United Nations CRC rally

United Nations CRC rally held on September 19, 2005.

Geneva – Prof. Jacob Doek, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) this morning asked the Chinese authorities to receive an independent body to verify the current status of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet. However, the head of the Chinese delegation to this morning’s session of the CRC responded only by stating that he would pass on the request to higher authorities in Beijing.

The call from Prof. Doek occurred when the Chinese delegation was responding to a question raised yesterday by Ms. Lucy Smith, the CRC Expert from Norway, about religious freedom in Tibet and religious education in schools. On the case of Panchen Lama, Ms. Smith had requested “more information” about his current status, adding that at the age of 16 years, he was still a child.

In response to Ms. Smith’s question, the Chinese delegate repeated the usual response that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was just an ordinary boy who was attending secondary school and scoring good grades. The Chinese delegate said that the Dalai Lama’s choice of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as “the so-called soul boy” violated historic procedures and was “illegal, null and void” The delegate added that “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is nothing but a normal child who is receiving a good education.”

At this point, Prof. Doek interrupted the Chinese delegate to seek more information about religious education in schools, in particular about the status of teaching of religious discourse in schools. “Can religious groups establish their own schools,” he asked.

Raising his questions on the Panchen Lama’s fate, Prof. Doek opened his remarks, by identifying Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as “what is usually known as the Panchen Lama.” He described the case as a “thorny issue because that particular boy has been taken against his and his parents’ will from Tibet to China.”

Prof. Doek highlighted the regular denial of requests for access to the Panchen Lama, saying “lawyers assume that there is an appearance of something being wrong” when they are unable to verify the facts. Requesting a “candid, open and frank answer,” the CRC Chair asked the Chinese delegation to consider the seriousness of the request that an independent body be allowed to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. “I still fail to understand why it is so difficult” for China to allow access to the boy by an independent body, Prof. Doek remarked.

Describing the case as a “returning issue” to the CRC, Prof. Doek suggested that the Chinese authorities could pick the independent body and said that allowing such a body to visit the Panchen Lama “would clear the air” on the case.

The Chinese delegate responded by saying that they have not allowed foreign visitors to the Panchen Lama because “too much interference creates too many problems.” He then repeated the normal stand of China that the boy and his parents did not wished to be disturbed due to security reasons.