(Top) Tibet Interest Group (TIG) meeting in the European Parliament, Samuel Cogolati, Federal parliamentarian of Ecolo-Goren Party, (R) Belgium and Ross Greer, Green MSP for West Scotland and (L) Scottish Cross-Party Group on Tibet. Photo: DIIR/CTA

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Dharamshala, India —Belgian and Scottish parliamentarians and over 30 members of the European Parliament, joined the global call for unconditional release of the 11th Panchen Lama to mark the 25th anniversary of his enforced disappearance. The authoritarian-communist regime kidnapped the Buddhist monk at the age of 6 on May 17, 1995.

Spearheading the global call upon China, Belgian Parliamentarians have urged its government and the European Commission to call upon the Chinese government to free the Panchen Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, according to the UN, EU and Human Rights Desk at Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), the Central Tibetan Administration.

On April 8, 2020, Belgian Federal Parliament member Samuel Cogolati issued a statement on Panchen Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s continued disappearance and urged the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense to call on China to release him without conditions. Cogolati also questioned the Minister on Belgium’s stand on the issue. In a response dated 25 April, the Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said he shared the concern over the human rights situation in Tibet and on the enforced disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima for 25 years.

The Foreign Minister further stated that it was up to the Tibetan religious community itself to designate the Panchen Lama, without interference from the political authorities. “I will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Tibet closely. Belgium will also continue to contribute constructively to a coordinated EU position,” assured Minister Goffin to Cogolati in his reply.

Marking the 31st birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, as well as the 25th anniversary of his disappearance, 32 European Parliament members wrote a joint letter urging the European Commission to press China to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima without any conditions, said the DIIR Desk.

“Since recurring human rights abuses from China needs to be addressed, we urge the European Commission to call upon the Chinese government to finally ensure freedom of religion and belief in Tibet, by freeing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents immediately without any conditions, together with all Tibetan political prisoners.”

The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) under the leadership of MEP Mikuláš Peksa, President of Tibet Interest Group wrote to the EU Foreign Affairs Chief Borrel. He is yet to issue a response at this moment.

The joint letter was co-signed by: Alviina Alametsä, Patrick Breyer, Reinhard Bütikofer, Isabel Carvalhais, Antoni Comín i Oliveres, Petra De Sutter, Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, Tanja Fajon, Raphael Gluksmann, Francisco Guerreiro, José Gusmão, Svenja Hahn, Heidi Hautala, Hannes Heihe, Marcel Kolaja, Miriam Lexmann, Aušra Maldeikienė, Marisa Matias, Tilly Metz, Javier Nart, Clara Ponsati i Obiois, Cales Puigdemont i Casamajo, Diana Riba i Giner, Isabel Santos, Ivan Štefanec, Riho Terras, Marie Toussaint, Alexandr Vondra, Salima Yenbou, Tomáš Zdechovský, and Milan Zver.

Meanwhile, on April 23, 2020, Ross Greer member of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Cross-Party Group on Tibet tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament highlighting the case of the 11th Panchen Lama’s enforced disappearance. In the motion, Greer expressed concern “that independent experts have not, it believes, been permitted to meet Gedhun and verify this information since his abduction in 1995,” and called on “the UK Government to raise the wellbeing of Gedhun and his family through diplomatic means.”

MSP Ross Greer and MSP Linda Fabiani as the convenors of the Cross-Party Group on Tibet have written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that the UK government raises the issue of the Panchen Lama with the Chinese government. “We would, therefore, appreciate if you could raise the issue with the Chinese government and use whatever diplomatic means necessary to ensure that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s rights are respected and critically, that his welfare and that of his family is verified by independent observers,” they stated in the letter.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, slammed the Chinese government over 25 years of the 11th Panchen Lama's enforced disappearance. Richardson, China Director at the Human Rights Watch recently published an article in The Diploma: "Chinese authorities’ efforts to justify a quarter-century enforced disappearance of a child are ludicrous and chilling. The Chinese government needs to show genuine respect for the Tibetan religion, its believers, and its current leaders, starting with the current Dalai Lama."

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