Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is not the "Panchen Lama" : UN Expert

[Phayul, Thursday, April 13, 2006 21:25]

By Ngawang C. Drakmargyapa

United Nations, Geneva, 13 April 2006 -- China claimed to a UN rights expert that Gedhun Choekyi is not the "Panchen Lama" but merely an ordinary Tibetan child.

This official communication from Beijing is seen in the latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to the UN Commission on Human Rights which held its last meeting on 27 March, after sixty years of existence.

On 9 June 2005, Ms. Asma Jahangir from Pakistan, the UN expert on religious freedom, in a letter to the Chinese authorities underlining the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima expressed the concern "about the grave interference with the freedom of belief of the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine their clergy in accordance with their own rites and who have been deprived of their religious leader."

According to Ms. Jahangir's report made now available on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (, on 7 September 2005, China responded that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, "is in good health and just like other children, is leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good cultural education."

However, China failed to elaborate what this "good cultural education" meant.

In her observation on the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, regarded as the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet by Tibetan Buddhist all over the world, Ms. Jahangir reminded to the Chinese authorities that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child remained concern that it "has not yet been possible to have this information (provided by China on Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to the Committee) confirmed by an independent expert.

"The Committee on the Rights of the Child while reviewing China's second periodic report in September 2005 called upon China to receive an independent expert to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. However, China avoids concrete answer to the appeal and recently filed its candidacy for one of the thirteen Asian seats in the new UN Human Rights Council.

Since 1997, China has failed to provide written document as demanded by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the Commission on Human Rights to support China's claim that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family wished not to be disturbed by outsiders.

The Working Group again visited the case of the Eleventh Panchen Lama's disappearance at its meeting in Bangkok last June, sources at the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights say. The Group considers the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as one of its outstanding ones to be resolved.

The Working Group stated that it "would appreciate being provided by the Government of China with documents supporting its statement that he and his parents had appealed to the Government for protection and at present are "leading normal lives and enjoying perfect health."

The UN expert mandate on religious freedom of the Commission on Human Rights when held by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor of Tunisia, became the first UN human rights expert in history to be received by China on a fact-finding mission in November 1994 which included a stop-over in Lhasa.

In the fact-finding report Mr. Amor told the Commission that he "noted the extremely devout attitude perceptible in Tibet, the full scale and extent of which has not, perhaps, been sufficiently appreciated so far. This factor must be taken into account when analysing the religious situation in Tibet."

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's case was also raised to the Chinese authorities by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour, when she paid an official visit to China last August.Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon can be reached at