The Panchen Lama turns 19; 13 years spent as prisoner of Beijing
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Today is the 19th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who "disappeared" in 1995. Tibetans in exile are asking Beijing for his immediate release, and that of Tibetan political prisoners. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama is asking to be allowed to send his emissaries to calm the tensions.
After the death of the Dalai Lama, it is the responsibility of the Panchen Lama to recognise his new reincarnation. The Dalai Lama acknowledged Gedhun as Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995. A few days later, the police abducted the six-year-old boy and his family, who have not been seen since then, in spite of repeated requests from the United Nations and international organisations to at least be able to meet with them. In November of 1995, China "selected" a different Panchen Lama of its own.
For the occasion, the Tibetan Solidarity Committee has organised a painting competition for Tibetan children and a concert by the band Parikrama. Also today, a collection of signatures begins to ask the Indian government for greater support for Tibet, and another for the liberation of the Panchen Lama.
Tibetan exiles accuse China of causing, in the recent repression, at least 154 deaths (against approximately 20 admitted by Beijing) and of wounding more than 500 people, in addition to the thousands who have been arrested. They are asking for the immediate release of these, and of the 119 Tibetan political prisoners already in prison.
Meanwhile, it has become known that on April 19, the Dalai Lama wrote to Chinese president Hu Jintao, offering to send emissaries to Tibet to help calm tensions, after the intervention of the army. But Beijing's response "was nothing concrete, just rhetoric", says Dalai Lama spokesman Lodi Gyari.