Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs has called on China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion to visit the Panchen Lama
The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, has called on Beijing to allow the United Nations to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama.
Minister Freeland was responding to a written question by Canadian MP Randall Garrison, Vice Chair of Canada’s Parliamentary Friends of Tibet. Randall Garrison submitted the question to the Foreign Minister this summer, specifically asking what efforts the Canadian Government had taken to apply its "Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders" to Tibet.
In response, Minister Freeland said that her government has called on China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to visit the Panchen Lama in detention.
She also highlighted Canada's commitment to dialogue with China on Tibet and human rights, expressing concerns about political and religious freedom, and noting:
"The Government of Canada will continue to urge the Government of China to respect the rights of ethnic Tibetans and to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Tibetan areas."
Noting the difficulties that foreign diplomats face when trying to gain access to Tibet, she added that Canada will “continue to seek greater access to Tibet for our diplomats, parliamentarians, NGOs, and visiting delegations”.
Free the Panchen Lama
For over two decades China has defied requests from the United Nations and western governments for information about the Panchen Lama, who has been missing since his abduction as a six-year-old boy in 1995. Beijing has insisted that he is living ‘an ordinary life’.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party’s hand-picked Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, has visited Tibet with increasing frequency in recent years, conducting religious ceremonies as part of Beijing’s efforts to promote him to Tibetans as their Panchen Lama.
This April, Free Tibet marked the Panchen Lama’s birthday with a new campaign to raise international attention and pressure around his case. Over 700 supporters sent birthday cards, notes and postcards, which we have since forwarded to the Chinese authorities to remind them that Tibetans as well as people around the world continue to demand information and his release.
If you have not already done so, you can still write to the Chinese Minister of Justice to push for the Panchen Lama's release.