The year 2005 is declared as the year of 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima of Tibet. He turns 16 on 25 April 2005. It is his tenth year in Chinese custody at an undisclosed location after he and his parents disappeared in 17 May 1995.
On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama. The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) declared the announcement invalid and illegal. Three days later, the six-year-old boy and his parents disappeared and have never been seen again. Chadrel Rinpoche is the former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo monastery, and Chairman of the Search Committee for the reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama. Chadrel Rinpoche and his assistant Champa Chungla disappeared from Chengdu Airport in Sichuan Province on May 14th 1995. On April 21st1997, the Shigatse Intermediate People’s court sentenced Chadrel Rinpoche to six years of imprisonment. He was charged with “plotting to split the country” and “leaking state secrets”. He was accused of working for and assisting the Dalai Lama in the search for the 11th Panchen Lama. Although his sentence ended on May 13th 2001 following the completion of a six-year prison term, it is believed that he is now kept under house arrest. There is no additional information on his exact whereabouts in Shigatse, or on his state of health. Jampa Chungla, 56-year-old former assistant of Chadrel Rinpoche, was arrested in 1995 for his participation in the search committee of the 11th Panchen Lama. He was sentenced to a four- year prison term and to a two-year deprivation of political rights. He continues to be held in custody even after the completion of his original four-year prison term.
In October 2000 a British delegation was told by the Chinese authorities that the boy was well and attending school. They said that his parents did not want international figures and the media intruding into his life. Two photographs claimed to be of the Panchen Lama were shown to the British delegation showing a boy of approximately the same age. However it was impossible to determine the boy’s identity or location, and the British officials were not given the photos to take with them.
In August 2001, a Polish Parliamentary delegation visiting Lhasa was told in response to repeated questions that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was healthy; the delegation was promised photos of the boy within six weeks but never received them. Later, the Polish Government received a letter from the Chinese embassy in Warsaw stating that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents did not want their peaceful life disturbed by strangers, and that the Chinese government “respects freedom of choice for its citizens and hopes that the Polish people would understand that too.”
In March 2002, a government delegation from the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) met with a European Parliament delegation and once again said that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima did not wish to be disturbed. The TAR delegation refused to answer questions about photographs promised to the Polish delegation. In the light of a refusal to provide photographs that positively identify Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, or to allow independent access to the boy and his family, the Tibetan people can only fear the worst.
The continued disappearance of the prominent child lama in the Tibetan hierarchy completely contradicts China’s claim to respect religious freedom in Tibet. It is a matter of great concern that such prominent religious figure is denied and bereft of any traditional religious studies and training even if he is alive.
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is deeply concerned at the Chinese government’s continued detention of a 15-year-old boy. TCHRD calls upon the PRC to allow Rights of the Child (CRC) on their coming visit to meet Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and verify his health and living conditions. In the wake of subsequent failures of past independent bodies to meet the 11th Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima, TCHRD appeals the United Nations and its various thematic bodies to pressure Chinese Government to allow Rights of the Child to meet Gendun Choekyi Nyima the 11th Panchen Lama during their coming visit to China. China has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 29 August 1990 and ratified it on 2 March 1992. China’s detention of boy Panchen Lama is a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as domestic and international Laws. Hence, TCHRD appeals for unconditional release of Panchen Lama and his family, disclosure of his well being and whereabouts.