The boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, disappeared into Chinese custody in 1995 after the Dalai Lama chose him as one of Tibet's highest-ranking Buddhist clerics. Now aged 12, he has not been seen in public since. In talks about human rights, Chinese officials said the boy's "well-being is fine," said Alan Thomas, an Australian vice minister of foreign affairs.
But the officials also said the boy's "parents want their privacy respected, that they don't particularly want people to have access to the child and they want him to live a normal life and they don't want to be bothered by people," Thomas said after the talks in Beijing. Thomas said his delegation suggested that China grant access to the boy, perhaps by "some independently recognized international Buddhist figure," to allay concerns about his fate. He did not say how Chinese officials responded.
Chinese officials have at different times given differing accounts of the boy's whereabouts, all while insisting that he is healthy, free and being educated. Some accounts placed him on Beijing's outskirts, others in Tibet or in provinces near the Himalayan region. Last year, Chinese officials showed photos they said were of the boy to European officials. The photos showed a boy playing table tennis and writing Chinese characters on a blackboard.
The boy was aged six when the Dalai Lama, from exile in India, chose him as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-ranking Buddhist leader. Incensed, China's government rejected the boy, accused the Dalai Lama of promoting Tibetan independence, and made senior Tibetan Buddhist monks find another Panchen Lama. But China's choice, Gyaincain Norbu, has had trouble winning over Tibetans.
Alison Reynolds, director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign, said there was no evidence to support China's claims that the parents of the Dalai Lama's choice want him left alone. "We think there should be independent access," she said. "The priority is to establish his well-being."