It has been 20 years since China abducted the 11th Panchen Lama when he was 6 years old, and Tibet is calling for support from the international community.
The Central Tibetan Administration has called on the international support to help pressure the Chinese government to release the 11th Panchen Lama, Ghedun Chokeyi Nyima. The announcement was made at a press conference in Dharamshala, in India where the CTA is in exile.
The Panchen Lama is the second highest ranking spiritual leader in the Gelug’s school of Tibetan Buddhism. One of his major roles is the recognition of the rebirths of Dalai Lama as well as teaching the dharma. Ghedun Chokeyi Nyima was identified by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in May 1995 and on 17th of the same month, three days after the announcement he was abducted by the Chinese authorities according to the exiles. At the time he was only 6 years old making him one of the youngest political prisoners in the world.
Given the political role the 10th Panchen Lama played in the ongoing dispute between China and Tibet, especially in preserving the Tibetan culture, language, and tradition, the office has become of greater significance. The continued imprisonment of the Panchen Lama has become a symbol of the oppression and lack of religious freedom in the Chinese controlled Tibet.
His role in recognizing the rebirth of the Dalai Lama is important should the current one pass away which would end up creating rival Dalai Lamas according to observers. It is believed that the Beijing backed Panchen Lama; Gyancain Norbu who was installed few days after the abduction of the Ghedun Chokeyi Nyima is being groomed for the purpose of appointing a pro-Beijing Dalai Lama.
The 11th Panchen Lama, Ghedun Chokeyi Nyima will be in custody for twenty years come May 17 this year. He has been held without communication with the rest of the world ever since, and while Chinese authorities accepted that they had held him and his family, there has been no information regarding his current location or his well being. The CTA aims to use the 20th anniversary of the Panchen Lama’s abduction which coincides with the International Solidarity day with Tibet to make a rallying call for his release. According to the appeal from CTA, human rights bodies like UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief have all called for information regarding the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama but China has ignored the calls.