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U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee. Photo: File

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Washington D.C. April 25, 2017 – U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee has written an open letter to the Panchen Lama, to coincide with his April 25 birthday, in which he says, “my resolve to find you and restore you to your rightful role becomes stronger.”

The Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1995, and soon thereafter he was taken away from his home by the Chinese authorities and has not been seen since. In his place, China selected another boy.

Commissioner Dorjee’s open letter begins with an emotional tone: “Even though it saddens me to think that you may never read this, every Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which I serve, is thinking of you on this special day.”

"Ever since you were abducted as a young child at the age of six, the Chinese government has refused to share even basic information about you and your whereabouts. Please know that I think about you every day, and as each year passes, my resolve to find you and restore you to your rightful role becomes stronger, he said in the letter.

"By the age of 28, I had received both a Tibetan and modern education, as well as advanced Buddhist studies in the Tibetan diaspora in India. I would like to know more about you, especially about your well-being and the education you have received. I fear that the Chinese government has taken away your religious identity. I pray that you will one day be able to live a free life and take your rightful place as the 11th Panchen Lama," Dorjee added.

"Please know that it is my responsibility to advocate on your behalf, and for those others in China who are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs and activities," he aded.

On April 6, 2017, as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project, Commissioner Dorjee announced his adoption of the Panchen Lama as the case that he will focus on.

The US based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) joins governments and concerned individuals across the world on that day in urging the Chinese authorities to declare the whereabouts and welfare of this important Tibetan religious leader.

For more information about the Panchen Lama and repression of religious freedom in Tibet see the ICT report “Cultural Genocide and the 11th Panchen Lama“.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was just 6 years old when he was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, one of Tibet's most important religious leaders. Just after Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family were taken into custody by the Chinese authorities and he has not been seen since.

Tibetans, Tibet supporters, human rights organisations and world governments have consistently urged China to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, but these appeals continue to go unheeded.

For two decades the Chinese authorities have denied requests from governments and the United Nations for access to Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family, claiming that he was leading a normal life and does not wish to be disturbed.

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