A portrait of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima.
A portrait of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima.
PIC: Associated Press (AP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on China to immediately make public the Panchen Lama's whereabouts and uphold its international commitments to promote religious freedom, saying he is one of the most important figures in the Tibetan Buddhism with spiritual authority second only to the

Dalai Lama.

His remarks came on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th

Panchen Lama.

The Department of State has made the promotion and protection of religious freedom a priority, especially in China, where people of all faiths face severe repression and discrimination, Pompeo said.

"As part of that mission on May 17, we marked the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has not appeared in public since the PRC (People's Republic of China) government abducted him in 1995 at age six," he said

in a statement.

"The Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism with spiritual authority second only to the Dalai Lama. But China's persecution of the Panchen Lama is not unusual," Pompeo said.

He called on the Chinese government to immediately make public the Panchen Lama's whereabouts and to uphold its own constitution and international commitments to promote religious freedom for all persons.

Meanwhile, China said Tuesday that a boy who disappeared 25 years ago after being picked by the Dalai Lama as Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest figure is now a college graduate with a stable job.

China, which claims that Tibet is part of its territory, named another boy to the position, Gyaltsen Norbu, who is rarely seen and is believed to spend most of his time in Beijing. He is generally viewed as a political figure under Beijing's control and shares none of the Dalai Lama's global fame.

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