25 Years After: Release the 11th Panchen Lama!

In 1995, the CCP kidnapped the second highest authority in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism to substitute him with a puppet. European MPs now call for his release

by Marco Respinti

Sign referring to the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama chosen
Sign referring to the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama chosen (By John Hill –  CC BY-SA 4.0)

Parliamentarians of different European countries have issued statements calling upon China to immediately release Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and his entire family on the 25th year of their “disappearance.” 15 Swiss parliamentarians4 from Italy16 Czech MPs and 16 Czech Senators signed four different requests.

Since decades, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is at the center of the CCP’s attempt to control Buddhism, which will likely culminate in installing a false Dalai Lama when the current one, the 14th, 84-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, who has some health issues, will die. The main tool for this control, as Bitter Winter reported, is the bizarre Order no. 5 of 2007, a Chinese regulation attributing to the CCP the exclusive right to designate which Buddhist lamas are authorized to reincarnate, to control the process aimed at identifying the reincarnations, and to authenticate reincarnations as genuine. In fact, the surviving monks who were recognized as reincarnations of deceased high lamas before the Chinese invasion of Tibet are now all old. As they die, one after the other, the CCP wants to select their successors, by identifying the young boys who will be proclaimed as their reincarnations, and educate them to become loyal CCP puppets.

The Panchen Lama controversy began on May 14, 1995, the very day when the current Dalai Lama recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old boy, as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama (1938–1989). As Bitter Winter’s Editor-in-Chief, Massimo Introvigne, explains the Panchen Lama is “the highest authority in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama, who is the school’s supreme leader.” Once the boy became the 11th Panchen Lama, the CCP did not accept the Dalai Lama’s choice, and kidnapped him. He was possibly the youngest political prisoner in history and has never been seen since, although both the CCP and the Dalai Lama say he is alive. After that, Mr. Introvigne recalls, “[t]he CCP […] proceeded to recognize 5-year old Gyaincain Norbu, who was groomed to become the CCP-sponsored 11th Panchen Lama and one of the official voices for CCP-loyal Buddhism in China. A counterfeit Panchen Lama, but one touring the world and received as the genuine item by organizations and countries that cannot say no to China.”

Expressing concern over his continued abduction, MPs in Europe are now calling for the immediate release of Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama. This is, the MPs say, a crucial human rights issue. It is yet another example of how the CCP ignores international law and violates the Tibetan people’s right to freedom of religion and belief. In fact, as the Parliamentarians make clear in their different statements, Tibetans have the full right to freely choose their own religious leaders without any governmental interference, a right the CCP blatantly denies by using fraud and violence.

However, the fate of Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama is illuminating. Bitter Winter focuses on human rights and religious freedom, without entering any political discussion per se. But, as a matter of fact, the CCP has transformed Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s fate into a case where religious freedom turns to politics, and vice versa. Taming Tibetan Buddhism by way of its politicization is the tool the CCP uses to obtain a religious “blessing” for its repression of Tibetan believers. The magnitude of the problem totally justifies the official intervention of foreign (European) Parliamentarians into issues that, as usual, the Chinese regime is instead trying to minimize, and handle as if it were only a domestic affair of minor importance.