'Missing' Panchen Lama turns 19; Tibetans demand his early release

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New Delhi, Apr 25 (UNI) The 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, reported to be in Chinese custody, today turned 19.

Tibetans in exile here today demanded his, as well as other political prisoners', early release in Tibet.

The Tibetans urged the Chinese government to free the Panchen Lama ''immediately and unconditionally.'' They claimed that the Dalai Lama has recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995. Within days of the announcement, the Chinese police took the then six-year-old and his family from their home and to this day their whereabouts and well-being are unknown. ''Despite repeated attempts, no international human rights organisation, not even the United Nations have been allowed access to the Panchen Lama or his family members,'' they said here.

To mark the birthday of the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Solidarity Committee organised a special event. Among other activities, a Tibetan children's painting competition was organised.

The Indian supporters of the Tibetan cause launched a signature campaign to ''pressurise the Indian government'' to take a stronger stand on the Tibet issue and yet another international student's group took out a free the Panchen Lama' petition campaign.

UNI NAB AKJ PM1944

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