What has happened to the Panchen Lama?

 On May 14, 1995, The Dalai Lama, recognized Gendhun Choekyi Nyima as the
 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. This extremely important decision by His Holiness
 culminated a six year, difficult and thorough process of searching for the
 incarnation of The 10th Panchen Lama. Gendun Choekyi Nyima is currently a ten
 year-old boy from a semi-pastoralist family that, at one time, lived in the Lhari
 District in Kam, Tibet. Gendhun Choekyi Nyima is considered the youngest
 political prisoner in the world. On April 25th, 2000, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima will
 celebrate His 11th Birthday. 

 Apparently, on May 17, 1995 Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, His family, and the Abbott,
 Chadrel Rinpoche (Cha Tsa Chagbazeling) and His Secretary, who both led the
 search party for this incarnate were taken by the People's Republic of China
 (PRC) to Beijing. Thus, these persons are now political prisoners of the Chinese
 Government. As of today, all of these persons are still missing and there has
 been no indication that they are alive. On May 17, 2000, it will be 5 years since
 Gendhun Choekyi Nyima was illegally abducted.

 Since His disappearance, The PRC has changed its' position on the
 whereabouts of Gendhun Choekyi Nyima many times. At first, The PRC claimed
 that Gendhun was with His family in their home village. In March 1996, The PRC
 then reported that His Holiness The Panchen Lama was in their custody to
 protect Him from Tibetans. During the Summer of 1996, The PRC claimed that,
 as far as they knew, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima was back in the Tibetan
 community. During September 1998, The PRC once again claimed that The
 Panchen Lama was in their care to protect Him from Tibetans. In fact, on a trip to
 Tibet in September 1998, Mary Robinson (High Commissioner of Human
 Rights) of the United Nations was denied access to Gendhun Choekyi Nyima. As
 of November 1999, The PRC claimed that He was still under their protection. To
 date, no one has seen The Panchen Lama.

 In December 1995, The PRC illegally announced its' own Panchen Lama,
 Gyaltsen Norbu. The PRC has absolutely no authority to choose the next
 Panchen Lama. Only The Dalai Lama has the right to select The Panchen Lama.
 The PRC also has no legal justification to hold Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, His
 family, or members of the search party as hostages. 

 Why you should take action?
 It is very critical for the survival of Tibet that the real Panchen Lama, Gendhun
 Choekyi Nyima, be released as well as others associated with His selection. We
 must all support His Holiness, The Dalai Lama's selection of this important
 spiritual leader and fight for His security. If The PRC does not want to recognize
 Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, then they should release this 10 year boy to the
 Tibetan community-in-exile, along with everyone else connected with His

 The 11th Panchen Lama must have the right to visit Tibetans-in-exile around the
 world, particularly His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Such actions will increase the
 possibility that all Tibetans will have the opportunity to communicate and be
 blessed by this highly important spiritual leader.

Please note: As of 2005, the only part of the situation that really has changed is
his holiness Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, will turn 16 this
April 25, 2005.

May 17, 2005 will mark the TENTH anniversary of the abduction of his hoilness, 
the Panchen Lama.

What is... Who is... The Panchen Lama?
            The Panchen Lama is the second most important figure in Tibetan culture, religion and
               politics, after His Holiness The Dalai Lama. 

               The title Panchen Lama originates back to the Fifth Dalai Lama who in 1642 gave the title
               Panchen Lama, meaning Great Scholar, to his teacher the Abbott of Tashilhunpo
               Monastery in order to consolidate Gelugpa power. Since then it has traditionally been the
               role of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama to act as the teacher of the new incarnation. 

               However, the relationship between the Dalai Lama in Lhasa and the Panchen Lama in
               Tashilhunpo has not always been a smooth one. Tensions sometimes occurred between the
               two courts (the usual centre-periphery tensions) though there have been tensions between
               the Lama's themselves which the Chinese often tried to accentuate. 

               The relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama has been a principle
               mechanism of the invading Chinese to divide the Tibetan people and destroy their religion
               and culture. 

               The current dispute originates with a dispute between the Ninth Panchen Lama and the
               Thirteenth Dalai Lama who had serious disagreements resulting in the Panchen Lama
               fleeing to China. In 1933 the Thirteenth Dalai Lama died and the current incarnation is born
               in 1935. In 1937 the Ninth Panchen Lama returned to Tibet only to himself die in Amdo on
               his way home. In August 1939 the Fourteenth and current Dalai Lama was proclaimed and
               installed at his seat in Lhasa in February 1940. 

               Meanwhile, there was no Panchen Lama until in 1944 a possible Incarnation was
               recognised. How this possible Incarnation came to be recognised is greatly tied in with the
               Chinese political situation. In 1949 the Kuomingtang (the Chinese Nationalists who had
               been fighting a civil war with Mao's Communists) recognised this possible Incarnation as
               being the Tenth Panchen Lama in response to the closure of the Chinese Mission in Lhasa
               and on June 11th the Nationalist Government approve his selection. However, within a
               matters of weeks Amdo (western Tibet) was captured by the Communists and with it the
               Tenth Panchen Lama fell into their hands whom they would seek to use to discredit the
               authority of the Dalai Lama. 

               In 1949 the Communists in China came to power and the Peoples Republic of China was
               proclaimed in 1950. That same year the Chinese launched their full scale invasion of Tibet
               and quickly occupied most of Tibet. With no chance of outside assistance, especially from
               Britain or India, the Tibet Government was left with little option but to try and compromise
               with the Chinese. As part of this attempt the Dalai Lama, who having now turned 16 and
               so assumed full powers sent a delegation to Beijing to try and negotiate a settlement. The
               Tibetan delegation, however, was effectively in no position to negotiate a settlement but
               rather could only endorse a Chinese dictated 'Seventeen Point Agreement on Measures for
               the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet' which was signed on 23rd May, 1951. The agreement
               effectively ended TibetÕs independence. In addition, the Tibetan delegates were made to
               endorse the Chinese choice of the Tenth Panchen Lama.

               Throughout the life of the Tenth Panchen Lama the Chinese attempted to use him to divide
               the Tibetan people from the Dalai Lama. Having been raised by the Chinese there were
               times when the Panchen Lama's loyalty to the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama was
               under question by the Tibetan people. The question as to whether the Panchen Lama was in
               fact a tool of the Chinese took some while to become clear. 

               In 1959 His Holiness The Dalai Lama fled into exile in response to the brutal Chinese
               crackdown in Lhasa. The effect of this upon the relationship with the Panchen Lama would
               be great as it effectively ended any personal contact between the two. 

               As time moved on it became apparent to the Chinese that the Panchen Lama was not the
               puppet they had hoped he would become whilst the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama saw
               the Panchen Lama as being a true Tibetan patriot. The Panchen Lama was stripped of his
               office and the monks at Tashilhunpo were harassed and arrested. 

               Indeed, the Panchen Lama became so unwieldy (for example in the 1964 Monlam festival
               he told the assembled crowd that the Dalai Lama was the true leader of Tibet) that the
               Chinese placed him in solitary confinement for 10 years leaving the outside world no idea
               whether he was alive or dead! It was not until 25th February 1978 that the Chinese finally
               released the Panchen Lama from his imprisonment. 

               In his first public appearance in 14 years, and on the same day that the United States
               formally recognised the People's Republic of China, the Panchen Lama called upon the
               Dalai Lama to return to Tibet proclaiming an improvement in the well being of Tibet. The
               Chinese were once more trying to use the Panchen Lama as their puppet. 

               The Tenth Panchen Lama died of a heart attack during a rare visit to Tibet on 28th January
               1989 at the age of 53. Writing in his autobiography the Dalai Lama said of his death that
               Tibet "had lost a true freedom fighter".


Additional Links:

Notes from Gabreal:
Please take the time to read the report written by the 10th Panchen Lama
published here for the first time (formerly forbidden) in both English
and Chinese:

Also, Please be sure to visit this Canadian site:
for current DAILY news about what is going on in Tibet, and the Free Tibet Movements.

and these sites. Look for links to otrhers. Talk to your friends.
Do not forget about the Panchen Lama.


The Panchen Lama is considered to be an emanation of Amitabha Buddha. 
Amitabha means "infinite light." 
Amitabha is the Head of the Lotus family of Buddhas and He is the principal 
Buddha of the Blissful Pureland of the West. 
He is the embodiment of the enlightened speech of all the Buddhas. 
Amitabha Buddha is very important to all Buddhists, 
especially those in China, Japan, & Korea. 


Alaska Tibet Committee
Angels Without Wings
Associazione Amicizia Svizzero Tibetana
Australia Tibet Council
Austrian Committee for Tibet
Buddhist Social Action Network
Canada Students for a Free Tibet
Canada Tibet Committee
Chushi Gungduk-Toronto Chapter
Citizens Against Communist Chinese Propaganda
Colorado Friends of Tibet
Comitê Brasileiro de Apoio ao Tibet
Comité de Soutien au Peuple Tibétain-France
Comité de Soutien au Peuple Tibétain-Suisse
Committee of 100 for Tibet
Council for World Tibet Day
Edmonton Youth For Tibet
Florida for Tibet
Formosan Association for Human Rights
Free Tibet Campaign
Friends of Tibet-New Zealand
Global Peace Foundation
Human Rights Club, American School Foundation, Mexico City
Inner Mongolian People's Party
International Campaign for Tibet
International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet
International Taklamakan Uighur Human Rights Association
International Tibet Independence Movement
Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People
Ithaca Tibetan Association
Jews Against Genocide
Los Angeles Friends of Tibet
NetFriends for Tibet
Norwegian Tibet Committee
Nu Patrician Traders
Pasadena Friends of Tibet
Pittsburgh Friends of Tibet
Princeton Friends of Tibet
San Diego Friends of Tibet
Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet
She Drup Ling, Buddhist Centre-Austria
Students for a Free Tibet (SFT)
SFT-New Zealand
SFT-The Dwight School
SFT-University of Massachusetts, Amherst
SFT-University of Victoria
SFT-University of Washington
SFT-University of Wisconsin
Sierra Friends of Tibet
Swedish Tibet Committee
Swedish Tibet Projects
Taiwanese Collegian
The Bodhicitta Center
The Centre For World Studies
The Milarepa Fund
The PeaceWeavers
The Relief Alliance
The Sacred Order of Khepra
Tibet Committee of Fairbanks
Tibet Initiative Deutschland
Tibet Online Resource Gathering
Tibet Society of South Africa
Tibet Support Group Ireland
Tibet Support Group Netherlands
Tibetan Association of Chicago
Tibetan Association of Northern California
Tibetan Association of Washington
Tibetan Community Asistance Project
Tibetan Community Association NSW-Sydney
Tibetan Community in Switzerland
Tibetan Rights Campaign
Tibetan Women*s Association
Tibetan Women*s Association-Switzerland
Tibetan Women's Organisation in Switzerland
Tibet*s Independence Movement-Lindsay Chapter
Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa Memorial Foundation
Uyghur American Association
U.S. Tibet Committee
Utah Friends of Tibet
Western Colorado Friends of Tibet




This page was last updated on September 11, 2005 by JM at the direction of Gabreal Franklin