The Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was abducted by Chinese authorities in 1995 when he was only six years old. Photo: TPI

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Dharamshala — In commemoration of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's 29th birthday, the US State Department called on China to release the religious leader in a statement that said, "The United States remains concerned that Chinese authorities continue to take steps to eliminate the religious, linguistic, and cultural identity of Tibetans, including their ongoing destruction of communities of worship, such as the Larung Gar and Yachen Gar monasteries."

The Panchen Lama was allegedly abducted by the Chinese government when he was just six years old, along with his family in 1995 after he was recognized as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.

In addition to calling for his immediate release, the State Department expressed concern for the ongoing destruction of Tibetan Buddhist communities and implored China to uphold its international commitments to promote religious freedom.

The statement read: "On April 25, we marked the birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has not appeared in public since he was reportedly abducted two decades ago by the Chinese government at age six. The United States remains concerned that Chinese authorities continue to take steps to eliminate the religious, linguistic, and cultural identity of Tibetans, including their ongoing destruction of communities of worship, such as the Larung Gar and Yachen Gar monasteries.

"We call on China to release Gedhun Choekyi Nyima immediately and to uphold its international commitments to promote religious freedom for all persons." The Panchen Lama's birthday was marked around the world with calls from across the globe for his immediate release," it added.

On May 14, 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, aged six, was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. Three days later, on May 17, 1995, he along with his family went missing. Since then, their whereabouts have remained unknown and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is one of the world’s longest serving political prisoners.

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