By Vijay Kranti
NEW DELHI, India, 26 April 2021
Mr Penpa Tsering, Sikyong-elect of the Tibetan government-in-exile, has announced that he and the Tibetan people will keep working tirelessly with governments, organisations, and individuals around the world for the release of the Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and all other political prisoners, held in Tibet by China. “We are not going to accept any interference of Chinese government in the religious matters of Tibetan people, especially in matters related to the reincarnation of present Dalai Lama,” he declared.
Mr Penpa Tsering was delivering his maiden speech at a webinar on Sunday, organized to mark the 32nd birthday of the Panchen Lama. The webinar, entitled “Panchen Lama’s Abduction by China and Its Significance”, was jointly organized by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE), Research & Development Foundation for Integral Humanism (RDFIH), Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), and the India chapter of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). Other speakers included Mr Bhuchung Tsering, President of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) from Washington DC; Mr Jaydev Ranade, a prominent China expert and former Additional Secretary Cabinet Secretariat; Gompo Thondup, President TYC; Ms Rinzin Choedon, National Director of SFT India; and Ms Dukthen Kyi, Head of Human Rights–European Union & United Nations Desk of CTA. Dr Mahesh Sharma, Chairman RDFIH, presided over the event, and Mr Vijay Kranti, a senior Tibetologist and Chairman of CHASE, moderated the discussion.
Mr Penpa and all Tibetan speakers remembered the 10th Panchen Lama who had died under mysterious circumstances in January 1989, of what Chinese government branded ‘a heart attack’, following his strong and public criticism of China’s human rights record in Tibet since China occupied it in 1951.
Mr Penpa said that while the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India in 1959, the Panchen Lama decided to stay back. Underlining the patriotic Tibetan character of the Panchen Lama, he pointed out that “he was forced to undergo enormous inhuman torture, incarceration, and humiliation for fifteen years for expressing his frank opinion about the sufferings of Tibetan people through his 70-thousand-character-long petition to the Chinese leaders. And even after his rehabilitation by Deng Xiao Ping and Hu Yaobang in 1980, the Panchen Lama remained committed to the restoration of Tibetan culture and identity till the last day of his life in 1989. His brave acts proved that he was the most outspoken and courageous leader inside Tibet.”
“They have even refused to give any solid evidence about his physical safety or to prove that young Panchen Lama is still alive. But even if he is alive, then it is clear that he has been denied the real Buddhist education, thereby incapacitating him from fulfilling his religious responsibilities as Panchen Lama,” he said. –
Introducing the subject, Mr Vijay Kranti, a renowned Tibetologist and Chairman CHASE, said that during first 40 years after occupation of Tibet between 1951 and 1991, the communist rulers of Tibet tried to destroy the religious and cultural identity of Tibet under the assumption that a Tibetan minus their faith in Buddhism and the Dalai Lama would make a patriotic Chinese citizen. But now they are trying to occupy Tibet’s religious system from within. Forcibly installing a fake Panchen Lama on Tibetan people or behaving desperate to occupy the institution of Dalai Lama through monopolizing the process of reincarnation only exposes the Communist colonialist masters’ failure in winning hearts of the Tibetan people, he said.
Mr Bhuchung Tsering called the Beijing government’s step of appointing the handpicked five-year-old boy Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama a farce, and said that despite all efforts and influence of Chinese government, the people of Tibet have refused to accept Gyaltsen as the ‘Panchen Lama’. “In the eyes of the international community the forced disappearance of the boy Panchen Lama is an illegal act, by all standards of international laws,” he said.
Mr Jaidev Ranade, President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAS), said that abduction of a six-year-old child itself shows how much faith the Chinese rulers have in the people of Tibet or even in the legitimacy of their own claims about the Panchen Lama. He pointed to Beijing’s recent campaigns to rewrite the history of Tibet from the Chinese colonial perspective and imposition of Mandarin in place of Tibetan language in the Tibet Autonomous Region. “Chinese rulers are taking ridiculous steps like Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism with socialist characteristics. They are even trying to teach the Tibetans that Buddhism came to Tibet from China, which Tibetans find laughable,” he pointed out.
Mr Gompo Thondup, President of TYC, said, “First the Chinese killed the 10th Panchen Lama by poisoning him just because he dared to openly challenge and criticize China’s role in Tibet. Now they are trying to impose a puppet Panchen Lama and his ‘reincarnation’ on the people of Tibet. That is the reason why Tibetan people inside Tibet have refused to accept him.”
He said today’s Tibetan youths draw inspiration from brave leaders like the late 10th Panchen Lama, who showed the courage of challenging the mighty government of China, and will keep working towards regaining independence of Tibet from Chinese colonial rule.
Ms Richen Choedon of SFT India said that Tibetan people strongly condemn and oppose the so called law ‘Order-5′ issued by the Chinese government in 2007, which claims that the Chinese Communist Party has exclusive rights to identify incarnations of Tibetan tulkus, especially the Dalai Lama. “More the Chinese rulers make noise and claims on right to install the next Dalai Lama, more the people of Tibet lose their faith in them,” she said.
Ms Dukthan Kyi, who heads the Human Rights, UN, and European Union desk at CTA in Dharamshala, said that many leading international human rights organizations are shocked to note that whenever the issue of Panchen Lama’s disappearance is raised in any UN forum, the Chinese officials use China’s special powers and privileges to kill the initiative. “A ridiculous situation arose in 1998 when the Chinese government refused to give any cooperation to the UN Human Rights Commission on its visit to Tibet. And on another occasion the Ambassador of China at the UN claimed that no access to outsiders can be given, in order to protect him from abduction,” she said.
In his Presidential address, Dr Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Chairman of RDFIH and a leading scholar of Integral Humanism, said that the issue of Tibet is not merely an issue of human rights. “A free nation with millenniums-old identity and rich cultural heritage has been colonized and its Buddhist identity is being blatantly destroyed by a colonial power. This must be challenged,” he said.
“It looks funny that on the one hand the colonial masters of Tibet try to arrest or kill the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama. But why the same colonial masters are today desperately wanting to own both of them to establish their own legitimacy over Tibet?” asked Dr. Sharma.