Penpa Tsering remembered the 10th Panchen Lama who had died under mysterious circumstances in January 1989 of what Chinese government described as ‘heart attack’, following his strong and public criticism of China’s human rights record in Tibet.

 

New Delhi: Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (President)-elect of the Tibetan government-in-exile, has announced that he and the Tibetan people will keep working tirelessly with governments, organizations and individuals around the world for the release of Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and all other political prisoners, held in Tibet by China. “We are not going to accept any interference from the Chinese government in the religious matters of Tibetan people, especially in matters related to the reincarnation of present Dalai Lama,” he said.

Penpa Tsering was delivering his maiden speech at a webinar organized to mark the 32nd birthday of the Panchen Lama. The webinar, entitled “Panchen Lama’s Abduction by China and Its Significance” was organized by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE), along with 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 Bhuchung Tsering, President of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) from Washington DC; Jayadeva Ranade, a prominent China expert and former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat; Gompo Thondup, President TYC; Rinzin Choedon, National Director of SFT India; and Dukthen Kyi, Head of Human Rights, European Union & United Nations Desk of CTA. Mahesh Sharma, Chairman RDFIH presided over the event and Vijay Kranti, a senior Tibetologist and Chairman CHASE moderated the discussion.

Penpa Tsering and all Tibetan speakers remembered the 10th Panchen Lama who had died under mysterious circumstances in January 1989 of what Chinese government described as “heart attack”, following his strong and public criticism of China’s human rights record in Tibet.

Tsering said that while the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India in 1959, Panchen Lama decided to stay back. Underlining the patriotic Tibetan character of Panchen Lama, he pointed out that “he was forced to undergo enormous inhuman torture, incarceration and humiliation for 15 years for expressing his frank opinion about the sufferings of the Tibetan people through his 70,000-character long petition to Chinese leaders. And even after his rehabilitation by Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang in 1980, the Panchen Lama remained committed to 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 to prove that the 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, Vijay Kranti, a renowned Tibetologist and Chairman CHASE, said that during the first 40 years after the 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 his or her faith in Buddhism and Dalai Lama will 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 desperately occupying the institution of Dalai Lama through monopolizing the process of reincarnation exposes the communist colonialist masters’ failure in winning hearts of the Tibetan people, he said.

Bhuchung Tsering called Beijing government’s step of appointing a handpicked five-year-old boy, Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama as a farce and said that despite all efforts and influence of the 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.

Jayadeva Ranade, President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAS) said that the abduction of a six-year-old child itself showed how much faith the Chinese rulers had in the people of Tibet or even in the legitimacy of their own claims about Panchen Lama. He pointed towards Beijing’s recent campaigns to rewrite Tibet’s history from Chinese colonial perspective and imposing 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 said.

Gompo Thondup, President TYC said, “First the Chinese killed the 10th Panchen Lama by poisoning him just because he dared to challenge and criticize openly 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 the Chinese colonial rule.

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 right on identifying incarnations of Tibetan Tulkus, especially the Dalai Lama. “More the Chinese rulers make noise and claims on the right to install the next Dalai Lama, more the people of Tibet lose their faith in them,” she said.

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 on 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 address, Dr Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Chairman 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.