DHARAMSHALA, April 24: A day before the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima turns 24 in Chinese captivity, Tibetans and supporters in the exile headquarters of Dharamshala today demanded to know his whereabouts and called for his release.
Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters gathered at Mcleod Square wearing facemasks of the Panchen Lama and raised slogans for his release.
The protests were jointly organised the Tibetans Women’s Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet, India and coordinated by the International Tibet Network.
“We urge Chinese government to release the Panchen Lama so that he will be reunited with his family and thousands of followers who have been waiting for his release for the last 18 years,” said Tashi Dolma, president of TWA. “We also urge the Chinese government to release all the prisoners of conscience.”
The 11th Panchen Lama was abducted at the age of six along with his family in 1995, 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. Instead, Beijing handpicked another Tibetan boy as the 11th Panchen Lama. Traditionally, the Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa.
“The Chinese government’s intention behind appointing their own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu is but to take over the political, financial and cultural powers that come with being the head of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery, ” said Gang Lhamo, General Secretary of Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet.
“Forced to become the 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu has to act and live a life, not chosen for by himself. Tibetans in Tibet have to recognise and worship him under duress. These actions not only highlight the lack of freedom and human rights, but also how the Chinese government undermines and insults Tibetan people’s tradition, culture and religion.
A simultaneous petitioning campaign address to Zhu Weiqun, Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department was also carried out with organisers urging supporters to call the Chinese embassy in New Delhi to inquire about the Panchen Lama.
The organisers, in a release, cited Ven. Ngawang Woebar, former president of Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet as saying that the 11th Panchen Lama’s parents are currently placed under house arrest in their hometown in Tibet and have been barred from making any outside contact.
“Police officials are reportedly escorting and monitoring all their movements,” Ven. Woebar was cited as saying. “Panchen Lama’s mother seem to have sadly expressed that she is the most unfortunate mother who has to live in constant fear and worry not knowing if her son is still alive or not.”