In an addendum to its report to the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights dated March 27, 2006, Jehangir said she had written to the Chinese Government on June 9, 2005 to underline the tenth anniversary of the Panchen Lama’s disappearance and “to express her concern about the grave interference with the freedom of belief of the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine their clergy in accordance with their own rites and who have been deprived of their religious leader.”
In their response three months later, the Chinese Government informed Jehangir on September 7, 2005 saying, “At the current time, Nyima is in good health and, just like other children, is leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good cultural education.” The Chinese response repeated their position that he is not the Panchen Lama.
The Chinese response also went at length to talk about the Tibetan tradition of recognizing reincarnations. In her observation, Jehangir recalled the concluding observation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on November 24, 2005 in which the Committee had noted the information on the Panchen Lama provided by the Chinese Government, “but remains concerned that it has not yet been possible to have this information confirmed by an independent expert.”
Following is the full text of the relevant section from Jahangir’s report.
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received
Report (E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.1) submitted to the 62nd session of the Commission on Human Rights on March 27, 2006
Communication sent on 9 June 2005
93. The Special Rapporteur sent this communication to underline the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, 16 years.
94. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, then aged 6, disappeared together with his parents from Lhari, their home village in Tibet on 17 May 1995, three days after having been recognized as the eleventh reincarnation of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. Their whereabouts were not known.
95. The Special Rapporteur wished to express her concern about the grave interference with the freedom of belief of the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine their clergy in accordance with their own rites and who have been deprived of their religious leader.
Response from Government date 7 September 2005
96. The Government informed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is not the “Panchen Lama’ but merely an ordinary Tibetan child. At the current time, Nyima is in good health and, just like other children, is leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good cultural education. According to our understanding, he is already at secondary school and his school results are good. He and his family are not willing to let this interfere with their normal routine.
97. China respects and upholds citizens’ freedom of religious belief and provides legal guarantees of such freedom. Article 36 of the Chinese constitution stipulates that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. In addition to the Constitution, the Chinese Criminal Code, the Ethnic Minorities (Regional Autonomy) Act, the Compulsory Education Act, the Labour Code and other laws all contain legal provisions upholding citizens’ freedom of religious belief and prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. The (Tibetan Buddhist ed.) religious community is protected under the Constitution and the law and enjoys full freedom to conduct normal religious activities. At the current time, there are some 120,000 lamas and nuns, 1,700 living Buddhas and 3,000 lamaseries in the Tibetan Buddhist community in China.
98. The notion of the reincarnation of the living Buddha is a special tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and over the last few hundred years a fairly comprehensive method and procedure have been developed for the reincarnation of the living Buddha: where the issue of the reincarnation of the major living Buddhas is concerned the central Government fully respects the traditional Tibetan Buddhist ritual. In accordance with religious ritual and historical precept, following the drawing of lots from a golden urn, due endorsement by the Chinese central Government, the fully satisfactory performance of the enthronement ritual and the so-called “sitting-on-the-bed” ceremony, the eleventh Panchen Lama has been reverentially accepted by the wide community of Tibetan Buddhist lamas and by the Buddhist congregation.
Following is an analysis of the Jehangir report.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is not the “Panchen Lama:” UN Expert Told
Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
United Nations, Geneva, 13 April – China claimed to a UN rights expert that Gedhun Choekyi is not the “Panchen Lama” but merely an ordinary Tibetan child. This official communication from Beijing is seen in the latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to the UN Commission on Human Rights which held its last meeting on 27 March, after sixty years of existence.
On 9 June 2005, Ms. Asma Jahangir from Pakistan, the UN expert on religious freedom, in a letter to the Chinese authorities underlining the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima expressed the concern “about the grave interference with the freedom of belief of the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine their clergy in accordance with their own rites and who have been deprived of their religious leader.”
According to Ms. Jahangir’s report made now available on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (www.ohchr.org), on 7 September 2005, China responded that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, “is in good health and just like other children, is leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good cultural education.” However, China failed to elaborate what this “good cultural education” meant.
In her observation on the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, regarded as the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet by Tibetan Buddhist all over the world, Ms. Jahangir reminded to the Chinese authorities that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child remained concern that it “has not yet been possible to have this information (provided by China on Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to the Committee) confirmed by an independent expert.”
The Committee on the Rights of the Child while reviewing China’s second periodic report in September 2005 called upon China to receive an independent expert to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. However, China avoids concrete answer to the appeal and recently filed its candidacy for one of the thirteen Asian seats in the new UN Human Rights Council.
Since 1997, China has failed to provide written document as demanded by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the Commission on Human Rights to support China’s claim that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family wished not to be disturbed by outsiders. The Working Group again visited the case of the Eleventh Panchen Lama’s disappearance at its meeting in Bangkok last June, sources at the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights say. The Group considers the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as one of its outstanding ones to be resolved.
The Working Group stated that it “would appreciate being provided by the Government of China with documents supporting its statement that he and his parents had appealed to the Government for protection and at present are “leading normal lives and enjoying perfect health.”
The UN expert mandate on religious freedom of the Commission on Human Rights when held by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor of Tunisia, became the first UN human rights expert in history to be received by China on a fact-finding mission in November 1994 which included a stop-over in Lhasa. In the fact-finding report Mr. Amor told the Commission that he “noted the extremely devout attitude perceptible in Tibet, the full scale and extent of which has not, perhaps, been sufficiently appreciated so far. This factor must be taken into account when analysing the religious situation in Tibet.”
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s case was also raised to the Chinese authorities by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour, when she paid an official visit to China last August.
Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon can be reached at [email protected]