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Tibetans rally for release of 11th Panchen Lama amid China’s controversial appointment

Tibetans rally for 11th Panchen Lama's release (Photo: ANI)

In a display of solidarity, exiled Tibetans gathered in Dharamshala on Friday, demanding the release of their revered spiritual leader, the 11th Panchen Lama, who they believe was abducted by China.

With chants echoing through the streets, protesters voiced their concerns over the mysterious disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by Tibet’s spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, as the legitimate Panchen Lama.

“This is the 29th time that we have gathered here and we want the Chinese government to release Panchen Lama and give us the current well-being and whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama,” said Tenzin Kunsel, a protester and the regional president of Tibetan Women Association, reflecting the ongoing frustration and determination of the Tibetan community.

The Panchen Lama holds significant spiritual authority in Tibetan Buddhism, second only to the Dalai Lama. However, China’s controversial appointment of Gyaltsen Norbu as its own Panchen Lama has sparked outrage among Tibetans in-exile, who consider it an affront to their religious beliefs and cultural heritage.

“We want him (Panchen Lama) to be released soon and we want him back. It also shows the disregard for human rights and there is no religious freedom inside Tibet,” emphasized Tenzin Passang, underscoring the broader implications of the Panchen Lama’s disappearance on religious freedom and human rights in Tibet.

The case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima remains shrouded in mystery, with China asserting in 2015 that he was “living a normal life” and did not wish to be disturbed.

However, Tibetan activists and supporters continue to press for transparency and accountability, demanding concrete evidence of the Panchen Lama’s well-being and whereabouts. Since the Chinese military’s incursion into Tibet in 1950, activists have accused China of systematically suppressing religious freedom and cultural identity in the region.

Despite China’s assertions of progress and development in Tibet, critics argue that the Tibetan people continue to face oppression and marginalisation under Chinese rule.

The protest in Dharamshala serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring struggle for justice and freedom in Tibet, as exiled Tibetans continue to amplify their voices on the international stage, calling for the release of their spiritual leader and an end to religious persecution in their homeland.