(TibetanReview.net, May19’23) – Tibetans and the international community have been calling on Beijing to account for his abduction and continued disappearance over the last 28 years. But China has stubbornly refused, only sporadically insisting that he was just fine and did not wish to be disturbed while, on the other hand, calling him only an ordinary boy. But whatever may be the case, the fate of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, continues to remain one of China’s best kept secrets.
He will be 34 years old now, if alive.
On the 28th anniversary of his abduction and disappearance on May 17, senior US officials have again called on China to account for his situation and freedom as Tibetans staged demonstrations in major cities of the free democratic world to highlight the issue.
“Today, we mark the tragic 28-year anniversary of the [People’s Republic of China]’s abduction of the Panchen Lama as a six-year-old child, after his recognition by the Dalai Lama,” Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya, who serves as the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, has said. “He deserves to live freely, and we urge the PRC to account for his whereabouts and well-being.”
The Panchen Lama “remains a critical figure in Tibetan Buddhism,” US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain has added. “Tibetans have the right to select, educate, and venerate their own religious leaders and we urge PRC authorities to immediately account for his whereabouts & wellbeing.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the Chair and Co-Chair of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, have said the Panchen Lama and his parents are among the world’s longest-serving political prisoners and should be released unconditionally, according to a tweet from the Commission.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has said, “China must provide proof of his well-being & release him immediately & without conditions.”
In Canada, Member of Parliament Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe has delivered a statement in Parliament on May 17, calling for his country’s support for the Tibetan religious leader’s release.
He has “not only emphasized the need for the Panchen Lama’s release, but also underscored the importance of preserving the Tibetan people’s language, religion, and culture.”
Across the free democratic world including Australia, Canada, India, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Tibetans and supporters have held demonstration in support of the long-disappeared Panchen Lama.
From Dharamshala, India, Sikyong (executive head) Mr Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration, which is effectively the Tibetan government in exile, has tweeted: “Twenty-eight years ago, on this day, an unspeakable state-sponsored crime was committed in Tibet by the PRC when a six-year-old boy was kidnapped alongside his family. This happened just days after HH the 14th Dalai Lama recognized the young boy as the 11th #PanchenLama.”
He has called “on international community to help us bring justice that has been long overdue & urge the PRC to end this unspeakable crime by releasing the 11th Panchen Lama, his family & Chadrel Rinpoche.”
Chadrel Rinpoche was the head of the Chinese-government approved head of the committee that searched for the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. He was jailed and later disappeared for sharing his findings with the Dalai Lama, which enabled the latter to carry out his own finding and to declare Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the 11th Panchen Lama.