China has once again reassured the world that the missing Panchen Lama is doing just fine and is, in fact, a college graduate.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was taken by Chinese authorities into “protective custody” on May 17, 1995, just days after the six-year-old boy was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. His whereabouts have never since been disclosed.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his disappearance, renewed calls from the Tibetan government in exile and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have gone out for China to allow Gedhun Choekyi Nyima his freedom with Pompeo demanding that Beijing immediately reveal his whereabouts.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed on Tuesday that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and family don’t want to be disturbed from their current “normal lives.”
Zhao said that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has started working after graduating from university without going into any further detail about his profession or major.
The response at least provides a bit more information than the one given by Chinese officials five years ago which only mentioned that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was “being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed”.
After making Gedhun Choekyi Nyima disappear, China installed its own Panchen Lama. However, most Tibetans do not recognize the now 30-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu.
The Panchen Lama is the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism and is responsible for finding the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama, a subject which China has expressed particular interest in, especially for an atheistic state.
Worried that his next reincarnation may be similarly disappeared, the 14th Dalai Lama, now 84 years old, has said that his successor may be found outside Tibet and also suggested that he may not reincarnate at all.
China, however, has maintained that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation must “comply with Chinese laws.”
“No matter what the Dalai Lama says or does, the central government’s recognized rights toward reincarnation cannot be denied,” said Norbu Dunzhub of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s United Front Work Department in 2015 without a hint of irony.