Where is the Panchen Lama?

Friday, April 25, 2014 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Chinese Consulate of San Francisco
1450 Laguna Street at Geary
San Francisco, CA

Picture of Panchen lama

For Immediate Release                                                                      *Photo Opportunity*


24 April 2014





Evening Vigil outside downtown Berkeley BART station


Contact:         Jampa Lhawang, 510-423-1428

                        Giovanni Vassallo 415-264-3264

WHO:              San Francisco Team Tibet*

WHEN:           April 25, 2014, 10 AM – 12 PM

WHERE:         1450 Laguna @ Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA


(San Francisco) On April 25 Tibetans and Tibet supporters will mark the 25th birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama. But, there will be no party or celebration; Gedhun Choekyi Nyima will once again be spending his birthday in an unknown location having been abducted by the Chinese authorities in 1995, following his recognition as one of Tibet's most important religious figures [1]. 


"We have been seeking news about the Panchen Lama's whereabouts for nearly 19 years, but China has failed to give us any true indication of where he is being held [2]." said Jampa Lhawang, President of the San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress. [3] "China's continued detention of the Panchen Lama is not only a crime against this young man, but against the entire Tibetan people who regard the ongoing detention of one of their most important religious leaders as a source of great distress."


Tibetans, Tibet supporters, human rights organizations and world governments have consistently urged China to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima but these appeals continue to go unheeded. For nearly two decades the Chinese authorities have denied requests from governments and the United Nations for access to Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family, claiming that he was leading a normal life and does not wish to be disturbed. However, Tibetans in exile in Dharamsala, India, believe this is far from the truth. "His Holiness the Panchen Lama’s parents are currently placed under house arrest in their home town; they are not allowed to make any outside contact and police officials reportedly escort and monitor all their movements.” said Ven. Ngawang Woebar, former President of Gu Chu Sum [4]. 


"The Panchen Lama’s abduction is yet another part of China's ruthless strategy to show control over the Tibetan people." Giovanni Vassallo, president of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet "[5]. For 19 years they have held this young man, in an attempt to manage the beliefs of the Tibetan people, and counter His Holiness the Dalai Lama's strong and enduring influence inside Tibet [6]. But, even after more than 60 years of an illegal occupation of Tibet, China has failed to gain any political or religious legitimacy in the eyes of the Tibetan people."  


Later at 7 PM there will also hold a candlelight vigil outside the downtown  Berkeley BART station.


- END -


1. In 1995, at the age of six, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, one of Tibet’s most important religious leaders. A few weeks later, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family disappeared from their home in Lhari (Nagchu Prefecture, north of Lhasa).  For more information visit http://www.freepanchenlama.org/panchen-lama/


2. The Chinese Government has refused repeated requests for independent access to establish his health and well-being, claiming he was leading a normal life and did not wish to be disturbed. China justified his disappearance on the grounds that it was for his own protection against "splittist" forces.


Chinese Government officials have made a number of statements concerning his whereabouts: In February 1998 a group of American religious leaders who visited Tibet were told that the Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was in Beijing, as previous reports had indicated; in March of the same year a TAR official told an Austrian delegation that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was living in Lhari, his birthplace; In April 1998, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, a senior Tibetan official based in Beijing (formerly Governor of Chamdo) told a British journalist that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was studying, possibly in Gansu Province - a remote area bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region, with a relatively small Tibetan population; In 2010 Padma Choling, Govenor of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said he was living in Tibet and was "reluctant to be disturbed" and wanted "to live an ordinary life" - (Xinhua) 2010-03-07 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-03/07/content_9550348.htm


3. San Francisco Regional Youth Congress. See http://sfrtyc.org/


4. Gu Chu Sum is a Tibetan Non-Governmental Organization providing support to former Tibetan political prisoners - http://www.gu-chu-sum.org/


5. Bay Area Friends of Tibet – www.friends-of-tibet.org


6. Six months after Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's abduction China enthroned Gyaltsen Norbu as Tibet's 11th Panchen Lama. Gyaltsen, who lives in Beijing, returns to Tibet only rarely and his visits are carefully stage managed and heavily policed. Tibetans still refer to him as the 'Panchen Zuma', or 'false Panchen'.


*SAN FRANCISCO TEAM TIBET consists of Tibetan Association of Northern California (www.tanc.org), San Francisco Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (www.sfrtyc.org) Students for a Free Tibet (www.studentsforafreetibet.org) Bay Area Friends of Tibet (www.friends-of-tibet.org).