After the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is one of the highest Tibetan spiritual leaders. In 1995 Chinese officials kidnapped him at the young age of 6. More than two decades later, Tibetans continue to demand for the Panchen Lama to be released and returned to the people of Tibet. China claims he is living a normal life but they refuse anyone access to him.
Tibetans continue to revere him as a strong figure for Tibetan identity and nationhood. June 2012, Jigme Dolma, just 17-years-old took to the streets in Tibet issuing flyers and shouting slogans for the release of the Panchen Lama. She was severely beaten and handed a 3-year prison sentence.
His Holiness the Panchen Lama turned 29 this April. This should be an occasion of great celebration for Tibetans everywhere; but instead we will mark this occasion in protest and with sadness as the Panchen Lama has been a prisoner of the Chinese government for 23 years. May 17, 2018 marks 23 years of his enforced disappearance.