The United States renewed its call for the release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who was recognised as Tibetan Buddhism’s 11th Panchen Lama at the age of six. Nyima disappeared in 1995 soon after Dalai Lama recognised him as the reincarnation of Panchen Lama, the second most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism's largest school.
Sam Brownback, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said that the United States has no idea about the whereabouts of Panchen Lama and it continues to press Chinese authorities for his release. The American diplomat reiterated that the Chinese Communist Party has no right to appoint the next Dalai Lama as they continue to assert the contrary.
“We continue to press the Chinese authorities to release the Panchen Lama and to let him free, but (also) let the world know where he is,” Brownback told reporters during a briefing on COVID-19 impact on religious minorities.
The Ambassador said that the US government will continue to raise the issue, highlighting that it is gaining traction in the Congress and in places around the world because of the succession issues. Brownback quipped that the Chinese don’t have the right to appoint the next Dalai Lama any more than they have the right to appoint the next pope.
Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since authorities in #China disappeared Gedhun Choekyi Nyima – the 11th Panchen Lama – when he was just six years old. His prolonged disappearance makes him one of the longest serving prisoners of conscience in the world. Free the Panchen Lama.— Ambassador Sam Brownback (@IRF_Ambassador) May 14, 2020
China has repeatedly rejected the US’ assertion on the selection of the next Dalai Lama by the Tibetan people saying Beijing’s approval is a must for choosing the next successor. Last year, Brownback visited Dharamshala to attend 60th Anniversary event honouring the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts and shared pictures with Dalai Lama.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang accused the US of interfering in China’s internal affairs and said that Beijing opposes any contact with the Dalai Lama by any foreign official. He said that the 14th Dalai Lama is in political exile who has long been carrying out anti-China activities overseas under the pretext of religion.