OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, SOUTH INDIA ON THE 24TH BIRTHDAY OF HIS HOLINESS THE 11TH PANCHEN LAMA
Today, on this auspicious and joyous occasion of the 24th birthday of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama, Jetsun Tenzin Gedhun Yeshe Trinley Phuntsok Pal Sangpo, we, at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, on behalf of sentient beings everywhere, offer our most humble and innumerous good wishes and prayers for His well-being.
At the tender age of six, His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was arrested by the Chinese government, shortly after He was recognized as the rightful reincarnation of His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama. Since His abduction, there has been no word of the well-being of the young Panchen Lama, with the Chinese government maintaining a stony silence over the whereabouts and well-being of the Buddhist leader.
In the past 18 years since his disappearance in May 1995, many governmental and non-governmental organizations globally, including the United Nations and several human rights organizations, along with countless political and religious leaders, influential scholars, and global activists have consistently called on and pressurized the Chinese government to disclose the whereabouts of the young Panchen Lama. Despite their continued efforts, the People’s Republic of China has turned a deaf ear to the countless appeals made by the global community to free the Panchen Lama or at the very least, to reveal His whereabouts and offer details of His well-being.
Thus, it is today, a matter of sadness that the truth- and freedom-loving people of this world have, till date, not witnessed or been shown a single photograph of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama, ever since His abduction in 1995. This is the result of the Chinese government’s complete refusal to acknowledge the many urgent and repeated pleas and calls made by global organizations, leaders and activists. The Chinese government’s utter disregard for the appeals made by the global community on behalf of the well-being of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama, and China’s continued unwillingness to reveal any details about the physical and mental well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has led many to fear for His safety, and some to even question whether he is still alive or not.
The abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and the Chinese government’s move to instate Gyaltsen Norbu in his place is evidence enough that the Chinese authorities have no regard whatsoever for religious freedom and human rights. Hence, this crisis brings to light not just China’s disrespect and indifference to the freedoms and rights of Tibetans in Tibet, but also their complete disregard for the sentiments of the millions of Buddhists all over the world, their indifference to the human rights laws framed by the United Nations and international human rights organizations.
There has also been growing evidence of the lack of freedom and human rights in Chinese-occupied Tibet. In the recent past, more than a hundred young Tibetan men and women, in Tibet and in exile, have sacrificed their lives by setting their own bodies aflame; each of them did so while shouting with their last breaths for a free Tibet, the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the release of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama.
Still, the Chinese government has continued to disregard the sentiments and wishes of the Tibetan people, making no attempt to address the issues highlighted by the self-immolators or even to conduct a formal inquiry into the recent spate of self-immolations. Instead, the Chinese government resorted to force and brutality, sending armed forces to many regions in Tibet to suppress any form of freedom of expression, and to arbitrarily arrest, imprison and inhumanely torture countless innocent Tibetans. This leaves no doubt that Tibetans in Tibet enjoy no freedom whatsoever, and instead, live their lives in constant fear under China’s brutal rule.
The mounting cases of self-immolations in Tibet and in exile is further proof of the stifling nature of China’s Tibet policies and the growing discontent under Chinese rule as Tibetans face continued religious repression and complete annihilation of Tibetan culture, language and tradition.
At this time of great crisis and sorrow for the Tibetan people, we recall, with great reverence, the fearlessness of His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen, who, during His time, led the Tibetan people in Tibet through the most difficult era of our existence and served as a voice for the Tibetan people under the Chinese rule. If His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama was still with the people of Tibet at this time, He would surely have confronted the Chinese leadership and fought hard for the religious freedom and human rights of the Tibetan people, and it is safe to assume that a crisis of this magnitude would not have occurred in His existence.
His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama, during His time, was known for openly confronting the Chinese authorities on the lack of religious freedom for the Tibetan people and fighting for the welfare of the people through his campaigns to improve the educational, healthcare, economic and social conditions of the Tibetan people. As we recall today the relentless fight and innumerous contributions made by the 10th Panchen Lama for the welfare of the Tibetan people, it is our solemn duty to uphold and fight for all the things he stood and fought for, particularly for the religious freedom of the Tibetan people and the upholding of the Tibetan language and culture.
It is also our responsibility to seek a peaceful resolution to the Tibet issue through the Middle Way Approach and to support this approach, which was proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, adopted democratically in exile and was even upheld by His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama.
In keeping with the special, historical relationship shared by the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas, where each lama recognizes the reincarnation of the other, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in 1995 recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. However, as a result of the collective karmic demerits of the Tibetan people, we have, till date, not had the opportunity to see or seek blessings from the 11th Panchen Lama.
However, it is our utmost responsibility to continue to work towards all that His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama fought for, as well as to relentlessly campaign for the immediate release of His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama and Chadrel Rinpoche, who was the Head of the Search Committee of the Reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama and who also disappeared around the time the 11th Panchen Lama was abducted by the Chinese authorities.
In addition, we should strive towards fulfilling the wishes and prayers of our many patriots who sacrificed their lives for Tibet by setting themselves aflame. We pray for them and for the thousands others who have bravely laid down their lives for Tibet ever since the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Finally, we pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. We earnestly pray that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama will once again be reunited, and that the fruits of their labor and the light from their teachings be felt all over the world, just like the light from the Sun and the Moon.