Free the Panchen Lama
The Panchen Lama’s story represents China’s ongoing violations of human rights, in particular the freedom of religion, in Tibet. We call on China to release the Panchen Lama.
2021 Campaign Update
In 1995, the Dalai Lama recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old boy in eastern Tibet, as Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama (the second highest spiritual figure in Tibetan Buddhism). Three days later, the young boy was kidnapped by the Chinese government, becoming the world’s youngest political prisoner.
As a result of our campaign to bring renewed awareness of the Panchen Lama’s story and secure his freedom, Australian officials raised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s case directly with the Chinese Government. A letter from Foreign Minister Marise Payne informs us that government officials “requested information from China about his welfare and urged China to allow an independent observer to visit him and confirm his wellbeing.”
Foreign Minister Payne has raised concerns about religious freedom and belief directly with her Chinese counterpart, State Councilor Wang Yi. “The government will continue to…seek greater access to Tibet for Australian and international representatives,” the letter reads.
This advocacy stems from our collective action. We rallied together urging our political leaders to raise the profile of the Panchen Lama’s case and call for information about his whereabouts.
Last year, 700 supporters emailed Foreign Minister Payne, as part of our petition action, calling on the Australian Government to push for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama and his family. During Tibet Lobby Week, 40 ATC members and Tibetans met with 26 MPs from across Australia. We asked them to appeal to the Foreign Minister to make a public statement.
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17 May 2020 marked 25 years since the Chinese government kidnapped Tibet’s Panchen Lama.
The Panchen Lama is Tibet’s second-highest religious figure, second only to the Dalai Lama. The two have played a key role in identifying each other’s reincarnation. China saw the young Panchen Lama a future threat to its authority given the popularity of the previous Panchen Lama, a vocal critic of Chinese policies, among Tibetans.
Six months after the abduction of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Chinese government appointed its own Panchen Lama in a mockery of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition of reincarnation. Tibetans refer to the Chinese government’s appointee Panchen Zuma (meaning the fake Panchen).
For the last 25 years, China has repeatedly ignored international pressure to release the Panchen Lama or disclose information about his well being or whereabouts.
The abduction of the Panchen Lama and the subsequent appointment of China’s Panchen Lama is part of the Chinese government’s broader strategy to control Tibetan Buddhism, interfere in the future reincarnation of the current Dalai Lama, and cement its rule in Tibet.
China hopes the Panchen Lama’s story will be forgotten over time. But Tibetans and the global Tibet movement have refused to give up our demand to secure the release of the Panchen Lama.
Ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, let’s call on the Australian Government to push for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama and his family. Sign our petition to Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
Five UN human rights experts have raised concerns about the whereabouts of Tibet’s Panchen Lama in a statement to the Chinese government.