USCIRF Reiterates Call to Release the Panchen Lama

USCIRF today reiterated its call for the Chinese government to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience. 

Apr 23, 2021

USCIRF Reiterates Call to Release the Panchen Lama

Washington, DC – 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. On May 15, 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose the then six-year-old Gedhun to be the 11th Panchen Lama. Three days later, Chinese authorities kidnapped him and his family. He has not been seen or heard from since.

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, who advocates for Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “USCIRF renews its call for the Chinese government to allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the wellbeing of the 11th Panchen Lama, and to release him immediately and unconditionally.

In July 2020, USCIRF applauded the Trump administration’s targeted sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against four senior Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang and former Secretary for Tibet until 2016. Chen is responsible for the egregious religious freedom and human rights violations in Tibet and Xinjiang.

“It is despicable that the Chinese Communist Party continues to interfere in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama,” added USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel. “The combination of the level of absurdity and ruthlessness in the CCP’s persecution of the Tibetan community should alarm the international community, which should stand united in calling for the release of the Panchen Lama.

In December 2020, USCIRF welcomed the enactment of the Tibet Policy and Support Act (H.R.4331 / S.2539), which establishes an 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 law imposes sanctions on Chinese officials who interfere in the selection of a successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition, it requires the Secretary of State to seek to establish a consulate in Lhasa.

U.S. Representative James McGovern also advocates on behalf of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or Danielle Ashbahian at dashbahian@uscirf.gov.