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China accused of telling historical lie in wrong answer on Panchen Lama disappearance issue

11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, whom it had rendered disappeared since 1995. (illustration: Tibetan Review)

(TibetanReview.net, Nov26’20) – China has been accused of telling a blatant historical lie when UN experts queried it earlier this year on the 11th Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, whom it had rendered disappeared since 1995.

Rejecting concerns raised by five United Nations human rights experts and expert-bodies on the issue in their Jun 2020 communication, China has claimed, in its Jul 2020 response, that the “religious status and titles” of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama had been established by the Chinese “central government” and denounced their concerns as “foreign meddling”.

Both the communications had been made public only much later.

The experts had expressed grave concern at China’s continued refusal to disclose the precise whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, and called for an independent monitor to visit him. They have said the Chinese government’s rules on the appointment of Tibetan Buddhist leaders “may interfere and possibly undermine[s], in a discriminatory way, the religious traditions and practices of the Tibetan Buddhist minority.”

Also, citing concerns about the succession of the 14th Dalai Lama, the experts have appealed to Beijing “to ensure that Tibetan Buddhists are able to freely practice their religion, traditions and cultures without interference,” as freedom of religion includes the right of Tibetan Buddhists “to determine their clergy and religious leaders in accordance with their own religious traditions and practices.”

While the UN experts referred to the rights of religious communities to appoint their leaders free from government intervention, the Chinese government response made a bald claim that the “religious status and titles” of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama had been established by the “central government.”

Kai Mueller, head of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)’s UN advocacy team and executive director of ICT Germany, has said Nov 25: “Instead of taking the legal concerns of the UN experts seriously, the Chinese government falsely states that the ‘central government’ had established the reincarnation system. The Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation system dates back to the 13th century. Neither was there a ‘central government’, nor such influence on Tibetan Buddhism through any entity that the CCP may view as its predecessor. To claim the CCP would be guardian of Tibetan Buddhist beliefs is outright absurd.”

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