The Panchen Lama, or Panchen Erdeni, is the highest ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the lineage which controlled western Tibet from the 16th century until the Battle of Chamdo and the subsequent 1959 Tibetan uprising.
The present (11th) incarnation of the Panchen Lama is Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as decreed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995. The Communist Party of China announced a separate candidate, Gyaincain Norbu, and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima vanished from the public eye shortly after being named at aged six. Chinese authorities stated that Gedhun had been taken into protective custody from those that would spirit him into exile and is now held in captivity against the wishes of the Tibetan people. Tibetans and human rights groups continue to campaign for his release.