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The Panchen Lama, Age 6, Captured by China

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The U.S. government's media and a Dalai
Lama-supported campaign to liberate Tibetan political prisoners have
published two portraits of what the Panchen Lama's face could now look
like on his 30th birthday and are demanding to know his fate after
China took him into custody when he was six years old.

"Despite China's sporadic claims that he was attending school and
leading a normal life, no one has seen or heard from the 11th Panchen
Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima since May 17, 1995, the day Beijing took him
away as a six-year-old boy and rendered him disappeared ever since,"
said the Tibetan Bulletin published by Tibet's India-based
government-in-exile which also represents the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Nyima was born in Chinese-controlled Tibet on April 25, 1989.

If alive, the now 30-year-old man would be the second-most prominent
religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism, a position endorsed by the top
religious leader, the Dalai Lama.

"The panchen lamas and the dalai lamas play a significant role in the
recognition of each other's reincarnation when they are in a position
to do so, although it is neither mandatory nor indispensable," the
Central Tibetan Administration's report said.

Both Tibetan men are believed to be incarnations of Buddha in
different versions. The Buddha of Compassion is said to be
reincarnated as the Dalai Lama, while the Buddha of Boundless Light
becomes the Panchen Lama.

The 10th Panchen Lama died in mysterious circumstances in 1989.

On May 14, 1995 the self-exiled Dalai Lama announced his recognition
of the six-year-old son of a doctor and nurse in Tibet as the Panchen
Lama's 11th reincarnation.

Three days later, China took the child and his family into custody and
manipulated willing Tibetan Buddhist clergy to declare another Tibetan
boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the genuine reincarnation.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled his lavish Potala Palace in Tibet with
help from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency during a communist
Chinese assault and consistently demands greater autonomy for his
former homeland.

Beijing apparently did not want him to have Mr. Nyima as a possible
future ally or recognize the next incarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama
who is now 83.

"They [the Chinese government] say they are waiting for my death and
will recognize a 15th Dalai Lama of their choice," the Dalai Lama
wrote in 2011.

To highlight Mr. Nyima's disappearance, the International Tibet
Network's Political Prisoners Campaign Working Group commissioned
artist Tim Widden to create a portrait of him as an adult for a film
titled, "Where is Panchen Lama?" which was recently presented on TV by
the British Broadcasting Corp.

Mr. Widden's age-progression image was based on a color photo of Mr.
Nyima as a child -- the only known picture of him.

"Widden says he had to assume average health and average weight,
though it could easily be that he is emaciated," the BBC said. "He
also had to guess a hairstyle."

Similarly, the U.S.-government's Radio Free Asia (RFA) published on
its website a different portrait by its "cartoonist" of what the boy
might look like on his 30th birthday.

"He was, for years, considered the world's youngest political
prisoner," Washington-based RFA said.

U.S. Congressman (D-MA) Jim McGovern said the Panchen Lama "will mark
his 30th birthday as one of the world's longest held prisoners of

"The enforced disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama is an egregious
example of the Chinese government's violation of the religious freedom
of Tibetan Buddhists, who have the right to choose their own religious
leaders without government interference," Mr. McGovern said on April

"The [Chinese] government's designation of an alternative Panchen Lama
merely victimized another young person as a consequence of its
policies to undermine and control the Tibetan people."

Mr. McGovern is co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission,
composed of members of the House of Representatives. He is also
chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a
bipartisan, bicameral group monitoring China's human rights, rule of
law, and political prisoners.

"How can a [communist] government that does not have faith in
religion, claim to interfere in the reincarnation of the Panchen
Lama?" said Youdon Aukartsang, a member of Tibet's parliament-in-exile
at the Dalai Lama's Himalayan headquarters in Dharamsala, India.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco

His online sites are:

© Scoop Media

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