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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima


Detained Since: May 17, 1995.

Charges: No official charges.

Sentence: No official sentence.

Biography: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, has been held by Chinese authorities in a secret location since 1995 when he was six years old, allegedly to keep him safe from “Tibetan Nationalists.”  China refuses all requests, both domestic and international to see Gedhun.  The Panchen Lama is a high ranking spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy and the role is passed down by reincarnation.   The Dalai Lama selected Gendun Choekyi Nyima in 1995 to be the next Panchen Lama, while Chinese authorities decreed Gyaltsen Norbu to be the next.  As the Panchen Lama traditionally is held responsible for the selection of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese authorities believe it is important to control the Panchen Lama’s fate.

According to Chinese government claims, Gedhun graduated from college and is leading a "current normal life" somewhere in China.  Chinese officials have stated that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a “perfectly ordinary boy” who is in “protective custody,” growing up in an “excellent state of health.”  However, no outside party has been allowed to visit Gedhun because state officials claim to keep his whereabouts undisclosed in order to protect him.

Advocate: Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA)

Advocacy Partner: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom


  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released an open letter to the Panchen Lama on his 28th birthday (April 25, 2017, USCIRF).
  • Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and DFP advocate, and Tenzin Dorjee, USCIRF Commissioner, co-authored an op-ed calling on the Chinese authorities to provide authenticated videographic evidence of the Panchen Lama's well-being (October 12, 2017, Huffington Post).
  • USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee released an open letter to the Panchen Lama on his 29th birthday (April 25, 2018, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom).
  • Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) gave a speech on the House floor marking the Panchen Lama's 29th birthday and calling on China to release him (April 25, 2018).
  • The Dalai Lama has said the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, according to reliable source, is alive and receiving a normal education (April 26, 2018, The Tribune).
  • On the day after his 29th birthday, the U.S. Department of State called upon China to release the Panchen Lama (April 26, 2018, U.S. Department of State).
  • USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee released an open letter to the Panchen Lama on his 30th birthday (April 25, 2019, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom).
  • On the occasion of the Panchen Lama's 30th birthday, Rep. James P. McGovern released a statement once again calling on the Chinese government to free him immediately and without conditions and to uphold its international obligation to respect the religious freedom of all persons (April 25, 2019).
  • The Finland-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights renewed calls for information on the fate of missing Tibetan religious leader the Panchen Lama, calling his enforced disappearance 24 years ago a grave violation of of international human rights standards (September 12, 2019, Radio Free Asia).
  • On the eve of the Panchen Lama's 31st birthday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reiterated its call for his release (April 24, 2020, USCIRF).
  • On the Panchen Lama's 31st birthday, Rep. James P. McGovern released a video urging Chinese authorities to free him because his detention is illegal under international human rights law and because as a confined person, he is vulnerable to COVID-19 (April 25, 2020).