Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
The 11th Panchen Lama
Born (1989-04-25)25 April 1989
Disappeared 17 May 1995 (aged 6)
Lhari County, Tibet
Status Missing for 21 years, 6 months and 21 days
Title 11th Panchen Lama
according to the 14th Dalai Lama
Predecessor Choekyi Gyaltsen

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (born 25 April 1989) is the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibetan Buddhism as recognised by the Dalai Lama and various other Tibetan Buddhist leaders. He was born in Lhari County, Tibet. On 14 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama. After his selection, he was kidnapped by authorities of the People's Republic of China[1][2] and has not been seen in public since 17 May 1995.[1][2] Another child, Gyancain Norbu, was later named as Panchen Lama by the People's Republic of China, a choice rejected by most Tibetans.[3]

Selection of the 11th Panchen Lama

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

Following the death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, the search for an individual to be recognised as his reincarnation by Tibetan Buddhists quickly became mired in mystery and controversy, as Tibet had been under the occupation and control of the non-religious People's Republic of China since 1959.[4]

Armed with Beijing's approval, the head of the Panchen Lama search committee, Chadrel Rinpoche, maintained private communication with the Dalai Lama in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable candidate for both the Dalai Lama and Beijing authorities concerning the Panchen Lama's reincarnation.[5] After the Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama on 14 May, Chinese authorities had Chadrel Rinpoche arrested and charged with treason. According to the Tibetan Government in Exile, he was replaced by Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen, so chosen because he was more likely to agree with the party line.[6] Sengchen had been a political opponent of both the Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama.[7] Because of the history of rivalry between different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, many Tibetans and scholars believe that this was a tactical move by the CCP to create more unrest and disunity between the typically unified Tibetan peoples.[8][9]

The new search committee ignored the Dalai Lama's 14 May announcement and instead chose from a list of finalists which excluded Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In selecting a name, lottery numbers were drawn from a Golden Urn, a procedure used in Tibet by the Chinese (Manchu) emperor in 1793.[10] The Tibetan method involves using possessions of the former Lama to identify his reincarnation, as the new child incarnate will reportedly recognize his past items amid miscellaneous ones.[11] Chinese authorities announced Gyancain Norbu as the search committee's choice on 11 November 1995.[12]


The whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are unknown.[13][1][14][15] Human Rights organizations have termed him the "youngest political prisoner in the world".[16][17] According to statements by the Chinese government from 1998, he was then leading a normal life.[18] No foreign party has been allowed to visit him.[18] Officials state that his whereabouts are kept undisclosed to protect him.[19] Those who say Nyima is the 11th Panchen Lama call upon the Chinese authorities to prove that he is safe.[20]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child requested to be told of Nyima's whereabouts on 28 May 1996. Xinhua declined, responding that Nyima was at risk of being "kidnapped by separatists" and that "his security had been threatened".[21] 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.[22]

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 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 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.[23]

In 2013, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima would have been turning 24. The protective custody should have ended when he turned 18 per Chinese law.[24]

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."[25]


  1. 1 2 3 Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the XIth Panchen Lama turns 18: Still disappeared The Buddhist Channel, 25 April 2007
  2. 1 2 "Tibet's missing spiritual guide". BBC News. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  3. "Tibet's missing spiritual guide". BBC. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  4. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima: the XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. TCHRD: Chadrel Rinpoche's fate unknown Archived 2 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. Update-Communist China set to decide on a rival Panchen Lama Archived 25 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Communist China set to decide on a rival Panchen Lama Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Coonan, Clifford (2010-03-02). "China appoints Panchen Lama in tactical move to quell unrest - Asia - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  9. "Propaganda and the Panchen Lama: playing politics". 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  10. Alex McKay, The History of Tibet : The Modern Period, Routledge 2003, ISBN 0-415-30844-5, p. 32. Google books
  11. "Reincarnation | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama". Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  12. Isabel Hilton, A Reporter at Large, "Spies in the House of Faith," The New Yorker, 23 August 1999, p. 170
  13. "Tibet's missing spiritual guide". BBC News. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  14. "World's youngest political prisoner turns 17". 2006-04-23. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  15. Coonan, Clifford (2010-03-02). "China appoints Panchen Lama in tactical move to quell unrest - Asia - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  16. "World's youngest political prisoner turns 17". 2006-04-23. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  17. Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, p 374. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  18. 1 2 "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 2013-07-17.
  19. Xizang-zhiye 27 April 2005 Archived 24 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. "UNPO – WS on Panchen Lamas Case". 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  21. Site of the TCHRD Archived 24 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. "Appel Pour Le Plus Jeune Prisonnier Politique Du Monde". 1995-05-14. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  23. "China Fails to Respond to UN Rights Expert's Question on Panchen Lama". 25 April 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  24. "Tibet's Stolen Spiritual Leader Turns 24". TCHRD. Archived from the original on June 6, 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  25. "China says Panchen Lama 'living a normal life' 20 years after disappearance". The Guardian. September 6, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Born: 1989 April 25
Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Choekyi Gyaltsen
Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama
(Government of Tibet in Exile interpretation)

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