28 years have passed since the Chinese authorities forcibly disappeared Tibet’s Panchen Lama.

We commemorate the arbitrary imprisonment and subsequent forced disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama Jetsun Tenzin Gedhun Yeshi Trinley Phuntsok Pal Sangpo, also known as Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who turned 34 this month, on this day 28 years ago.

The Panchen Lama, who was six years old at the time, and his family were taken against their will from their residence in Lhari (Ch: Jiali) County, Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, on May 17, 1995. The six-year-old youngster was identified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the previous 10th Panchen Lama only three days ago.

“The 11th Panchen Lama’s unknown condition and whereabouts attest to the Chinese government’s direct involvement in the forced disappearance of one of the foremost Tibetan spiritual leaders,” said Ngawang Lungtok, researcher at TCHRD. “This is true despite sustained advocacy and campaigns from the international community for more than 28 years.”

“It is deeply troubling and yet illuminating of the brutality and inhumanity that define the regime in Beijing that the Chinese government consistently fails to provide any verifiable information to ascertain the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and wellbeing.”

The Panchen Rinpoche is a revered figure among Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leaders. A gross breach of the basic right to freedom of religion and belief is represented by his unjustifiable confinement and the absolute denial of any visibility to his devoted followers, who all hold him in the greatest respect and veneration.

The horrible act of forced disappearance violates a number of rights, including the right to liberty, security, and protection from torture and other cruel, inhumane, or humiliating treatment or punishment. Similar to torture, there is absolutely no reason that can be used to support forced disappearance.

China, the self-declared leader of the developing world and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has not ratified either the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are only a few of the human rights conventions that it has consistently neglected to report to the UN treaty bodies on.

Despite China’s obstinacy, the international community has consistently shown its dedication and desire to push for the release of the Panchen Lama and his family. The Chinese government was urged to “immediately provide proof of life and a justification for the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his well-being” by a group of 30 Spanish senators last month. As part of a coalition recently formed to “gain concrete support for the resumption of substantive dialogue between the Chinese leadership and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representatives to ensure genuine and meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people,” senators from various Spanish political parties are represented by the Dalai Lama.

TCHRD reiterates its demand that China free the Panchen Lama, his family, and all political prisoners from Tibet immediately and unconditionally. Without upholding the basic human rights of the Tibetan people, particularly their right to freedom of religion and belief, Chinese authorities will never be able to win over the hearts and minds of Tibetans or gain any support for their oppressive policies and operations in Tibet.

News Desk

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