One of the most highly revered Tibetan spiritual leaders, the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, remains missing since his abduction by the Chinese authorities at the age of six on 17 May 1995.
By Ngawang Choephel Drakmargyapon*
“If I die, I think two to three years, I think the Chinese may choose even one Dalai Lama. But Tibetans (will) not accept that. The Panchen Lama which they choose, some Chinese officials also they describe as ‘Fake Panchen Lama’.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama, TIME Magazine, 7 March 2019
This report is an account of the largely unknown attempts made to ascertain the whereabouts, the well-being and the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet at the United Nations. It attempts to provide a comprehensive narrative on the efforts by the international community over the past more than two decades to determine the fate of the Panchen Lama by particularly highlighting how the mechanisms of the UN human rights system have played a crucial role to help the Tibetans, followers of Tibetan Buddhism, supporters of Tibet and others by initiating interventions on the case directly with the Chinese authorities.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised on 14 May 1995 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during a ceremony in Dharamsala, India. His Holiness declared: “Today is the auspicious day when the Buddha first gave the Kalachakra teaching. The Kalachakra teachings have a special connection with the Panchen Lamas. On this occasion, which also happens to be the Vaisaki, it is with great joy that I am able to proclaim the reincarnation of Panchen Rinpoche. I have recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, born on April 25, 1989, whose father is Kunchok Phuntsog, and mother Dechen Chodon, of Lhari district in Nagchu, Tibet, as the true reincarnation of Panchen Lama.”
Today marks the 25th birthday of the XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most important spiritual leaders of Tibet, who disappeared when he was 6 years old.[i] This is the 19th year in succession when Tibetans have to commemorate the birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in his absence.
On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a son of nomadic parents, as the reincarnate Panchen Lama. A day later, the boy and his parents were disappeared from their home in Lhari County in Nagchu Prefecture in Central Tibet.[ii] The Chinese government initially denied allegations that he had been disappeared by Chinese government agents. A few months after the disappearance, Chinese government appointed Gyaltsen Norbu as its own Panchen Lama.
A Tibetan monastery with over 300 years of history has been shut down indefinitely after Chinese authorities attempted to impose its own choice of reincarnation on the monastery in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Shak Rongpo Gaden Dhargyeling Monastery, located in Shakchu (Ch: Xiaqu) Township in Nagchu County, has been under intense pressure and restriction since 2010 when local authorities arrested and sentenced a senior spiritual teacher, Lama Dawa Rinpoche, to seven years in prison on charges that he contacted His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the search for the ninth reincarnation of Rongpo Choeje, the head lama of the monastery. The previous eighth incarnation of Rongpo Choeje passed away on 14 August 1999. The first Rongpo Choeje founded the monastery under the guidance of the fifth Dalai Lama some 300 years ago.
According to information received by TCHRD, out of 113 big and small monasteries in Nagchu Prefecture, Shak Rongpo Monastery has been blacklisted among the top group of reactionary monasteries, undeserving of any measure of official leniency.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) deplores the government of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) new religious regulatory measures on the selection of reincarnates that come into force from today.
The China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) official issuance of 14-article measures on reincarnation which came into effect from today, clearly demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) adamant attempt to undermine and tarnish the centuries-old Tibetan tradition of religious practice. It also attempts to weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama. The new measure bars any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation for himself or recognizing a “living Buddha” thus effectively ending the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice.
Briefing Paper on Tibet’s XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Ordained Name: Tenzin Gedhun Yeshe Trinley Phuntsok Pal Sangpo[Gedhun Choekyi Nyima]
Birthday: 25 April 1989
Birthplace: Lhari County, Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
Date of formal announcement as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama: 14 May 1995
Date of Abduction: 17 May 1995
Current Age: 16 year-old
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet, turns 15 on 25 April 2004. It is his ninth year in Chinese custody at an undisclosed location after he and his parents disappeared in 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…