Bay Area Friends of Tibet


Press Release

Bay Area Tibetans seek the release of world's youngest political prisoner  
When: 4pm - 6pm Contact: Chimmy Gonpo,
TANC: 510-207-3860
Where: Chinese Consulate, San Francisco
@ Laguna & Geary Streets
  Giovanni Vassallo,
BAFoT: 415-264-3264

(San Francisco, CA) On Friday, April 25, 2003 round 200 San Francisco Bay Area Tibetans and supporters will stage a peaceful vigil outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to demand the release of 14-year-old Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest ranking spiritual leader. Chinese authorities detained Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in 1995 soon after the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, declared the six-year-old boy to be the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. China then installed its own candidate, another Tibetan boy, for the religious position. But he had to be immediately whisked off to Beijing for fear of popular reprisal from local Tibetans.

"China's continued detention of Panchen Lama reflects its draconian disregard to Tibet's religious traditions," said Topden Tsering, President of San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress.

"If China truly wants to resolve the Tibetan issue, it is imperative that it release the Panchen Lama, the world's youngest prisoner of conscience," remarked Chimmy Gonpo, President of Tibetan Association of Northern California.

"In today's US war against Iraq, seeing our men and women as Prisoners of War is heart-wrenching to speak the least. Now imagine a 14 year-old boy as a prisoner, whose only crime is being the symbol of an entire nation's faith," explained Giovanni Vassallo, Secretary of Bay Area Friends of Tibet.

Several speakers will address the crowd during the vigil when a statement from monks of Tashi Lhunpo, the official monastery of Panchen Lama, will be read.

China invaded Tibet in 1949 and occupied the country in 1959, forcing the Dalai Lama and some hundreds of thousands of his followers into exile in India. By the end of Cultural Revolution in 1977, around 1.2 million Tibetans had died as a direct or indirect result of Chinese presence in Tibet.

Tibetan Association of Northern California is organizing the vigil in collaboration with Bay Area Friends of Tibet, San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibet Justice Center.

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