Panchen Lama Turns 20 – For 14 Years He Has Been a Hostage of the Chinese Government

AsiaNews.it reports that the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized as such by the in 1995, turns twenty today. He and his family were taken hostage by the Chinese government later in 1995, when he was six, making him “the youngest political prisoner in history.” The Chinese government declared that their chosen candidate, Qoigyijabu (Gyancain Norbu), was the true .

After the death of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama has the task of recognizing the new reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, recognized the young Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995. A few days later, the police kidnapped the six-year-old boy and his family, who have not been seen since in spite of repeated requests from the United Nations and international organizations to at least be allowed to meet with them. In November of 1995, China “selected” Gyaltsen Norbu as the “true” Panchen Lama, in order to establish tight control over religious practice in the region.

“The Panchem Lama and his family were abducted by the Chinese government on May 17, 1995,” denounces Tsering Phuntsok, minister for religious affairs of the Tibetan government in exile. “Their whereabouts till today are not known.” He turns 20 years old today, and the Tibetans in exile intend to celebrate the birthday “according to Buddhist tradition,” praying for his “safety” and wishing him “long life.” Tsering Phuntsok explains that his kidnapping is not only “a Tibetan question,” but “international.” “It is a grave violation of human rights and freedom of religion,” he continues, “and these importantly since the tender age of six years, he is unheard of – his freedom are denied and the basic freedom and rights due to any human person are denied to him.”

The Dalai Lam is currently visiting the U.S. and will be speaking at venues in California, New York, and Boston:

China, which has stepped up its campaign to isolate the Buddhist monk, has already urged Obama not to meet with him.

“We have made representations to the US urging the US to honor its commitments and not allow the Dalai to engage in separatist activities in the US,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said earlier Thursday… In Tokyo on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama accused China of “acting like a child” in cracking down on Tibetans and other minorities, saying it lacked the moral authority of a genuine superpower.

Every US president has met the Dalai Lama winner since George H.W. Bush in 1991 and analysts in Washington believe it is unlikely Obama would shun the spiritual leader, who enjoys a wide following in the United States.

The Dalai Lama will speak at University of California, Berkeley, the site of CDT, later this afternoon.

See also past CDT posts on the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama.

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