TIBET’S PANCHEN LAMA
1995 – 2015: 20 YEARS OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE
TIBET’S PANCHEN LAMA
Panchen Lama is considered one of the most revered religious leaders of Tibet. The title Panchen is given to great scholars. The lineage of Panchen Lama dates back to 1385. During the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Choekyi Gyaltsen, the abbot of Tashilhunpo monastery, was bestowed the title and ownership of the monastery.
His Holiness the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas played a vital role in each other’s life and in Tibet at large. Both the lineages of these pre-eminent lamas have not only made tremendous contributions to the spiritual and physical well-being of Tibetans but also in the socio- economic, cultural and political fields of the Tibetan people in Tibet.
11th Panchen Lama: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Following the 10th Panchen Lama’s death in 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama, on 14 May 1995.
He was born to father Kunchok Phuntsog and mother Dechen Chodon on 25 April 1989 in Lhari County in Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) Prefecture in so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
On 17 May 1995, three days after His Holiness the Dalai Lama publicly announced Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of 10th Panchen Lama, the Chinese authorities abducted him and his family. Since then they remain incommunicado.
International human rights organizations have repeatedly asked for Gedhun’s release and confirmation of his well-being, and many world governments have issued statements about his detention. However, no one has been allowed to visit him.
This year, 2015, marks the 20th anniversary of the enforced disappearance of the Panchen Lama.
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS SURROUNDING THE RECOGNITION AND DISAPPEARANCE OF THE 11th PANCHEN LAMA
28 January 1989: The 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Thrinley Choekyi Gyaltsen, passes away in Shigatse, Central Tibet.
21 March 1991: The Chinese Government is informed through its New Delhi embassy that His Holiness the Dalai Lama wishes to assist in the search for the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. His Holiness expresses his desire to send a religious delegation to Lhamo Lhatso – the
sacred lake near Lhasa – to pray and observe prophetic visions in the lake’s surface, which will guide the delegation to the genuine reincarnation. Three months later, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) rejects this request by stating there is no need for ‘outside interference’.
17 July 1993: Chatrel Rinpoche, acting abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery who is appointed as the head of Beijing’s official search party, delivers a letter with offering to Kalon Gyalo Thondup in Beijing for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The letter records the progress made in the search for the reincarnation.
5 August 1993: Dharamsala delivers a reply to Chatrel Rinpoche through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. The official response invites a delegation under the de facto abbot to visit India and discuss the matters relating to the search for the 11th Panchen Lama. There is no response to this letter.
17-18 October 1994: A Chinese individual, with close ties to the government in Beijing, meets the Tibetan leaders in Dharamsala. During the meeting, His Holiness asks the Chinese man to remind Beijing that he is still waiting for a reply to his letter to Chatrel Rinpoche. His Holiness also reiterates the importance of carrying out the search for the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation through strict traditional religious procedures.
January 1995: Dharamsala sends two communications to the same Chinese individual reminding him of the discussion held in October 1994.This requests him to urge the PRC for an early response.
14 May 1995: In a press release His Holiness announces Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old boy born in Tibet’s northern region of Nagchu, as the reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama.
17 May 1995: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family disappeared. They remain imcommunicado since then.
17 May 1995: An official Xinhua news report carries a scathing reaction from a spokesman of China’s Bureau of Religious Affairs. The spokesman terms His Holiness’ action as “illegal” and accuses him of disregarding “fixed historical convention, undermining religious rituals”.
17 May 1995: Chatrel Rinpoche is intercepted in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province enroute to Tibet. He is flown back to Beijing to be held incommunicado under house arrest.
17 May 1995: The U.S. State Department responds to reports that the Religious Affairs Bureau in Beijing has rejected the Panchen Lama appointed by His Holiness. The U.S. State Department says that they would be disappointed and this issue of reincarnation of Panchen Lama might raise doubts about the Chinese government’s commitment to respecting religious belief and practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
18 May 1995: The PRC launches its campaign to denounce His Holiness’ announcement of the identity of the new Panchen Lama. Tourists in Shigatse report a sharp increase in troop activity.
19 May 1995: Posters refuting Beijing’s claim to legitimacy by using the Golden Urn in selecting their 11th Panchen Lama appear in Lhasa.
20 May 1995: Dharamsala reacts to China’s statements by outlining the historical conventions relating to the recognition of reincarnations. The exile authorities urge Beijing not to politicize Tibet’s sacred spiritual traditions.
21 May 1995: Posters supporting His Holiness’s candidate appear in Shigatse.
23 May 1995: A report from Lhasa suggests that the Beijing authorities have been calling for Political Re-education meetings to announce a ban on public discussion of the Panchen Lama issue.
12 July 1995: Government security forces in riot gear interrupt a major religious ceremony at Tashilhunpo when over a hundred monks had threatened to demonstrate against Beijing’s intervention in the selection of the child Panchen Lama.
13 July 1995: European Parliament passes a resolution on Disappearance of the Panchen Lama. The Parliament expressed its grave concern on the abduction of six-year-old, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and calls China for his immediate release.
14 July 1995: The Shigatse Religious Affairs Bureau issues an order removing Chatrel Rinpoche and other leading lamas of Tashilhunpo Monastery from their posts. Eight pro-Beijing appointees, including Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen and Lama Tsering, become the monastery’s new administrators.
14 September 1995: Tibet Information Network, a London-based monitoring agency, releases a list of 48 Tibetans who have been arrested by the Armed Police in connection with reincarnation of Panchen Lama.
8 November 1995: China’s United Front Work Department calls a meeting in Beijing. The meeting of 75 Tibetans, including government-appointed Gaden Throne Holder, Bomi, tables a list of three Beijing-nominated Panchen Lama candidates.
14 November 1995: The 75 participants at the United Front meeting return to Lhasa.
19 November 1995: China’s Gaden Throne Holder, Bomi, disappears from his home.
29 November 1995: Bomi resurfaces in Lhasa to draw lots from the Golden Urn to select the Chinese candidate to be the 11th Panchen Lama. The emerging lots result in the selection of six-year-old , Gyaltsen Norbu from Nagchu region in northern Tibet as Beijing’s Panchen Lama.
30 November 1995: Senator Bourne moves a resolution in the Australian Senate expressing the parliament’s dismay at the PRC’s action and urges China to respect the wishes of the Tibetan people. The resolution establishes support for the Dalai Lama’s candidate as the only legitimate Panchen Lama.
1 December 1995: 200 deputies and senators from the French Parliament’s Parliamentary Study Group on the problems of Tibet and the parliament’s Association of Friends of Tibet denounce China’s manipulation in selecting its own Panchen Lama.
8 December 1995: The child Gyaltsen Norbu enthroned at Tashilhunpo Monastery — seat of the Panchen Lamas — amidst tight security with over 500 PLA military personnel deployed throughout the monastery compound.
8 December 1995: Dharamsala condemns announcement of Gyaltsen Norbu and expressed concern over the safety of Tibetans’ real Panchen Lama.
13 December 1995: The U.S. Senate’s 104th Congress issues a joint resolution (S. J. Res. 43) expressing its concern over the issue of the Panchen Lama and urges China to respect the wishes of the Tibetan people by supporting the Panchen Lama recognized by His Holiness.
14 December 1995: The European Parliament passes a resolution on the Panchen Lama issue. This expresses its dismay at China’s action and calls upon the PRC to respect the wishes of Tibetans by accepting the Panchen Lama recognized by His Holiness.
15 January 1996: All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet expresses dismay and concern at China’s imposition of a rival 11th Panchen Lama and also voices its concern over the whereabouts of the authentic boy. They urge the Government of India to take up this issue with China’s leadership.
18 January 1996: A bomb detonates at the house in Lhasa of Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Tibetan lama-collaborator and new political appointee at Tashilhunpo Monastery who collaborated with the Beijing in installing their own Panchen Lama.
18 January 1996: Amnesty International raises its concern regarding the case of the missing 11th Panchen Lama. Amnesty sends a document to China expressing its concern on Panchen Lama and other 50 monks and lay persons detained as a result of the reincarnation controversy.
June 1996: The twelfth session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls the Chinese government in connection with the missing Panchen Lama. Ambassador Wu of China responded by blaming the Dalai Lama for ‘illegally declaring a boy as the Panchen Lama.’ The Ambassador also responded on the questions on whereabouts of the Panchen Lama by saying that government of China is acting in conformity with the wishes of the parents of the Panchen Lama to ensure the protection of the Child.
20 June 1996: German Bundestag passed a resolution on Tibet. The resolution, expressing its concern over the reports of missing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family, requested the Chinese authorities to release him and his family forthwith.
17 September 1996: Australian Senate passes another resolution on Tibet. The resolution expresses its concern over welfare and location of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
23-24 April 1997: World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet held in Washington D.C. expresses its dismay at the PRC’s interference in the religious process for the recognition of the Panchen Lama and detention of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
17 September 1998: The United States Congress passes a concurrent resolution ( S.Con.Res.103) in the House of Representatives. The resolution called on the PRC to release 9-year-old then Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and allow him to pursue his religious studies without interference and according to tradition.
17-18 February 2001: The Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation (UNPO) during its sixth general assembly, held in Tallinn, Estonia, expresses its deep concern over missing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
23 January 2002: The United States in Foreign Relations Authorisation Act, Fiscal Year 2003, calls the U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China to meet with the 11th Panchen Lama and ascertain information concerning his whereabouts and well-being; and also requests the government of the PRC to release the 11th Panchen Lama and pursue his religious studies without interference and according to tradition.
October 2002: The U. S. House of Representatives passes Resolution H. Res. 410. This resolution calls for the release of the Panchen Lama to allow him to pursue his traditional role.
9 June 2005: The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief sends a communication on the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama. She expresses her concern about “grave interference” in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism inside occupied Tibet.
7 September 2005: The People’s Republic of China responds to a communication sent on June 2005. It declares that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is not the Panchen Lama: he is just an ordinary boy, in good health, and receiving a normal education and that his family doesn’t welcome any interference in their lives.
19 September 2005: The Fourth World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet held in Edinburgh, Scotland, condemns Beijing’s refusal to release political prisoners — in particular the Panchen Lama –and calls for the release of the Panchen Lama chosen by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
6 April 2006: Human Rights Watch, New York, writes a letter to President George W. Bush requesting him to raise the issue of the missing Panchen Lama on 20 April during his meeting with China’s President, Hu Jintao.
25 April 2007: The United States Commission on Religious Freedom Chair, Felice D. Gaer, issues a statement on Gedhun Choekyi Nyima during the Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on ‘Tibet and Religious Freedoms in China.’
November 2008: The United Nation’s Committee Against Torture (CAT) during its 41st Session in Geneva, raises its concern for persons under enforced disappearances — including the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima — and terms this practice per se violation of the Convention.
11 March 2009: The U.S. Congress passes Resolution H. Res. 226 recognizing the plight of Tibetan people on the 50th anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama being forced to flee into exile. The resolution reiterates the Congress’s call on China’s government to authenticate the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared Panchen Lama.
8 April 2011: A group of U.N. experts raise serious concerns about the missing 11th Panchen Lama and makes him an enforced disappearance case.
14 June 2012: The European Parliament passes a resolution on the human rights situation in Tibet and calls on the PRC to reveal and prove the fate and whereabouts of the Panchen Lama.
20 June 2013: China submits its fifth periodic report due in 2012 in which China responds, ‘Regarding paragraph 23 of the concluding observations, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is an ordinary citizen who has received a good education. He is currently in good health, and his family members are living normally in Tibet. China is a country under rule of law; its citizen’s lawful rights are protected by the nation’s law: allegations of Choekyi Nyima’s disappearance are unfounded.’
29 October 2013: The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child raises the issue of the 11th Panchen Lama and recommends that China allows an independent expert to visit the Panchen Lama and verify his well-being and living conditions.
28 July 2014: International Religious Freedom 2013 report submitted to the U.S. Congress highlighted the issue of the whereabouts of the Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
12 September 2014: During an interactive dialogue session of the U.N Human Rights Council and the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, The Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network urges the Working Group to investigate the unresolved case of the disappearance of the Panchen Lama and his missing family members.
Contact : UN, EU & Human Rights Desk, DIIR, CTA. email: firstname.lastname@example.org