(TibetanReview.net, Nov17, 2017) – Canada has called on China to allow UN rights officials to visit Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who disappeared into its custody in 1995, at age 6, and has never been seen or heard of ever since. It was not clear when Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, made this call in her parliamentary response, although the central Tibetan Administration’s statement on it posted on its Tibet.net website is dated Nov 16.
The statement said Freeland had called on China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to visit the long disappeared Tibetan religious figure. China has in the past claimed that the 11th Panchen Lama, recognized as such by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, did not wish to be disturbed while refusing to accede to repeated requests from foreign political leaders and top UN human rights officials for a meeting with him.
The Minister’s statement was stated to have come in response to written questions submitted in June by Mr Randall Garrison, MP and Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Vice-Chair. He had asked what efforts the Canadian Government was making in applying its “Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders” in Tibet’s case. He had also sought to know what effort Canada was making to get China to “provide legitimate evidence of the well-being and whereabouts of Tibet’s Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima”. And he had asked what progress was being made by the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in obtaining permission for a Canadian diplomatic delegation to visit Tibet’s Panchen Lama in detention.
In response, the Foreign Minister has spoken of having requested China to “provide information on the location of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents, the level of education that Gedhun completed, and the expected date for his return along with his parents.” This was because China has previously claimed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was studying while denying that he was the Panchen Lama, given the fact that it had installed another boy in his place as the 11th Panchen Lama.
Freeland has reiterated her government’s commitment to continue to have open discussions with China on the issues of human rights and rule of law in Tibet, and to “seek greater access to Tibet” for Canadian diplomats and delegations.
“The Government of Canada will continue to urge the Government of China to respect the rights of ethnic Tibetans and to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Tibetan areas,” Freeland was quoted as having said.