GEDHUN CHOEKYI NYIMA: The Missing Lama

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This boy is the eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibetan Buddhism as recognised by the Dalai Lama and various other Tibetan Buddhist leaders. He was born in Lhari County, Tibet. On 14 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama. After his selection, he was detained by authorities of the People’s Republic of China and has not been seen in public since 17 May 1995. Another child, Gyancain Norbu, was later named as Panchen Lama by the People’s Republic of China, a choice that exiles claim is rejected by most Tibetan Buddhists. Following the death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, the search for an individual to be recognised as his reincarnation by Tibetan Buddhists quickly became mired in mystery and controversy, as Tibet had been under the occupation and control of the non-religious People’s Republic of China, a Communist state, since 1959. Armed with Beijing’s approval, the head of the Panchen Lama search committee, Chadrel Rinpoche, maintained private communication with the Dalai Lama in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable candidate for both the Dalai Lama and Beijing authorities concerning the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation.

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After the Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama on the 14 of May, Chinese authorities had Chadrel Rinpoche arrested and charged with treason. According to the Tibetan Government in Exile, he was replaced by Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen, so chosen because he was more likely to agree with the party line. Sengchen had been a political opponent of both the Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama. Because of the history of rivalry between different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, many Tibetans and scholars believe that this was a tactical move by the CCP to create more unrest and disunity between the typically unified Tibetan peoples.

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The new search committee ignored the Dalai Lama’s 14 May announcement and instead chose from a list of finalists; the list excluded Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In selecting a name, lottery numbers were drawn from a Golden Urn, a procedure used in Tibet by the Chinese (Manchu) emperor in 1793. The Tibetan method involves using possessions of the former Lama to identify his reincarnation, as the new child incarnate will reportedly recognize his past items amid miscellaneous ones. Chinese authorities announced Gyancain Norbu as the search committee’s choice on 11 November 1995. The whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are unknown.

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Human Rights organizations have termed him the “youngest political prisoner in the world”. According to Chinese government claims, he is attending school and leading a normal life somewhere in China. No foreign party has been allowed to visit him. Officials state that his whereabouts are kept undisclosed to protect him. Those who claim Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama call upon China to prove that he is safe and happy. The Committee on the Rights of the Child requested to be told of Nyima’s whereabouts on 28 May 1996. Xinhua declined, responding that Nyima was at risk of being “kidnapped by separatists” and that “his security had been threatened”.

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The Committee requested a visit with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, supported by a campaign of more than 400 celebrities and associations petitioning for the visit, including six Nobel Prize winners. In May 2007, Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the UN Human Rights Council, asked the Chinese authorities what measures they had taken to implement the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, that the government should allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima while respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents.

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In a response dated 17 July 2007, the Chinese authorities said: “Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a perfectly ordinary Tibetan boy, in an excellent state of health, leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good education and cultural upbringing. He is currently in upper secondary school, he measures 165 cm in height and is easy-going by nature. He studies hard and his school results are very good. He likes Chinese traditional culture and has recently taken up calligraphy. His parents are both State employees, and his brothers and sisters are either already working or at university. The allegation that he disappeared together with his parents and that his whereabouts remain unknown is simply not true.” This response did not answer the question about a visit or confirmation. (© Wikipedia)


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