The People’s Republic of China has failed to provide a director response to Ms. Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the UN Human Rights Council, with regard to a specific question she put to the Chinese authorities in a communication of last May on case of the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama turns 19 today remaining under enforced disappearance since May 1995.
In a document highlighting cases forwarded to governments that was submitted by Ms. Jahangir to the Seventh Session of the Council held here from 3-28 March, the Special Rapporteur said that she intervened on the case of the Panchen Lama by writing to the Chinese authorities on 9 May, 2007. In that communication, the expert asked: “... what measures the Government has taken to implement the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 30 September 2005, where the Committee recommended that your Government should “[a]llow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima while respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents.”
Ms. Jahangir’s communication observed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima “was reported to remain in isolation and concerns were expressed about his whereabouts, well-being and fate. It was further alleged that the Chinese Government interfered in the identification and training of significant reincarnations in order to control the political loyalties of these important figures in Tibetan society, weaken the influence of the traditional religious authorities and use the reincarnates’ influence among Tibetans.”
In a response dated 17 July, 2007 the Chinese authorities totally ignored answering the Special Rapporteur’s question on measure taken to implement the recommendation of the UN Child Rights Body. China’s answer only said: “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a perfectly ordinary Tibetan boy, in an excellent state of health, leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good education and cultural upbringing. He is currently in upper secondary school, he measures 1 m 65 cm in height and is easy-going by nature. He studies hard and his school results are very good. He likes Chinese traditional culture and has recently taken up calligraphy. His parents are both State employees, and his brothers and sisters are either already working or at university. The allegation that he disappeared together with his parents and that his whereabouts remain unknown is simply not true.”
Ms. Jahangir’s communication to China also stated that: “Given the fact that Mr. Gedhum Choekyi Nyima has most recently turned 18, there have been calls that he should have the right to speak on his own behalf. The Special Rapporteur requested further information on measures envisaged by the Government to ensure that the Tibetan Buddhists may exercise the freedom to train, appoint, elect or designate by succession their religious leaders.”
China’s respond to the Special Rapporteur repeated its position that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s confirmation by the Dalai Lama as the Eleventh Panchen Lama “showed utter contempt for the historical precepts and religious rites of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and were completely illegitimate and invalid.”
Another UN human rights expert group which brought up the case of the Panchen Lama this year was through the report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) which had been following the case since 1995. In this respect, on 11 March, nine NGOs in a Joint Statement to the Human Rights Council stated: “We are grateful that the WGEID’s report to the Council cites the outstanding case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama. But we remain disappointed with the lack of cooperation from the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Working Group concludes in its report that cooperation from governments is indispensable to discovering the fate or whereabouts of disappeared person around the globe.”
This NGO statement delivered by Ms. Tsering Jampa on behalf of International Fellowship of Reconcilation (IFOR) and eight other NGOs, asked the “why the Working Group did not seek an official explanation on the this case from the Government of the People’s Republic of China, especially when one consider that the last response is now over 10 years old. We raise this question in line with the Working Group’s method of work to deal with outstanding cases and the need to send annual reminders to the concerned government,” the statement concluded.
Separately on 25 February, 2008, 11 NGOs, including France Liberte: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand and Saami Council in a written statement to the Human Rights Council titled: “The unresolved case of enforced disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama” urged the WGEID and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief “to consider continuous interventions to the Chinese authorities to ascertain the truth about the fate of the Panchen Lama.”