April 25, 2021 is the 32nd birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, who has not been seen since his disappearance in May 1995. The International Campaign for Tibet joins governments and concerned individuals across the world today in urging the Chinese authorities to declare the whereabouts and welfare of this important Tibetan religious leader, who was taken away from his home in Tibet 26 years ago and has not been seen in public since.

ICT supports the call five UN human rights experts and expert bodies made last year asking the Chinese government for “detailed information” on the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and endorsing the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s “recommendation to allow an independent monitor to visit him to confirm his whereabouts and the extent to which he is able to enjoy and exercise his rights.” The statement was made public on Aug. 1, 2020 and submitted by the mandates of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; the special rapporteur on minority issues; and the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

On this, the 11th Panchen Lama’s birthday, we are keenly aware of how his experience connects to the rigid, ongoing controls on religion and culture in Tibet and the circumstances of daily life that are challenging the Tibetan people in enjoying their fundamental rights as human beings.

While urging governments, parliaments, NGOs and UN human rights mechanisms to continue concerted efforts to ascertain the whereabouts and well-being of the Panchen Lama and his family members, ICT urges the Chinese authorities to respond positively to the appeals already made by the UN and governments, as well as by Tibetan Buddhists, to permit the Panchen Lama to live a genuine free and normal life.