(TibetanReview.net, Apr24’21) – The United States has on Apr 23 called on China to reveal the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s second most prominent religious figure, ahead of his 32nd birthday on Apr 25. He was kidnapped by the Chinese government as a 6-year-old on May 17, 1995, three days after Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, formally proclaimed him as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama.
Addressing a news briefing, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We call on the PRC Government to immediately make public the Tibetan-venerated Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and to give us this opportunity to meet with the Panchen Lama in person.”
He said Gedhun Choekyi Nyima would be “forced to spend another year disappeared, separated from his community, and denied his rightful place as a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader.”
And he added, “We respect Tibetans’ right to select, educate, and venerate their own leaders, like the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, according to their own beliefs, and without government interference.”
The 11th Panchen Lama has not been seen ever since his kidnap by the Chinese government. However, China insists he does not want to be disturbed.
China installed and has been grooming another person, Gyaltsen Norbu, in his place. Gyaltsen Norbu as China’s 11th Panchen Lama is expected to play a key role in installing a successor to the present Dalai Lama, whether the Tibetan people like it or not.
The Dalai Lama has already made it clear that he won’t be reborn in a territory under Chinese rule so long as the issue of Tibet remains unsolved, since continuing the effort would be the role of his successor.
The 11th Panchen Lama has for long been on the radar of UN human rights experts as the world’s youngest political prisoner. However, Beijing has been adamant in refusing access to him, raising doubts whether he is even alive.