UN Group Condemns China For Detaining Panchen Lama Recognized by Dalai Lama

A U.N. Watchdog Committee has condemned China for the continued detention of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who is recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama. The committee is calling for an independent investigation into his situation. Gyaltsen Norbu, chosen by the Chinese government as the Panchen Lama, is not recognized by most Tibetans. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has just completed a three-week review of seven countries including China, Russia and Uganda.

He has not been seen since he and his family were abducted by Chinese authorities in May 1995. Experts on the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child say they were flooded with requests for information and demands for the release of the missing boy.

Chairman of the Committee, Jacob Doek, says the Committee normally does not pay attention to individual cases. But, he says the Committee believes the Panchen Lama is symbolic.

"It is an abducted child from Tibet," he said. "It has a particular religious role to play, at least according to the Tibetan Buddhists and he has been prevented from doing so. He has been kept somewhere in China. At least that is the information that we do have."

Mr. Doek says the Chinese government keeps repeating over and over again that the Panchen Lama is doing fine, that he is "getting all the education to which he is entitled and that his parents are fine."

"So, we recommended in our concluding observations and we have discussed it with the delegation, as a minimum to allow an independent expert to assess or at least to confirm what they were telling us,m" he said. "But, we do not know, of course, how they are going to respond to this."

Turning to children's rights in Russia, the committee finds a disturbing picture of many children who are institutionalized under brutal conditions. Mr. Doek says the Committee is very concerned about the amount of violence used against children while in pre-trial detention, in police custody and in institutions. He says violence against children within the family also is widespread.

"Institutionalization is linked, for instance, to the way they deal with juvenile delinquents and how they put them in jails and in detention centers," he said. "And, child labor is another major concern. And, of course, street children and the children in Chechnya and northern Caucuses which are deprived of a lot of the basic rights like access to education, proper health care…and there are arrests, abuses disappearances and security agents are involved in that practice."

The Committee says Uganda faces many of the same problems afflicting all African countries-problems that stem from lack of resources, poor health care and educational facilities. But, the human rights experts say Uganda faces the additional problem of a brutal guerrilla war waged by the so-called Lord's Resistance Army that specializes in kidnapping children.

However, the experts note that a number of paramilitary groups also forcibly recruit children into their armies. They urge the government to crack down on these groups to end this practice.