Open Letter from USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee to the Panchen Lama on His 29th Birthday (April 25, 2018)

Apr 24, 2018

Click here for a Chinese translation of this letter
Click here for a Tibetan translation of this letter

April 24, 2018

Open Letter from USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee to the Panchen Lama on His 29th Birthday (April 25, 2018)

Washington, D.C. – 

Your Holiness Gedhun Choekyi Nyima:

Tashi Delek. With mixed feelings, I write you again, this year to wish you a happy and healthy 29th birthday. Unfortunately, you may never read this, but please know that all Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Tibetans, and friends around the world are thinking of you on this special day.

Ever since you were abducted as a young child at the age of six, the Chinese government has refused to let international observers visit you and censored even basic information about you and your whereabouts. As much as the Chinese government wants us to forget you, please know that we remember you every day. As each year passes by, our resolve to find you and restore you to your rightful role becomes stronger.

Your Holiness, your Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, located among the Tibetan diaspora in India, and Students for a Free Tibet have joined together to mark your 29th birthday in a campaign for “The Most Candles Lit on a Birthday Cake” to break a Guinness World Record. The world will know that we will celebrate your birthday in absentia and recite and chant prayers for your long life and wellbeing. While the Chinese government has taken away your religious identity and rights, nobody can change the fact that you are the 11th Panchen Lama as recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As a Tibetan-American and USCIRF Commissioner, it is my honor, privilege, and responsibility to advocate on behalf of you and other prisoners of conscience in China and Tibet. U.S. Representative James McGovern has joined me to “adopt” you as our prisoner of conscience and we coordinate our advocacy efforts for your freedom and wellbeing. In fact, last year, we coauthored an op-ed in defense of human rights in Tibet. In the last year alone, I have testified twice before the U.S. Congress about freedom of religion or belief in Tibet, once in July 2017 and again in February 2018. At USCIRF’s event on April 18, 2018 marking the 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, I advocated for justice to Your Holiness and Gulmira Imin, a Uighur Muslim prisoner of conscience, and others. Also, my USCIRF colleague, Vice Chairwoman Sandra Jolley, and I coauthored an op-ed in November 2017 to advocate on behalf of you and Ms. Imin.

Your Holiness, on behalf of all Tibetans, most respectfully, I offer you traditional mandala for your long and healthy life along with fervent prayer for your freedom and receiving your blessing in person.

May we, or at least you, celebrate your 30th birthday in freedom.

Most respectfully,

Tenzin Dorjee


Tenzin Dorjee is a Commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a U.S. government body that monitors the universal right to religious freedom. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. Commissioner Dorjee is the first Tibetan Buddhist appointed to serve on the Commission. To interview Commissioner Dorjee or another Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs ( +1-202-786-0606).