China says vanished Panchen Lama ‘happy’

BBC, Nov. 12, 2002

A boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism and then placed under house arrest by China is “very happy”, a Chinese Government official has said.

The 13-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has been named the world’s youngest political prisoner by human rights groups.

The boy has been detained since 1995, after the Dalai Lama confirmed him as the next reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second highest ranking religious official.

China has named another boy in his place, and this boy – Gyancain Norbu – was pictured by state media attending the on-going Communist Party Congress in Beijing.

Important role

The exact whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are secret.

The Beijing-appointed head of Tibet’s parliament said the boy was living with his family in Tibet.

“He is living a very happy life,” said Raidi, who uses only one name.

“He studies well at school. His parents and entire family are happy.”

Raidi said the Dalai Lama’s choice was “totally null and void” and “without authorisation and arbitrary”.

Tibet’s exiled leaders refuse to accept the legitimacy of China’s choice and have called for the release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.

Correspondents say one reason why the Panchen Lama is so crucial in Tibetan religion – and in Chinese-Tibetan relations – is the fact that he is charged with selecting the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and now lives in exile in Dharmsala, India.

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