China targeted for 25-year disappearance of top Tibetan religious figure

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama.

(, Apr25’20) – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has on Apr 24 reiterated its call on China to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of its Religious Prisoners of Conscience, on the eve of what would be his 31st birthday. On the same day, 32 members of the European Parliament have urged the European Commission to pressure China on the same issue. The Central Tibetan Administration is launching a month-long global advocacy campaign for his release.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, was kidnapped by the Chinese government with his family on May 17, 1995, just three days after the Dalai Lama announced the then six-year old boy as the reincarnation of the late 10th Panchen Lama. He has not been seen or heard from ever since despite numerous calls from UN human rights agencies, international human rights organizations and political leaders from across the world. China installed another Tibetan boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the 11th Panchen Lama, and groomed him in Beijing to play the role on its behalf.

In their letter to Mr Josep Borrel, the Foreign Affairs Chief of the European Commission, the MEPs have drawn attention to recurring human rights violations by China in Tibet and noted that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s continued disappearance exemplified the repressive rule of China.

The campaign has been led by MEP Mikulas Peksa, President of Tibet Interest Group (TIG), in the European Parliament.

“The Chinese government is so desperate to stifle Tibetan Buddhism that it kidnapped a six-year-old boy,” noted USCIRF Vice Chair Nadine Maenza, in a statement.

“Gedhun’s tragic plight represents the struggles of millions of Chinese believers to practice their faith in the face of an unprecedented crackdown,” Apr 24 quoted Tenzin Dorjee, a USCIRF Commissioner and professor in the Department of Human Communication Studies at California State University, Fullerton, as saying.

The USCIRF is an independent and bipartisan commission of the federal government, making policy recommendations to the president, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

On Apr 25, the Central Tibetan Administration at Dharamshala, India, said it was launching a month-long global advocacy initiative through its overseas Offices of Tibet for information on the 11th Panchen Lama and his release. The campaign begins on Apr 25, his birthday in 1989, and concludes on May 17, the day he disappeared in 1995.


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