Tibetans in Dharamshala in Kangra district of Himachal and Tibet supporters around the world on Sunday marked 25th year of forced disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, who is considered to be an incarnation of Bodhisattva Amitabha.

It is worthwhile to mention here that on 17 May 1995, when Tenzin Gendun Yeshi Thrinley Phuntsok Palsangpo or Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was only 6-year-old, the Panchen Lama was abducted by the Chinese government along with his family.

The abduction took place soon after Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama recognized him as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. (The Pachen Lama is the second-highest religious leader in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama.)

Tibetan government-in-exile president Lonsamg Sangay said since that day, Buddhists around the world and Tibetans had been living in hope that one day we will be able to receive blessings from the Panchen Lama.

“The lineages of the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas share a unique spiritual relationship and it was in keeping with centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist traditions that Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama recognized the 11th Panchen Lama.

After orchestrating the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, the Chinese government placed a young boy, Gyaltsen Norbu as their own 11th Panchen Lama,” he said.

Sangay said, however, this politically motivated action failed to displace the position of the true Panchen Lama from the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people.

For Tibetans in Tibet and in exile, and for Tibetan Buddhist followers around the world, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima recognized by Dalai Lama will always be the true Panchen Lama.

“China’s abduction of the Panchen Lama and forcible denial of his religious identity and the right to practice in his monastery is not only a violation of religious freedom but also a gross violation of human rights.

Since his abduction, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the UN Working Group of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has raised questions on his whereabouts.

Similarly, the US Congress, European Parliament, and parliaments of various other nations such as the UK, Canada, various governments, international organizations and Tibet support groups have demanded his release.

But China has repeatedly failed to respond to the UNCRC’s call to allow an independent body to visit and verify the wellbeing of the 11th Panchen Lama.

At the 119th session of the UN WGEID in September 2019, China once again responded to the questions on the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama with insufficient information,” he added.

He added today marks the 25th anniversary of the 11th Panchen Lama’s disappearance. “25 years is a significant time in an individual’s life. For a person to spend the prime of his life or quarter of a century in enforced captivity is an irreparable loss.

The disappearance of the Panchen Lama is not only an injustice to one person, but it is an injustice to six million Tibetans and their right to religious freedom,” he added.