Montreal, April 25, 2015 – Today, as we mark the 26th birthday of Tibet’s Panchen Lama, the Canada Tibet Committee is calling upon the Government of Canada to leverage its bilateral relationship with China to secure his unconditional release.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th the Panchen Lama of Tibet, was abducted from his home in Nagchu District in May 1995 at age six. Neither he nor his parents have been seen or heard from since. Chinese authorities have admitted holding the boy “for his own protection” . Given the Panchen Lama’s senior position in Tibetan Buddhism, his continued detention violates religious freedom in Tibet.
“The Government of Canada has prioritized both religious freedom and the human rights of children,” said Carole Samdup, Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee. “We urge Canadian officials in Beijing to renew efforts to ascertain the well-being of the Panchen Lama who has been held twenty years without any justification, and to secure his release.”
Traditionally the Panchen Lama has been described as the “moon to the Dalai Lama’s sun” and together they form the spiritual center of Tibetan Buddhism. Throughout history, the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama have played key roles in the selection of each other’s reincarnations.
“By controlling the Panchen Lama, China hopes to control the selection of the next Dalai Lama and consequently the spiritual lineage of Tibet” Samdup said. “This will only exacerbate tensions in Tibet and set the stage for more conflict.”
The Government of Canada has raised the Panchen Lama case with Chinese authorities on several occasions since 1995, including by delivering 1000 birthday cards from Canadian children in 1998. To date, Chinese authorities have not provided any verifiable information to Canada about the boy’s safety or whereabouts.
 In May 1996 Chinese delegates at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child admitted that the boy and his family were being held in custody “for their own protection”.
In September 1996, delegates of the Chinese “Ethnic Affairs Commission” confirmed in a meeting held at the Canadian Human Rights Foundation in Montreal, that Chinese authorities were holding Gendun Choekyi Nyima and his family saying that he was “healthy and that he is studying to become a monk”.
In 2000, during a bilateral dialogue meeting on human rights, European Union and British officials were shown 2 photographs of a young boy allegedly proving that he was alive and well. Forensic analysis later indicated that the photographs were not Gendun Choekyi Nyima.
In August 2001, Chinese authorities promised photographs to a Polish delegation to Tibet but the delegation was later told that the boy was "far away" from Lhasa and so the pictures could not be obtained immediately.
In October 2001, an Australian delegation was told that the parents of Gendun Choekyi Nima were insisting that no foreign delegations be allowed to meet with him. According to Chinese authorities, the parents have said that "they want their privacy respected, that they don't particularly want people to have access to the child and they want him to live a normal life and they don't want to be bothered by people".