Geneva – Senior Tibetan monks from the exile-monastery of the missing child Panchen Lama will join Tibet supporters in Geneva on 19 September to protest against China’s decade-long detention of the young religious leader, who is of such significance to the Tibetan people, as the Chinese government reports on Children’s Rights in the PRC before the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva.

The CRC, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties, was the first international body to be given official confirmation by China that it was in possession of the six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, when China last reported to the CRC in 1996. Numerous NGOs, including the International Campaign for Tibet and Human Rights Watch, have urged the CRC to ensure that they gain access to the child to ascertain his well-being.

Lobsang Dorjee, a Tibetan monk who was involved in the religious procedure to recognize the boy as the 11th Panchen Lama, and the head of the Panchen Lama?s monastery in exile, Kelkhang Rinpoche, will speak in Geneva about the political and religious significance of the boy, who has been held in custody at an unknown location by China for ten years.

“We are asking the CRC to secure access to this boy in order to establish his welfare and safety,” said Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Europe. “China is in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on numerous counts, including being a party to his abduction and unlawful detention as well as interfering in his education and freedom of choice as a minor by restricting his ability to receive a religious education.”

“It is unacceptable that the UN has allowed this young boy to be disappeared and held for over 10 years. Tibetans have followed a non-violent path and faithfully delivered appeal after appeal to the UN asking for action in this case without result. From Kofi Annan down, the UN is fully briefed on the fate of the young Panchen Lama. The CRC has the mandate and the resources to make real progress in this case over the next two days, but it remains to be seen if they have the courage to use them.” continued Ms Jampa.

On 17 May 1995, only days after being recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, the then six year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was taken with his parents from his home in Lhari, Nagchu Prefecture (approximately 250km from Lhasa) and put into “protective custody” by Chinese authorities. Since then, Chinese authorities have refused all requests by foreign governments and the UN to verify his safety and have blocked all international access. Inside Tibet his photograph is banned and Tibetans are forbidden from expressing devotion to him.

As the CRC prepares to welcome China to the UN on Monday, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima will be marking his 3777th day in Chinese custody. A delegation of Tibetans will present the Chairman of the CRC, Prof. Doek, with 3777 signed letters of concern taken from the hundreds of thousands of cards and letters Tibetan NGOs have received from the international community in the past year.

The Panchen Lama is one of the most important religious leaders in Tibet and has a special relationship with the Dalai Lama, who was forced to flee Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese occupation. The boy is politically significant to China because typically the Panchen Lama is heavily involved in the selection process for the next Dalai Lama and vice versa.

“The Dalai Lama has said that the process of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s abduction and the installation of another child, Gyaltsen Norbu, chosen by Beijing as Panchen Lama could be a dress rehearsal for what happens when he dies. Tibetans generally do not recognize Beijing’s choice as a religious leader and remain loyal to the Dalai Lama?s recognition, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima,” said Kelkhang Rinpoche, head of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in exile.

In early September 2005 the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour, completed a visit to China and presented Chinese officials with a list of 10 long-standing political detainees of concern to the UN human rights commission, including the Panchen Lama. She would not comment further, saying she wished to give time for the Chinese side to act.

“Frankly a decade is long enough for China and the UN to act on this case. While we welcome Ms Arbour’s efforts in China, it seems almost surreal to hear the High Commissioner say she is guardedly optimistic about human rights in China, while at the same time handing over a list of political prisoners that includes a child detained at age six.” continued Ms Jampa.

As Gedhun Choekyi Nyima begins his 3777th day in detention, Tibetans, Tibet supporters and human rights NGOs call on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to secure a date for members of the Committee to meet with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and determine his well-being as a first step towards his release.

A Press Briefing of experts on Tibet and China will answer questions on the case of the Panchen Lama and the general situation of human rights in Tibet. The briefing will be held at Geneva Press Club, 106 Route de Ferney, Geneva on 19 September at 1pm. The briefing will be attended by:

  • Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe. ICT is a non-profit membership organization with offices in Washington DC, Amsterdam and Berlin. ICT works to advance human rights and self-determination for Tibetans and the protection of Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural and religious heritage. ICT supports the non-violent efforts of the Dalai Lama and his representatives to reach a solution for Tibet through negotiations with the Chinese government.
  • Venerable Lobsang Dorjee of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the official seat of the Panchen Lama. Mr Dorjee was a member of the search committee set up by the Dalai Lama to find the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995.
  • Ms Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China ( HRIC is an international, Chinese, non-governmental organization with a mission to promote universally recognized human rights and advance the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China.

A Tibetan Rally will be held at 2.15pm at Palais Wilson Lakeside