Tibetans demand that China release Panchen Lama boy

Friday, March 18, 2005

Tibetan activists are demanding that the People's Republic of China release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family. Nyima, aged 16, is considered the 11th Panchen Lama by Tibetan Buddhists. The Pachen Lama is the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan activists say that Nyima and his family were kidnapped by Chinese authorities on May 17, 1995, just days after the boy was recognized as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. At that time the boy was 6 years old. Human rights groups claim that he is the youngest political prisoner ever.

The whereabouts of Nyima and his parents are unknown. The Chinese government claims to be protecting them because of death threats they have received and say that the boy is in school and that he and his family are happy.

Tibetans don't believe the government's version of the events and are campaigning for the Panchen Lama to be released. After the arrest of the Panchen Lama, China named a rival boy, Gyancain Norbu, the son of a communist, to the office. The new boy is not well supported by most parts of the Tibetan community.