The Panchen Lama turns 18: China’s prisoner for 12 years
Protests in Tibet to mark the 18th birthday of the Panchen Lama. Since 1995, when he was 6 years old, China has held him and his family in £custody” in an unknown location. The entire Tibetan culture is at risk.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Over 600 Tibetans protested in Mysore (Karnataka) asking that the Chinese government free Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th  Panchen Lama, who turned 18 yesterday and has been detained in unknown circumstances since 1995.

Members of the  Regional Tibetan Congress and the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association, Gu-Chu-sum from Bylakuppe (which in Tibetan indicate the numbers 9, 10 and 3, commemorating the 3 great Independence demonstrations quashed by Beijing in Lhasa: September 27 1987, October 1st 1987 and March 5th 1988), Hunsur and Kollegal  and monks from Bylakuppe marched on the City council appealing for intervention by the UN human rights commission for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama and his parents. They also asked his alleged captivators to provide the Panchen Lama with proper and befitting religious education for his future spiritual responsibilities and that a delegation be sent to have news of his current condition.

In May 1995 the exiled Dalai Lama selected Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six year old child, as the next Panchen Lama. In attempts to undermine the Dalai Lama’s authority, in November of the same year, the Office for religious affairs chose Gyaincain Norbu, another 6 year old child.  Following his recognition little Gedhun was kidnapped by police and since then has not been seen.  At the time Amnesty International defines the child as “the world's youngest political prisoner”. Repeated international requests to see the child, even those made by the United Nations, have been consistently rejected by Beijing who answer that the child and his family “do not want to be disturbed by foreign visitors because it could have negative consequences”. According to Buddhism, the Panchen Lama is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama (in this case the 10th Dalai Lama, Choekyi Gyaltsen, who died in 1989) who after death transmits his spirit to a new body. Matt Whitticase, leader of the Free Tibet Campaign, observes that China aims to break the line of continuity of the Dalai Lama and in doing so “crush, both Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan identity itself. China's detention of the Panchen Lama represents a crime not only against a child, but against the entire Tibetan people who regard the ongoing detention of one of their most important religious leaders as a source of great distress”. The Ngo has launched a petition via internet for his immediate release. (NC)