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China’s bald claims about 11th Panchen Lama’s situation dismissed as unverified

11th Panchen Lama. (Photo courtesy: Financial Times)

(TibetanReview.net, May20’20) – China said May 19 that the now 31-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has remained disappeared ever since it took him away as a six-year-old in 1995 after the Dalai Lama recognized him as the 11th Panchen Lama, has now passed the college entrance examination and has a job. This followed directly from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely reported statement on May 18, calling on China to “immediately make public the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and to uphold its own constitution and international commitments to promote religious freedom for all persons.”

China’s Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has made a brief and bald statement, saying Gedhun Choekyi Nyima “received free compulsory education when he was a child, passed the college entrance examination and now has a job.”

Zhao has reiterated China’s previously repeated claim that neither the now-31-year-old man nor his family wished to be disturbed in their “current normal lives.”

“He has already started working,” the AFP May 20 quoted Zhao as saying at a regular press briefing.

Zhao has warned the US against “using Tibet matters to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet on May 19 dismissed Zhao’s remark as an unverified information and demanded that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s constitutional rights as a citizen be respected to let him speak for himself.

The Panchen Lama is the second most prominent religious figure in Tibet after the Dalai Lama and Tibetans figuratively refer to the duo as the nation’s sun and moon. After abducting Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, China installed another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the 11th Panchen Lama and has been grooming him in Beijing to play the role in its favour.

MPs from a number of countries as well as international human rights organizations have issued similar calls ahead of the completion on May 17 of 25 years of his disappearance. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, also issued a statement for the occasion.

“We call on the Chinese government to uphold its international commitments to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and call on the Administration to use the tools provided by the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (PL 115-330), and those included in the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (HR 4331/S.2538), to support the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people,” McGovern and Rubio said in their statement.

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