US demands unconditional release of Panchen Lama as Tibetans commemorate his 32nd birthday in absentia 

DHARAMSALA, 26 April: The US has renewed its call on the Chinese government for the unconditional release of the 11th Panchen Lama Gendun Choeky Nyima and his family as exiled Tibetans commemorated his 32nd birthday anniversary.

“My birthday present to Gedun Choekyi Nyima is the same as every year to renew my call for his immediate and unconditional freedom and that of his family as well”, Congressman Jim McGovern, Co-chair of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has said. 

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) is a bipartisan caucus of the United States House of Representatives and Congressman McGovern has further stated that “no government is justified in doing what the Chinese government is doing.”

“He should be free because he has the moral and legal right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion including the right to practice his religion as he chooses. He should be freed because he is still a young man and is the right thing to do. So happy birthday Gedun Choekyi Nyima. May this year be the year, we have the privilege to meet in person”, Congressman McGovern concluded.

Last week, the US State Department stated that also called on  China to reveal the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama and demanded to meet with him in person ahead of his 32nd birthday.

“April 25th will mark the 32nd birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama who was forced to spend another year disappeared, separated from his community, and denied his rightful place as a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader,” the US State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press conference on Friday.

He further declared the US support to Tibetans for their religious freedom and their unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and added “We call on the PRC Government to immediately make public the Tibetan-venerated Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and to give us this opportunity to meet with the Panchen Lama in person.”

The President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) Dr Lobsang Sangay has said that “the abduction and disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a denial and a violation of basic human rights” as he wished the abducted Tibetan Buddhist leader “a very very happy birthday” on behalf of Tibetans all over the world.

“Normally on anyone’s birthday, your siblings join you, your friends come together, your neighbours surround you and your parents bless you but sadly for 26 long years, this basic right is denied to Panchen lama.”

“I demand and urge the United Nations, human rights rapporteurs, and journalists all over the world to write about him; go to Tibet and ask the Chinese government for his immediate release so that he could enjoy basic human rights like any other human being,” he concluded.

Gendun Choekyi Nyima, born on 25 April 1989, in Lhari County in Nagchu region of eastern Tibet was recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama at the tender age of 6 on 14 May 1995.

Three days after his enthronement, the 11th Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese government and have been held captive since 17 May 1995, along with his family members.

Today the world’s youngest political prisoner has turned into one of the world’s longest-serving political prisoner. Even after almost 26 years, the 11th Panchen Lama and his family’s whereabouts and condition still remain unknown. In his place, another child named Gyaltsen Norbu was appointed as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Chinese government.

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