A Birthday for the Disappeared

Sixteen years ago a young boy, six years old at the time, disappeared along with his family.  This happened one week after he was declared to be a reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, making him the second highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama.  He has not been seen since that day in 1995.  Today is his twenty-second birthday.

I celebrated my twenty-second birthday, which was only a little over a year ago, by spending the weekend in New York City and having a special dinner with my family when I returned home.  What is a birthday like for the disappeared?  I can’t imagine how Gendun Choekyi Nyima spends his days, let alone his birthdays, in an unknown location in China where he is constantly being watched by the government.  While he lives out his days in silence, another young man who was chosen by the Chinese government in 1995 acts as Panchen Lama.

Across the globe, Tibetans and Tibet supporters are using this day to remember him, and to call on governments and world leaders to press China to release details of his whereabouts.

International Campaign for Tibet has written a press release that calls for China to reveal the young Panchen Lama’s whereabouts.  The statement points out that “Enforced disappearance, as defined in the UN Declaration on the protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, is a continuous crime until the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person becomes known. Accordingly, the enforced disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, is a continuous crime being committed by the People’s Republic of China.”

Tendor, the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet, has written a powerful letter to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, which can be heard in this short film.

Although he is gone from view, he has not been forgotten, as Tendor writes, “Tibetans and supporters hang your photo in their homes or carry it in their wallets. Mothers hold your image to their chest, your photograph wet from tears and crumpled from years of separation. We have not forgotten you. In fact, with each passing year of your absence, your presence is burnt ever deeper into our memory.”


Visit freepanchenlama.org to read more and take action by signing a petition to Zhu Weiqun, China’s Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department, who is an official spokesperson for Tibetan affairs.

Take Action through Students for a Free Tibet



  1. Hi e.v.

    It’s too bad what happened to the Panchen Lama. What do the Tibetans in Tibet think?

    I read somewhere that by having the Dalai Lama retire from politics and secularizing the government, the Chinese won’t be able to pick their own Dalai Lama in the future and use him to control the Tibetan politics. Either way, I hope he’s not the last one

  2. Hi Lee, thanks for your comment.
    It isn’t easy getting a clear indication of what Tibetans in Tibet think, as talking about the Panchen Lama is a sensitive topic. For the most part, Tibetans in Tibet remember and realize that the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama was taken, and they don’t revere the lama that has been put in place by the Chinese government.

    The Dalai Lama’s death will bring some issues with the Chinese government, I’m sure. They have tried to control many lamas in the past, to no avail, and will surely try it with the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s