This statement is published on ICT’s website at the request of Tashi Lhunpo monastery in south India.
We wish a very happy 16th Birthday to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, on 25th April 2005. We cannot celebrate the day with him, as he is not with us. No one even knows where the Chinese government is holding him.
In 1995, due to the conflict in recognizing the reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama, conflict has emerged in the history of Tibetan and Chinese relations. In spite of the commencement of fragile contacts between Tibetan government in exile and Beijing, which took the form of official visits by delegations of Tibetan government in exile during the past ten years, the situation inside Tibet has changed very little.
Even after the dramatic release of long-term prisoners Tagna Jigme Zangpo and Ngawang Sangdrol on medical grounds, the issue of the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama remains totally unsolved.
Despite constant appeals and condemnations from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Tibetans (both inside and outside Tibet) and government and non-governmental organizations around the world, there has been no positive reply from the Chinese Government. The issue of Tibet and the His Holiness the Panchen Lama is still neglected and the Chinese regime constantly tries to divert the attention of international community away from it.
It has become crystal clear that violation of the freedom of religion, human rights and freedom for children in Tibet continues, in spite of the false appearance of a good image presented by the Chinese government. The improper handling of the Panchen Lama issue by the Chinese government has aroused doubt and suspicion in the minds of Tibetans and friends of the Tibetan people from all around the world.
His Holiness the 10th Panchen Lama led a very simple life and remained strongly concerned with Tibetan culture, traditions, language, religion, and nationality. He continually tried to eradicate problems facing the people at the grass roots level. He was a firm believer in regional autonomy and was always a forerunner in advocating such a rule of law.
With his thorough experience of the condition of Tibetans in Tibet, he raised his voice many times in favour of reform and development in the Tibetan community. His ideas were designed to benefit both the Tibetan and Chinese, and were similar to the “Middle Path Approach” laid out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Chinese government.
He composed many petition letters such as the “Seventy Thousand Character Petition”, which contained criticisms and suggestions to the Chinese government about the policies maintained in Tibet. The Chinese leaders accused him of promoting policies, which went against their ideology.
Certain groups of Tibetan officials – lacking a true knowledge of what was happening in Tibet – verbally abused the Panchen Lama and humiliated him in public. They never accepted the views of His Holiness and always went against his policies of reform. In spite of facing great numbers of opponents and obstruction from various sections of community, he never wavered from his position in which he expressed his views and concerns for the betterment of the Tibetan people. As a result, he suffered to the extent of experiencing 10 years imprisonment for the very sake of the common people and finally even sacrificed his life to protect the interests of the Tibetan people.
After the conclusion of the era of the 10th Panchen Lama, the Chinese government, as if to prove their point to the world, built skyscrapers and large, inappropriate buildings in major cities in Tibet and enlarged certain main roads. However, the process of destroying the fragile environment of Tibet continued on a much greater scale. The Chinese government began to exploit the natural resources of the Yamdog-Yutso River, and increasingly brutal torture was carried out on prisoners. More harassment of religious-minded Tibetans was reported and the cost of living for Tibetans were increased at a marked level due to discriminatory pricing of healthcare, school fees and other basic necessities.
In order to work towards their policy of Sinicization, schools throughout Tibet were ordered to remove Tibetan subjects from the curriculum and timetables were structured to offer only the very minimum time for the study of Tibetan language and literature. It is possible to understand from witnessing the continuing policy followed by the Chinese government, which aims to destroy the very nature and culture of the Tibetan people, the unimaginable deeds of greatness that are the legacy of the 10th Panchen Lama.
The process of searching for a reincarnation was carried out in exact accordance with the traditional systems and aspirations of the Tibetan people by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Search Committee. But the Chinese government forcibly disregarded the reincarnation and turned the issue into a political one. The question of the Panchen Lama remains – and will remain – the most difficult problem between Tibet and China, he international community, in its concern for the welfare of a nation and its people, cannot ignore this situation.
It is important to understand the details of the selection of the politically motivated, Chinese-appointed version of the Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu. The recognition of reincarnations depends on many aspects including advice from the Oracle of the Deities, pre-indicative words from his predecessor as well as other things. Moreover, the search for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama has always been done on the basis of the tradition followed by the lineages of the two lamas whereby each would take the responsibility of searching for the other’s reincarnation.
In 1995, a new issue arose in the history of post-occupied Tibet when the Chinese abducted the boy proclaimed as the “Real Reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama while putting up a, fake candidate. The monks of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet expressed their strong distaste towards the false Panchen Lama and organized numerous public processions to protest against the abduction of the true Panchen Lama. The situation grew significantly tenser in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and in the region of Shol – the nearby village – and there were increased armed patrols by the Chinese army.
Chadrel Rinpoche, the principal head of Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Tibet and some thirty monks and lay people were imprisoned for protesting against the abduction of the real Panchen Lama. Thirteen monks, whose term of sentence has long since expired, are still under the custody of the Chinese army and information about their whereabouts is still unavailable to their families. After many failed efforts at persuading the monks and lay people to accept the fake Panchen Lama, the Chinese government began to expel monks such as Kachen Lobsang Choedak, high-ranking officials and the main attendants of the 10th Panchen Lama from the monastery. The immense pressure applied by the Chinese army even led to the suicide of two monks, Kachen Phurbu Sithar and Wangdue.
In effect, Chinese government resorted to the most terrifying tactics to force the Tibetans to respect their version of Panchen Lama and to quell the protest against the illegal captivity of Gendun Choekyi Nyima. These events drew the attention of the Chinese people and many others to the Chinese government’s handling of the situation. Governments and NGOs issued many written and verbal stat condemnation.
From the Chinese government’s actions and their interference with the process of the recognition of the Panchen Lama it is possible to understand more clearly the state of religious freedom inside Tibet and the destruction and damage inflicted on the Tibetan people.
We are seeking justice with the help of the international community by making an appeal to the United Nations and by holding campaigns to bring awareness of the situation both inside India and throughout the world. Our activities will not cease until the Chinese government agrees to our demands. We will continue to oppose strongly and to condemn the use of force against the Tibetan people. Once again, we insist that the Chinese government should agree to our five demands:
- Provide exact information about the whereabouts of 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima.
- Release the 11th Panchen Lama and his parents from detention [note by ICT: the Chinese authorities claim they are in their custody ‘for their own protection’]and give him opportunity to do his traditional studies with complete freedom.
- Gendun Choe-kyi Nyima should be officially enthroned at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery on the seat of His Holiness Panchen Lama, without any restrictions.
- Release Chadrel Rinpoche and Jampa Chung la, along with the restoration of their previous positions. [note by ICT: Chadrel Rinpoche was apparently released from prison in 2002 but is reportedly still not free and remains in an undisclosed location]
- Allow representatives from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery or of the United Nations to make a fact-finding enquiry into the well being of Gendun Choe-kyi Nyima.
We hope to receive a positive response from the Chinese Government in order to resolve the issue amicably through the proper understanding of our demands.
On this special day we would like to thank everyone for supporting us in this campaign to secure the freedom and safety of H.H The Panchen Lama. Throughout the world there are governments and Non-Governmental Organizations, friends and supporters of Tibet, as well as organizations such as International Campaign for Tibet, and The Tibetan Women’s Association all working to achieve a speedy solution of the problem of the Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima. We offer all who join us in our campaign our heartfelt thanks and assure you of our deep sense of appreciation for your support. We request you all to continue to support us and to work for this just cause.
Finally, we wish a very long life to His Holiness the Dalai Lama; the leader, the protector and the heart of Tibetans both within Tibet and outside, and pray that all his dreams are realized. We pray that His Holiness the Panchen Lama be released from all the misfortunes of his present situation and be free to set foot in Tibet to bless all Tibetans.
We wish H.H The Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, a long life and pray that a solution will be found to the problems between the Tibetan people and the Chinese government. We pray for a Free Tibet, which can be held up as an example to the whole world as a zone of peace.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery
P. O. Bylakuppe
K. S. – 571104