|Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama. This image is the only public image of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, taken in 1995 at age 6./ICT
United Nations, Geneva, August 30 – The disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet, for the past 12 years remains a major unresolved issue for Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism as today the world observes the International Day of the Disappeared. The recent call for the Panchen Lama’s release by Ronggye Adak in his courageous Lithang protest clearly reveals the aspirations of the Tibetan people inside Tibet.
In a statement today, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) of the UN Human Rights Council urged: "On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances acknowledges the importance that the United Nations grants to the issue of enforced disappearances, by declaring a day to commemorate this terrible practice. At the same time, in view of the continuous nature of this offence, victims of enforced disappearances whose fate or whereabouts remain unknown should not only be commemorated once a year. Rather, every day is a day of the disappeared.”
At the March session of the Human Rights Council, 15 NGOs in a statement expressed their concern over the disappearance of the Panchen Lama describing the abuse as a crime being committed by the People’s Republic of China. “The crime of enforced disappearance, as defined in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, is a continuous crime until the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person becomes known…Accordingly, the enforced disappearance, since 1995, of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet, is a continuous crime.”
Since 1997, China failed to provide document as requested by the WGEID to support China’s claim that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family wished not to be disturbed by outsiders. The Working Group told China that it “would appreciate being provided by the Government of China with documents supporting its statement that he and his parents had appealed to the Government for protection and at present are “leading normal lives and enjoying perfect health.” Similarly, China has ignored the call by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that independent expert be allowed to visit the Panchen Lama to confirm his well-being.
The latest statement by the Chinese authorities concerning the fate of the Panchen Lama came from Nyima Tsering, vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region who told the BBC that the Panchen Lama, now 18, is still in Tibet, living a quiet life. "He wants to live in peace and does not want his life disturbed," said the official to BBC’s Michael Bristow in an interview in Lhasa this month.
To mark the International Day of the Disappeared, a human rights activists and defenders from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Thailand who gathered for the Human Rights School Session of the Asian Human Rights Commission for 2007 in a statement said: “…international action to stop forced disappearances in the Asian region has not been adequate and that such action can even be charaterised as far too casual, trivial and random. The international discourse on disappearances in many countries of the world needs to be sharpened. Certainly it needs to be sharpened with regard to forced disappearances in the Asian region. There is a moral legitimacy to expect that the United Nations human rights agencies will play a more active role in preventing disappearances and to prosecute the perpetrators in the region.”
The recently concluded Hunger Strike in New Delhi by 14 Tibetans in one of their demands urged the Chinese authorities to provide “concrete evidence” the Panchen Lama is alive.