News and Views on Tibet

US urges China to make Panchen Lama’s whereabouts known

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The 11th Panchen Lama Gedun Choekyi Nyima and a digital rendition of him at the age of 30 (Photo:AsiaNews)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Apr. 23: The US State Department on Friday called upon China to make the 11th Panchen Lama’s whereabouts known ahead of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s birthday on April 25. “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. 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 [him] in person,” said spokesperson Ned Price during a press conference.

“April 25th will mark the 32nd birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama who was forced to spend another year disappeared, separated from his community, and denied his rightful place as a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader. The United States supports Tibetans religious freedom and their unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity,” the spokesperson further remarked.  

The statement from the Biden administration is the first official remark on the missing religious figure Panchen Lama, who was taken into captivity at the age of six by China. The Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) was signed into law by former President Trump, which made it official U.S. policy affirming the right of the Tibetan Buddhist community in selecting and venerating their own religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama.

The US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) on Friday also released its statement, “While urging governments, parliaments, NGOs and UN human rights mechanisms to continue concerted efforts to ascertain the whereabouts and well-being of the Panchen Lama and his family members, ICT urges the Chinese authorities to respond positively to the appeals already made by the UN and governments, as well as by Tibetan Buddhists, to permit the Panchen Lama to live a genuine free and normal life.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today reiterated its call for the Chinese government to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience. “It has been nearly 26 years since the Chinese Communist Party’s enforced disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was only six years old at the time of his abduction. As Gedhun turns 32 on April 25 this year, his whereabouts and wellbeing remain unknown. This lack of information is unacceptable,” noted USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza in a press release.

Last year, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima “received free compulsory education when he was a child, passed the college entrance examination and now has a job.” The Beijing spokesperson further added that the 31-year-old man and his family do not wish to be disturbed.

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