Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

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Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
The 11th Panchen Lama Gedun Choekyi Nyima.jpg
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
The 11th Panchen Lama in 1995
11th Panchen Lama (as recognized)
PredecessorChoekyi Gyaltsen 10th Panchen Lama
Born (1989-04-25) 25 April 1989 (age 31)
Lhari County, Tibet Autonomous Region
Disappeared17 May 1995 (aged 6)
Lhari County, Tibet Autonomous Region
StatusTemplate:Kidnapped date

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, (born on April 25, 1989, in Lhari County, Tibet[1]) is the 11th Panchen Lama belonging to the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, as recognized and announced by the 14th Dalai Lama on 14 May 1995. Three days later on 17 May, the 6 year old Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese government, after the State Council of the People's Republic of China failed in its efforts to install a substitute.[2] A Chinese substitute is seen as a political tool to undermine the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, which traditionally is recognized by the Panchen Lama.[3] Gedhun Choekyi Nyima remains forcibly detained by the Chinese government, along with his family, in an undisclosed location since 1995. His khenpo, Chadrel Rinpoche, and another Gelugpa monk, Jampa Chungla, were also arrested.[4] The United Nations, numerous nation states, organizations and private individuals continue to call for the 11th Panchen Lama's release.

The Panchen Lama was born in Lhari County, Tibet Autonomous Region, from where he was kidnapped under the authority of the People's Republic of China. He has been called the world's youngest political prisoner. Since his recognition as the 11th Panchen Lama, he continues to be forcibly detained, along with his family, by the Chinese government,[5][6] and has not been seen in public since 17 May 1995.[5][6] Chadrel Rinpoche, the Panchen Lama's Khenpo, or abbott, was also arrested.

In a response to growing international pressure from the United Nations, nation states, and in 2020 from 159 independent organizations from 18 countries working with the United Nations, on 19 May 2020, the Chinese government alleged that the Panchen Lama is "now a college graduate with a stable job", but has not provided supporting evidence.

The Chinese government continues to refuse the Panchen Lama's and his family's release, or allow them to meet with observers.[7] His kidnapping and continued forcible detainment are due to the Chinese government's stated efforts to control the reincarnation of lamas, and thereby destroy authentic Tibetan buddhism.

The Chinese actions against the Panchen Lama occurred during the ongoing persecution of Tibetans and of buddhists, while the persecution of Tibet's monastic communities has escalated since 2008. The Chinese government also tried to interfere with the recognition of the 17th Karmapa of the Kagyu school of Tibetan buddhism.

Recognition and Enthronement of the 11th Panchen Lama[edit]

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Tibetan name
Tibetan དགེ་འདུན་ཆོས་ཀྱི་ཉི་མ
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese更登確吉尼瑪
Simplified Chinese更登确吉尼玛

Traditionally within Tibetan buddhist customs, the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas are the sources of final authority in recognizing each other's reincarnations, after spending many lifetimes together. Locating and confirming the reincarnation of a lama involves several methods, among them the familiarity with specific personal items and exhibited traits.[8] Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was located and then recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, after closely following methods established more than 400 years ago by Tibetan buddhist customs. The 11th Panchen Lama would afterwards follow custom and establish his seat at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery where Chadrel Rinpoche was the Khenpo, or abbott.

The Chinese government, while evidenced to be persecuting Tibetan buddhists, alleged in a blog a different series of events was wished by the 10th Panchen Lama. The allegations include: Four days before his death, the 10th Panchen Lama made his own will publicly to follow the tradition. On 24 January, following the opening ceremony of the Ling Pagoda, with religious figures in Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and autonomous regions, the 10th Panchen Lama held a special talk on the reincarnation of the Living Buddha, proposing that "the three candidate boys should be identified first and then investigated one by one" and "I would like to take the lead by drawing lots of Golden Urn before the image of Sakyamuni." [9]

Following the death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, the search for his reincarnation began. As Tibet had been under the occupation and control of the government of the People's Republic of China since 1959,[10] Tibet's traditionally authoritative methods for locating and confirming the reincarnated Panchen Lama, revered and adored by Tibetans, were under attack.Three days after the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, the Chinese Premier of the State Council published a statement on how it felt the 11th Panchen Lama was to be selected. The statement alleges the Chinese government took advice from the committee of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and from monks.[11][12]

Under Beijing's observation and control, the head of the Panchen Lama search committee, Chadrel Rinpoche, maintained private communication with the Dalai Lama ostensibly in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable candidate for both the Dalai Lama and Beijing authorities concerning the Panchen Lama's reincarnation.[13] After the Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995, Chinese authorities kidnapped the Panchen Lama, detained his family, and had Chadrel Rinpoche arrested and charged with "splittism", or a form of treason. The Panchen Lama has not been seen in public since May 17, 1995. International calls for his release since then have grown continuously, and multiplied in 2020.

After his sentence was served in 2002, Chadrel Rinpoche was reportedly put under house arrest.[14] The Tibetan Government in Exile reported that Chadrel Rinpoche was replaced by Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen [zh], so chosen because he was more likely to agree with the party line.[15] Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen had been a political opponent of both the Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama.[16] Many Tibetans and scholars believe that Chadrel Rinpoche's arrest, and replacement by Senchen Lobsang Gyaltsen was a tactical move by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to create more unrest and disunity between the typically unified Tibetan peoples.[17][18]

After the Panchen Lama's kidnapping by the Chinese government, a second Bejing supported search committee ignored the Dalai Lama's May 14 announcement and instead chose from their list of finalists, which excluded Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In selecting a person amenable to Bejing, lottery numbers were said to have been drawn from a Golden Urn, a procedure allegedly used in Tibet by the Chinese (Manchu) emperor in 1793.[19] The lottery system contradicts methods for establishing an authentic reincarnation: The 14th Dalai Lama stated that the Tibetan method involves using possessions of the former Panchen Lama to identify his reincarnation, as the child incarnate will reportedly recognize his past items amid miscellaneous ones.[20]

The BBC reported that the Chinese Communist Party's final choice of Gyaltsen Norbu was rejected by most Tibetans.[21] International condemnation has also followed the appointment of Gyaltsen Norbu. Alexander Norman wrote, "Today, the Panchen Lamas are famous for having two claimants to the see of Tashilhunpo: one recognised by the present Dalai Lama and taken into house arrest by the Chinese, the other recognised by China but by no one else."[22] Tibetan buddhists and international observers see only one Panchen Lama, as recognized by the Dalai Lama.


Since his kidnapping, the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima have been unknown.[23] Chinese officials state that his whereabouts are kept undisclosed to protect him.[24] Human rights organizations termed him the "youngest political prisoner in the world".[25][26] No foreign party has been allowed to visit him.[27]

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child requested to be told of Nyima's whereabouts on 28 May 1996. Xinhua declined, responding that Gedhun Choyki Nyima was at risk of being "kidnapped by separatists" and that "his security had been threatened".[28] The Committee requested a visit with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, supported by a campaign of more than 400 celebrities and associations petitioning for the visit, including six Nobel Prize winners.[29][30] According to statements by the Chinese government from 1998, he was then leading a normal life.[27]

In May 2007, Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the UN Human Rights Council, asked the Chinese authorities what measures they had taken to implement the recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, that the government should allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima while respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents. In a response dated 17 July 2007, the Chinese authorities said: "Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a perfectly ordinary Tibetan boy, in an excellent state of health, leading a normal, happy life and receiving a good education and cultural upbringing. He is currently in upper secondary school, he measures 165 cm [5 ft 5 in] in height and is easy-going by nature. He studies hard and his school results are very good. He likes Chinese traditional culture and has recently taken up calligraphy. His parents are both State employees, and his brothers and sisters are either already working or at university. The allegation that he disappeared together with his parents and that his whereabouts remain unknown is simply not true." This response did not answer the question about a visit or confirmation.[31]

In 2015, on the twentieth anniversary of Gendun Choekyi Nyima's disappearance, Chinese officials announced "The reincarnated child Panchen Lama you mentioned is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed."[32]

In April 2018, the Dalai Lama declared that he knew from a "reliable source" that the Panchen Lama he had recognized, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was alive and receiving normal education. He said he hoped that the PRC-appointed Panchen Lama (Gyaincain Norbu) studied well under the guidance of a good teacher. Within Tibetan buddhist traditions, there were instances of a reincarnated lama taking more than one manifestation.[33][34] Each of those manifestations must also be recognized.

As of 2020, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has not been seen by any independent observer since his disappearance in 1995.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gedhun Choekyi Nyima – The Panchen Lama, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  2. ^ "十年了:达赖指定的班禅今安在". 生钦·洛桑坚赞说:“达赖擅自宣布的‘转世灵童’不具备任何入瓶掣签的条件。我们扎什伦布寺民主管理委员会班禅转世灵童寻访小组和广大僧众坚决不同意把他作为入瓶掣签候选灵童。”
  3. ^ BBC News, "Tibet's Missing Spiritual Guide", 16 May 2005,
  4. ^ Central Tibetan Administration, "Tibet: Suspicious Death of Panchen Lama Search Leader", 25 November 2011,
  5. ^ a b Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the XIth Panchen Lama turns 18: Still disappeared The Buddhist Channel, 25 April 2007
  6. ^ a b "Tibet's missing spiritual guide". BBC News. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  7. ^ "China says boy picked by Dalai Lama now a college graduate". AP NEWS. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  8. ^ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Chronology of Events,
  9. ^ "班禅转世纪实". 第十世班禅大师圆寂前四天,即1月24日,在主持灵塔开光典礼后的西藏、青海、甘肃、四川、云南五省区部分宗教界人士座谈会上,特别谈了活佛转世问题,提出应“先找出三个候选灵童,然后逐一进行调查”,“我想在释迦牟尼像前,采取‘金瓶掣签’的办法来确定。”这些话,是大师临终前的遗愿。
  10. ^ Gedhun Choekyi Nyima: the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "国务院关于第十世班禅大师治丧和转世问题的决定".
  12. ^ "第十世班禅大师的圆寂和遗言".
  13. ^ TCHRD: Chadrel Rinpoche's fate unknown Archived 2 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ International Campaign for Tibet, "Chadrel Rinpoche under house arrest", 23 April 2003,
  15. ^ Update-Communist China set to decide on a rival Panchen Lama Archived 25 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Communist China set to decide on a rival Panchen Lama Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Coonan, Clifford (2 March 2010). "China appoints Panchen Lama in tactical move to quell unrest - Asia - World". The Independent. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  18. ^ "Propaganda and the Panchen Lama: playing politics". 25 August 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  19. ^ Alex McKay, The History of Tibet : The Modern Period, Routledge 2003, ISBN 0-415-30844-5, p. 32. Google books
  20. ^ "Reincarnation | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama". Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Tibet's missing spiritual guide". BBC. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  22. ^ Norman, Alexander (2008). Holder of the White Lotus: The Lives of the Dalai Lama. London: Little, Brown. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-316-85988-2.
  23. ^ Coonan, Clifford (2 March 2010). "China appoints Panchen Lama in tactical move to quell unrest - Asia - World". The Independent. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  24. ^ Xizang-zhiye 27 April 2005 Archived 24 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "World's youngest political prisoner turns 17". 23 April 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  26. ^ Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, p 374. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  27. ^ a b "Amnesty International Testimony US – China Relations before the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate by T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia". US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. 11 September 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  28. ^ Site of the TCHRD Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Appel Pour Le Plus Jeune Prisonnier Politique Du Monde". 14 May 1995. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  30. ^ "UNPO – WS on Panchen Lamas Case". 9 March 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  31. ^ "China Fails to Respond to UN Rights Expert's Question on Panchen Lama". 25 April 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  32. ^ "China says Panchen Lama 'living a normal life' 20 years after disappearance". The Guardian. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  33. ^ 11th Panchen Lama alive, receiving education: Dalai Lama, The Statesman, April 25, 2018: "Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Wednesday said 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima “according to reliable source is alive and receiving normal education”. Talking to the media at Gaggal Airport in Kangra district after returning from four-day Delhi visit, Lama hoped that the official Panchen Lama studies well under the guidance of a good teacher. “Then the Panchen Lama, which I recognised sometime back, there was no news, but then according to reliable information, he is still alive and receiving normal education. So we will see,” he said. He said there are instances in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, “where a reincarnated lama took more than one manifestation”."
  34. ^ Dr. Andrea Galli, Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama quarrel: The way for rapprochement with China, Modern Diplomacy, May 9, 2018.
  35. ^ Dalai Lama cites ‘reliable source’ as saying Panchen Lama alive, speaks well for the Chinese appointed counter, Tibetan Review, April 27, 2018 : "Following the passing away of the 10th Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen in Jan 1989, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader formally proclaimed six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima born in Tibet as his undisputed reincarnation on May 14, 1995. Three days later, the Chinese government took him and his family away to be never seen or heard from again."

External links[edit]

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Born: 1989 April 25
Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Choekyi Gyaltsen
Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama
(Government of Tibet in Exile interpretation)