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China urged to free 11th Panchen Lama
Phayul[Monday, April 26, 2010 16:43]
By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, April 26: For Tibetans Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, who turned 21 Sunday, is very much their beloved and undisputed His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. But no one knows where he is and what has become of him since he disappeared out of public view in Tibet 15 years ago.
Chinese Communist authorities secretly abducted him along with his parents in May 1995, shortly after His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared him to be the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Today only one photo taken when he was six years old remains the only clue available of him to the outside world.
Chinese Government claims that his whereabouts are kept undisclosed to protect him, but all requests for access to Gendhun Choekyi Nyima have been repeatedly refused so far.
The latest statement by the Chinese authorities concerning the fate of the Gendhun Choekyi Nyima came just last month from Pema Thinley, the Chinese-appointed governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Thinley told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual legislative session in Beijing earlier in March that the young boy was living with his family and having a “very good life” somewhere in Tibet. He, however, gave no further details.
Tibetans and their supporters around the world on Sunday marked his 21st birthday by organising free Panchen Lama campaigns and holding candle light vigils in the evening to pray for his well-being.
In Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet’s government in exile in north India, official function was held yesterday during which exile Tibetan leaders, including the Speaker Penpa Tsering and Deputy Speaker Gyari Dolma of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, and Cabinet ministers of the exile Tibetan government urged the Chinese Government to show him to the international community and let it meet him.
The Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA), one of the most prominent organisations campaigning for the release of Panchen Lama, urged the international community, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other human rights bodies, to join their "15-year struggle" to save the fate of the 11th Panchen Lama.
"TWA is committed to campaigning for the safe return of the Panchen Lama to his rightful abode and to seeing the complete restoration of his political and religious rights. Until this happens, we will do everything in our power to keep the plight of the Panchen Lama at the forefront of people’s minds," says Kirti Dolkar Lhamo, the president of TWA.
TWA also launched an artwork competition featuring more than 20 acclaimed Tibetan artists to create an imaginary portrait of the 21-year old Panchen Lama. "This new art campaign is part of our continued effort to raise awareness and one that we hope will also create a meaningful visual reference for Tibetans," says Lhamo. "Currently, the images we use to remember him are of a young child, but he has now reached adulthood," she says.
Lhamo says the campaign serves to emphasise the length of his captivity he has gone - from boy to manhood - hidden from the eyes of the world. "So all we can do to visualise him is to use our imaginations," she adds.
Lhamo says her organisation will chose one of the pieces of art and will use it as a new emblem for its campaign materials calling for the Panchen Lama’s release.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the successive Panchen Lamas, and the Central Association of Panchen Lama also jointly issued a statement Sunday asking China to provide clear information on his safety and whereabouts.
Panchen Lama is revered as the second highest tulku lineage in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Tibet.
Traditionally, the Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa, a practice many say has prompted China to install another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the Panchen Lama.
Gyaltsen, who is generally not recognised by Tibetans, is being used by Beijing to supplant the Dalai Lama as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet and elsewhere in China. In recent years he has taken on an increasingly political role and was recently appointed to China's top government advisory body.
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