The Panchen Lama (Tib: པཎ་ཆེན་རེན་པོ་ཆེ།) is one of the most important religious leaders in Tibet.
The 10:Th Panchen Lama, a vocal advocate of Tibet cultural and identity passed away mysteriously in 1989. His reincarnation, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, born April 25, 1989 in central Tibet disappeared on May 17 1995, only few days after he was officially recognized in as the 11:Th Panchen Lama. He and his family have not been seen for nearly 18 years to date now.
In 1995, at age 6, Gendun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most important spiritual leader. Shortly thereafter, the young child and his family were detained by the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government’s motives for keeping Gendun Choekyi Nyima under house arrest are purely political and a means for further controlling Tibetans’ religion and culture. China’s atheist government has installed a different child, Gyaltsen Norbu, in his place. Historically, the Panchen Lama has played a pivotal role in identifying the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and vice versa.
Shortly after Gendun Choekyi Nyima’s detention, the Chinese government installed another young boy, Gyaincain Norbu, in his place. The Chinese government continues to meddle ruthlessly in Tibetan Buddhist affairs in an attempt to exert political and social control over Tibetans through the religious institutions at the center of Tibetan life. To date, China has denied all requests from the international community to see Gendun Choeyki Nyima, the real Panchen Lama; his whereabouts remain unknown. Tibetans and supporters worldwide call for the immediate release of Gedun Choekyi Nyima and for his return to his rightful seat in Tashilhunpo Monastery.