Name: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Country/Area of Origin: Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Background: In 1995, following the death of the 10th Panchen Lama- the Buddhist spiritual leader one level below the Dalai Lama, Gedhun Nyima was chosen to be the 11th Panchen Lama on May 14.
Reason for Arrest:
Only three days following Gedhun Nayima’s selection as the 11th Panchen Lama, authorities from the Chinese government abducted the child (6 years old at the time of his kidnapping) and transferred him to an undisclosed location, along with his entire family.
Currently 31 years old, it is unknown where in the world Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is, and he is often referred to as the youngest person to have been a political prisoner. The Chinese government has made numerous claims that Nyima is alive and well, and is living a normal life as a Tibetan man, and that his family is also well.
- In April 2021, USCIRF once again called for the release of Gedhun Nyima:
- “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. 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.” – USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza
- “It is despicable that the Chinese Communist Party continues to interfere in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. 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.” – USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel
- In May 2020, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian made a statement that Gedhun Nyima, now 31, had graduated college and has a regular career. However, international human rights and religious freedom advocates alike argue that his abduction and being stripped of his religious leadership is an act of persecution, and continue to call on the Chinese government to disclose Nyima’s whereabouts for confirmation of his status.
- In late April 2020, USCIRF called for the release of Gedhun Nyima:
- “The Chinese government is so desperate to stifle Tibetan Buddhism that it kidnapped a six-year-old boy. Unfortunately, Gedhun’s tragic plight represents the struggles of millions of Chinese believers to practice their faith in the face of an unprecedented crackdown.” – USCIRF Vice Chair Nadine Maenza
- “Saturday, April 25 will be Panchen Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s 31st birthday. The Panchen Lama of Tibet has been kept isolated since he was a child and denied the opportunity to live a normal life. We urge the Chinese government to show a video evidence of his safety during this COVID-19 pandemic out of human dignity and free the Panchen Lama immediately.” – USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee