Free the Panchen Lama
The Panchen Lama’s story represents China’s ongoing violations of human rights, in particular the freedom of religion, in Tibet. We call on China to release the Panchen Lama.
The Panchen Lama: Tibet’s stolen child
The office of the Panchen Lama is integral to Tibetan Buddhism. The role is important in itself but has vital importance in the recognition and selection of the future Dalai Lama.
The world was shocked on 17 May 1995, when six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped by the Chinese Government. This was three days after he was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the rightful 11th Panchen Lama, has not been seen since.
The reason Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped and has been disappeared was because of the importance of the Panchen Lama in recognising and selecting the Dalai Lama. Since 1617, the roles of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama have been intertwined and the two Lama’s are considered to be the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism.
The previous incarnation of the Panchen Lama (the 10th Panchen Lama) was the contemporary of the current Dalai Lama, with the two being only teenagers when China invaded Tibet. After the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 at only 24 years old, the 10th Panchen Lama was the highest Tibetan Lama remaining in Tibet. He remained steadfastly true to his Tibetan identity and to the people of Tibet, often criticising the CCP at great cost to his safety. When, in 1964, the 10th Panchen Lama announced to a gathering of 10,000 people that “His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to his golden throne. Long Live His Holiness”, he was arrested and tortured in prison. However, the Chinese authorities were never able to control the 10th Panchen Lama, who was openly defiant of the Chinese occupation of Tibet and said; “Once a nationality’s language, costume, customs and other important characteristics have disappeared, then the nationality itself has disappeared too – that is to say, it has turned into another nationality… if there are no national language and other characteristics, then there can be no continued existence and development of the nationality” (10th Panchen Lama’s 70,000 Character Petition, 1962)
Since the suspicious death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, the CCP has been determined to control the position of the Panchen Lama because of the open defiance of the 10th Panchen Lama to their occupation of Tibet and, most importantly, because of the central role the Panchen Lama plays in the selection of the future Dalai Lama.
When the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was disappeared in 1995 by the CCP he was only six years old – making him at the time the world youngest political prisoner. Chinese interference in Tibetan Buddhism did not end at this reprehensible act. The CCP went further and installed their own Panchen Lama, a boy called Gyaltsen Norbu, who is the son of two Communist Party members as the 11th Panchen Lama. Gyaltsen Norbu is known by Tibetans as the Panchen Zuma (fake Panchen) widely considered by Tibetans to be a puppet Lama and political tool of the CCP.
The kidnapping of the legitimate 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and the installation of the CCP appointed Gyaltsen Norbu shows the lengths the CCP will go to both disrupt and destroy Tibetan Buddhism both now and in the future, as the CCP have exposed their long term plans to control the future succession of the Dalai Lama via their approved and controllable “leaders”.
Australia Tibet Council calls on the Australian Government to demand the release of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Furthermore, that they take action to investigate his whereabouts and ensure he is alive and well.
Australia Tibet Council also demands that the Australian Government take the threat to the future succession of the Dalai Lama seriously and adopt a policy “that the succession of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including the succession of the Dalai Lama, be left solely to Tibetan Buddhists to decide, without interference from the Chinese government.”
Ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, let’s call on the Australian Government to push for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama and his family. Sign our petition to Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
Five UN human rights experts have raised concerns about the whereabouts of Tibet’s Panchen Lama in a statement to the Chinese government.