It was on 17thMay, 1995 in broad daylight that a young Tibetan by the name of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped and abducted by Beijing along with his family. The reason being that, 3 days prior to this heinous crime, this small boy was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama (the reincarnation of the late 10th Panchen Lama) by the Dalai Lama, an act that went against Beijing’s own attempt to install their own puppet Panchen Lama.
Since that dark day it has been more than 26 years but no clear news or even a picture of the 11th Panchen Lama has been shared to the world by Beijing. Though time and time again Beijing gives assurances of how the Panchen Lama is well and in May 2020 even stated how he has completed his higher studies. But in this day and age of technological advancement, it is very unfortunate to not get a visual or even audio update from the Panchen Lama himself personally who still continues to be under arrest and holds the undesired tag of the world’s youngest political prisoner, with the tag of world’s longest political prisoner just around the corner
This tactic of individuals who are seen as a threat to the higher echelons of power in Beijing being kidnapped, abducted and even missing has been implemented time and time again. Using such tactics in Tibet over the Panchen Lama has emboldened the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and they haveutilized it against prominent Han Chinese individuals as well with the tennis player Peng Shuai being the latest victim of it. Who was fortunate here with huge international pressure mounted towards Beijing leading them to reveal Peng Shuai who was incognito for several days after alleging a former vice-premier of the CCP, Zhang Gaoli of Sexual assault.
The Panchen Lama, Beijing’s motive and goals:
The question now arises as to why did Beijing kidnap the Panchen Lama and continues to keep his whereabouts unknown and incognito? The reason for such an act is not simple folly as the CCP intentionally adheres it and is a multifaceted one that targets the very soul of the Tibetan people and Tibet.
Firstly, the Panchen Lama is no ordinary lama but is one of high spiritual and political stature in Tibet prior to the CCP’s invasion and eventual annexation of Tibet. The Panchen Lama shares a very unique with the Dalai Lama where both falling under the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism recognize the reincarnation of each other. This practice and tradition was followed from the very initial Dalai Lamas with the 1st Dalai Lama, Gendun Drupa founding the TashiLhunpo monastery in Shigatse, Tibet which is currently the official seat of the Panchen Lama. Furthermore, these two high and esteemed lamas also shared a unique teacher and pupil relation with one or the other being the tutor or disciple here. It was only broken after CCP and its military arm the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet. Hence, with such a context having control over the religious and spiritual entity of the Panchen Lama, Beijing is in the long run targeting to control the Dalai Lama, its reincarnation and its institution as well.
Secondly, the Panchen Lama especially the late 10th Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen though pressured and used by Beijing to an extent during his early years came out more mature and wiser after the Culture revolution. Leading Tibet and ushering the Tibetan renaissance after the real dark days of Tibet under Beijing and Mao in particular. When Tibetans in Tibet needed guidance and looked for leadership in Tibet then, it was the late Panchen Lama who took this mantle and in the eyes of the many was the sole reason as to why Tibetan culture and way of life was revived after the many devasting years suffered during the Cultural revolution where even the late Choekyi Gyaltsen was house arrested, faced struggle session and was imprisoned. With the Panchen Lama being uplifted to the mantle of a genuine leader in Tibet, Beijing now wanted to use his legacy in controlling and manipulating the Tibetans. To achieve this the way was simple and that was to have complete control over the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, the 11th Panchen Lama.
Thirdly, the authorities in Beijing wanted to show to the people governed by them that no was ever beyond their reach. This show of powerplay was to generate fear among the people and is a typical Machiavellian way of governing with fear at the forefront. Abducting and kidnapping the 11th Panchen Lama clearly emphasized their stand as to how even those with high standing and popular support was not beyond the reaches of the party. The incident of Zhao Ziyang before and Jack Ma, Peng Shuai and several others after, highlights the gravitas that Beijing places upon striking down anyone who challenges their authority. Even going as far as to call them dissenters, separatist and even terrorists, tags and polemics used synonymously to the 14th Dalai Lama.
Reincarnation and Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism:
Beyond the kidnapping of the 11th Panchen Lama and Beijing’s own selection of their own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu who is incidentally given high positions, with the Vice-President of Chinese Buddhist Association being one of them. The long-term policy here remains of controlling the reincarnation tradition followed by Tibetans and Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism.
It was very peculiar of how it was Gyaltsen Norbu (Beijing’s appointed Panchen Lama) who called for the Sinicizing of Tibetan Buddhism publicly a few years back and also building a Tibet with Chinese Characteristics. In many ways reiterating what the leaders from Beijing always stated but one that came from a Tibetan and that too from a high Lama.
The reincarnation tradition has been totally Sinicized as Beijing calling them ‘living Buddhas’ have implemented a certification policy, where only and until a reincarnated lama has a certificate are they officially recognized by Beijing. Not getting this certificate create many a road blocks for a reincarnated lama for fulfilling his duty to not only his monastery but to the whole of humanity (their goal being to serve humanity). And this has totally rattled the Tibetans in Tibet with the recent incident of Tulku Dawa, who was sentenced for consulting with the Dalai Lama in finding the reincarnation of the RongpoChoje (Chief lama of Shag Rongpo monastery in Nagchu, Tibet) indicating the very ways and means through which Beijing intimidates and bullies the Tibetans from their way of life.
It has been more than 2 decades and nearing three now since the 11th Panchen Lama was abducted and kidnapped. Tibetans worldwide including those in Tibet still with a deep heart hold strong hope in seeing him in person again and their sheer determination is shown by 1. The remembering and solidarity shown towards GendhunChokyiNyima every year during his birthday, 25th April 2. The clear neglect and non-adherence to the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu. The latter whom is also seen to be gradually shunned by Beijing itself,witnessing his irrelevance when it comes to manipulating Tibet (but in truth is the failure of Beijing’s own strategy in understanding Tibet and Tibetans) who was not met by president Xi Jinping when he visited Lhasa (capital of Tibet) for the first time.
With Tibetans, its supporters and many who adhere to a rule-base order calling out Beijing for their draconian policies in Tibet, Xinjiang, Honk Kong and even creating turmoil beyond its territories (South China Sea and border issue with India). We must stand united and bring the truth of events taking place in China to the world and to the people of China, where through stringent censorship and surveillance makes them ignorant of the truth.