March 17, 2005 marks the 10th year disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet. It has been ten long years that the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has failed to provide information on the whereabouts of the 16-year-old Panchen Lama.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, went missing with his family since 17 May 1995 after the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, officially recognized him as the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet. In his place, the PRC government appointed another child named Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama but the majority of the Tibetans calls him the “fake” Panchen Lama. Despite repeated requests from the international community, independent observers have not been given access to Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to see if he is in good health and receiving a proper education. The continued detention or disappearance of the Panchen Lama for a decade contradicts PRC’s obligation as a permanent member of the United Nations, and as a signatory member to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To commemorate the day of disappearance, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has invited five students each of 16 years’ age from Tibetans schools, monasteries and nunneries for Essay Writing and a Letter Writing Competition. The students will also sign their appeal on signature postcard and leave hand impressions on a white cloth as part of TCHRD’s signature campaign drive. Besides the release of a Panchen Lama’s poster on the day, TCHRD will also display paintings done by students on the Panchen Lama and distribute Centre’s reports on general human rights violations and on the Panchen Lama. The case of the Panchen Lama has been put on the Urgent Action Alert at websites of both TCHRD and the Amnesty International.
The participating schools and monasteries in the Essay and Letter Writing Competition will be the Upper TCV School, Lower TCV School, Gopalpur School, Chauntra Sambhota School, Namgyal Monastery, Nechung Monastery, Kirti Monastery, Dolma Ling Nunnery and Thekchen Choeling Nunnery. The theme of the essay will be “My dreams and my aspiration” and My World”. The letters addressed to Geneva-based UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, will deal with the case of the Panchen Lama. All the essays, letters and the cloth and postcard with signatures will be sent to the Committee on the Rights of the Child before their meeting in September 2005.
TCHRD remains gravely concerned about the whereabouts and well being of the Panchen Lama. Being one of the higher religious figures in the Tibetan Buddhism, it is imperative that the Panchen Lama receives religious education and training deserving of his religious standing. TCHRD urges the international community to maintain pressure on the PRC government to allow the Committee on the Rights of the Child to meet the Panchen Lama to verify his current situation.