The Panchen Lama turns 30, 24 years after he disappeared
Tibetan Buddhism’s Number 2, was seized by China’s communist authorities when he was only a child after he was recognised by the Dalai Lama. A peaceful march calls for his release, while Tibetan political leaders call on Beijing to explain what happened to him.
Dharamshala (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Tibetan community in exile today celebrated the 30th birthday of the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s second most authoritative figure, who was abducted by China’s communist authorities when he was only a child.
A peaceful march was held in India, home to the largest Tibetan exiled community, to demand his release.
More than a thousand people yesterday left Salugara, West Bengal, with the aim of walking at least 25 kilometres a day, to reach Mysore (Bangalore). Marchers offer passers-by flyers explaining the situation of Gendun Choekyi Nyma, who was for years the youngest prisoner of conscience in the world.
Tibetan leaders have formally asked China for news of his fate. Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration (Tibet’s government-in-exile), opened the celebrations in Dharamshala praying for the young man’s health and release.
Chinese authorities seized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family on 17 May 17 1995, three days after he was recognised as the Panchen Lama by the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
Within Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama is important because he has the task of recognising the new, reincarnated Dalai Lama after the death of the old one.
Since he disappeared with his family, there have been no news of Nyima's fate. Beijing has consistently rejected requests by the United Nations agencies and human rights organisations to visit him.
Two years ago, a member of the Chinese government said that the Panchen Lama was living a normal life and did not want to be disturbed.
The young man’s abduction however shows how far China’s communist government is willing to go to interfere in the dynastic lines of Tibetan Buddhism.
The selection of reincarnated lamas in China’s Tibetan provinces already requires the approval of Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government can also rely on “patriotic lamas”, who are often picked among top educators, not to demand Tibetan independence.
Equally, China wants to pick the monk who will replace the current Dalai Lama after his death.
Given Beijing's interference, the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, said he might be the last Dalai Lama or that his reincarnation could be chosen by a "conclave" of the main Buddhist abbots in the Diaspora.