Panchen Lama spends his 19th birthday under house arrest

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet today turns 19. He has been missing for the past thirteen years along with his parents. There has been no information about his well being and whereabouts till date.

Although numerous governments and independent organizations in the past have consistently pressed the Chinese authorities to disclose information about his whereabouts and well being but there were no positive response from the government of China.

The authorities have cited various excuses for denying access to the Panchen Lama and his family. In 2006 the Chinese authorities refused to arrange meetings between the Panchen Lama and Reuters stating that it was done purely out of respect for the family’s wishes not to be “disturbed” by outsiders.

In September 2005, Chinese authorities informed the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was in “good health and just like any other children is leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good cultural education”. A year later, in an official communication from China, UN rights experts were told that Gedhun Choekyi is not the Panchen Lama but “merely an ordinary Tibetan child”.

Ms Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ms Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom and Belief discussed the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to the Chinese authorities during their official visits to China in 29 August- 2 September 2005 and 9 January 2005 respectively.

The Panchen Lama is now no longer an infant boy that requires protection from the state according to the Constitution of People’s Republic of China (PRC). Therefore, as a citizen he has every right to enjoy his freedom to determine his fate and the freedom of movement without being under the custodianship of anyone, including parents and the state.

The Chinese constitution stipulates that a person who has reached the age of 18, he or she is entitled with fundamental rights such as right to religious belief, education and occupation. Therefore the continuing disappearance of the Panchen Lama is a gross violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. Article 34 of the Chinese constitution guarantees that,

“All citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of nationality, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except persons deprived of political rights according to law”.

In view of the civil and political rights guarantee to every citizen, it is the legitimate right of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to exercise his freedom. In no way should he be kept under any form of detention as a result of political manipulation, custody or protection. If he chooses to remain under state protection and custodianship, China must procure and provide the world with valid document to support the case. If it is not the case, then the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) deems the continuing disappearance of the Panchen Lama as a case of arbitrary detention and imprisonment and total disregard for his fundamental human rights.


The detention of the Panchen Lama starkly contradicts the spirit of the Chinese constitution and its enshrined fundamental rights and freedom.

Article 37 of the Chinese constitution states,

“The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. No citizen may be arrested except with the approval or by decision of a people’s procuratorate or by decision of a people’s court, and arrests must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited”.

According to the Chinese constitution, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is not a minor citizen, and hence does not require family and state protection. As a adult he has the freedom of movement, since he is now not under the threat, the Chinese authorities should disclose his present whereabouts and well-being and allow international community, media and international dignitaries to access him.


* On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced that the then six-years old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama.

* Three days later, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents disappeared and have never been seen again.

* On 24 May 1995 the government of People’s Republic of China issued a statement describing the Dalai Lama’s proclamation as “illegal and invalid.”

* China proclaims another child to be the real incarnation – an unprecedented and bizarre act of an atheist state.

* Shortly after this announcement Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family disappeared from their native hometown without any information about their whereabouts and well-being.

* Chadrel Rinpoche, a former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery seat of Panchen Lama, and Chairman of the Search Committee for the reincarnation of the XIth Panchen Lama and his assistant Champa Chungla also disappeared from Chengdu Airport in Sichuan Province on 14 May 1995.

* On 21 April 1997, the Shigatse Intermediate People’s court sentenced Chadrel Rinpoche to six years of imprisonment. He was charged with “plotting to split the country” and “leaking state secrets”.

* He was accused of working for and assisting the Dalai Lama in the search for the XIth Panchen Lama. Although his sentence ended on 13 May 2001 following the completion of a six-year prison term, there is no credible information on his whereabouts or on his state of health.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is gravely concerned at the continued disappearance and detention of the Panchen Lama and his parents and appeals for their unconditional release. TCHRD urges the International bodies to pressure the Beijing authorities to ascertain their whereabouts and well-being and to allow the relevant UN bodies to meet the Panchen Lama. The PRC should also ensure that the religious freedom of the Tibetan people be respected including their rights to identify religious leaders.

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