Senior Member of the Panchen Lama Search Party Dies

Dharamshala: Jampa Chungla, a senior Tibetan official of the late Tenth Panchen Lama who remained behind bars and house arrest under tight Chinese government control since 1995 for his role in searching for the reincarnation of the latter, passed away at Luding in Shigatse on 13 November.

Jampa Chungla succumbed to his illness sustained after being denied medical assistance during the long period of incarceration and house arrest.

His involvement in the search for Eleventh Panchen began in 1989 when he was appointed as the secretary-general of the committee headed by Jadrel Rinpoche. From 1990 he made great efforts in assisting Jadrel Rinpoche in the search process.

In January 1995, he accompanied Jadrel Rinpoche to Beijing on an important assignment related with the search process. On their return journey via Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province on 17 May, they were arbitrarily arrested by the Chinese government at the city airport.
Meanwhile in November 1995, the Chinese government selected Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama months after His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognised Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the real reincarnation in May of that year. Since then the whereabouts of the real Panchen Lama and his family members remain unknown, except references made by the Chinese government that he is “leading a normal life”.

In 1996, a Chinese court in Shigatse sentenced Jampa Chungla to 5 years in jail with forced deprivation of political rights on alleged charges of leaking state secrets. He was incarcerated in Sangyib prison in Tibet’s capital Lhasa.

Despite completing his prison term in 1999, the Chinese government used various pretexts to continuously keep him under heightened restriction at a military base in Lhasa.

After his release from the military camp, Jampa Chungla was compelled to live in his relative’s home in Luding after being barred from his entering the monastery. Under strict surveillance of Chinese police during the house arrest, he was proscribed to contact and meet with people outside.  Even during his recent illness he was denied medical assistance of his choice and the Chinese government pretended to treat him in a government-run hospital in Shigatse. In reality, no one knows what the Chinese government had done to him as he was handed over to his relative in hopeless condition.
His earliest association with the Panchen Lama started since his childhood days. Born in 1940 in Ngamring, he joined Tashi Lhunpo monastery, the traditional seat of Panchen Lamas in Shigatse, to pursue his religious studies. He completed his studies from the Panchen Lama’s main school in Tashi Lhunpo monastery in 1950s. Later, he underwent forced labour during the Cultural Revolution for many years. In 1980s he served the Panchen Lama under various capacities as professor at a teachers’ training school in Shigatse, principal and teacher at mechanical engineering school established by Panchen Lama and director at the Panchen Lama’s main residence Dechen Kelsang Phodrang.