remains out of public sight since over two decades.
The 11th Panchen Lama Gedun Choekyi Nyima will turn 30 on Thursday. He has not been seen since May 17, 1995, days after he was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama who died in mysterious circumstances. Exile Tibetans say that China is behind the death of the previous Panchen Lama as well as the disappearance of the present.
In September 2015, after decades of denial, a senior official of the Tibet Autonomous Region's United Front Work Department admitted to the world that Panchen Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima is under their custody. He told reporters, “The reincarnated child Panchen Lama you mentioned is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed."