A Tribute to Jamyang Choegyal Kasho (1938-2020)

Jamchoe-la is the first British Tibetan (living in the UK) known to have been infected with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). According to his close friend, Jane O’Sullivan, Jamchoe-la was admitted to King’s College Hospital in south London on 15th March after initial flu-like symptoms. Two days later, doctors diagnosed COVID-19. Jamchoe-la was already known to have serious underlying medical conditions.

Jane, who has known Jamchoe-la since 1992, said that he was always very grateful for the compassionate medical care he received from staff at King’s College Hospital. The hospital is one of London’s largest and busiest teaching hospitals, with a strong profile of local services.

Jamyang Choegyal Kasho was born in Lhasa, Tibet, in 1938. Educated in Tibet, India and Beijing, he became completely fluent in the Chinese language and ways of thinking, whilst also attaining mastery of Tibetan and English. In 1991, after a career as a middle-level official in Tibet, he became the first (and probably only) Tibetan official and Party member of that rank to defect while on an official visit abroad. He then spent some 20 years in London as a translator, advisor and analyst of exceptional ability, working alongside those studying and publishing commentaries on contemporary Tibetan affairs.

Jamchoe-la was a philanthropic person and a generous supporter of voluntary community organisations and charities including Tibet Foundation. Only a few weeks ago, Jamchoe-la donated to our “Give Elders Dignity” appeal – in aid of elderly Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal. He also often sent money to his friends, intended for poor people as well as for commissioning pujas in India.

His book, “In the Service of the 13th and the 14th Dalai Lamas: Choegyal Nyima Lhundrup Kashopa – Untold Stories of Tibet”, was published by Tibet House, Germany, in 2015. Jamchoe-la painstakingly dedicated many years to producing this book, to tell what he described as the “Untold Stories of Tibet” as seen through his own eyes and family experience.

In the Foreword, Professor Robert Barnett, former Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University, New York, and co-founder of the Tibet Information Network (TIN), wrote, “Kashopa Choegyal’s book is unique in many ways. It provides a detailed glimpse into the inner world of Tibetan elite politics in the first half of the twentieth century. Focusing on the last decade of the period between the 1910 and 1950 invasions of Lhasa by armies from China, it details the life and thinking of his father, a leading government official at that time. Several works about that epoch have appeared in English in recent years, written by other leading aristocrat-officials or their offspring, including at least five by the Dalai Lama or his immediate family. But those writers and their subjects had fled with the Dalai Lama in 1959 and had little knowledge of events in Tibet following their departure, as well as limited familiarity with Chinese language or politics. This book is thus the first of its kind, and the first to be written in English without a ghost writer or intermediary by a Tibetan brought up and educated in the Chinese system.”

Prominent Tibetan historian and Canada Research Chair in Religion and Society in Asia at the University of British Columbia, Professor Tsering Shakya also wrote, “Jamyang Choegyal has written a compelling case for his yab dampa pa, noble father’s place in the recent history of Tibet. As he writes, he is not writing what might be called an objective history, but the truth as he and his family see it. Yet it is a frank and detailed account of an important Tibetan historical period and as such it provides a window into the political life of Tibet. The publication of the book adds to our understanding and knowledge of Tibet.

“By writing this book, Jamyang Choegyal has served faithfully his noble father’s memory, but also provided a source of information on the recent history of Tibet for future generations of Tibetans, for whom the recollection of a once free and independent Tibet will surely provide inspiration.”

Jamchoe-la is survived by his daughter and a grandson in Tibet.

(This tribute piece was written for Tibet Foundation website, first published on 24th March 2020.)

Author: Tsering Passang (Tsamtruk)

Tsering Passang is passionate about Tibet and the Tibetan issue. He was born in a Tibetan refugee camp in western Nepal. An NGO professional with nearly 20 years of experience in international development charities, Tsering has led Tibetan Community UK from 2014 to 2016 as its Chairman. Amongst his pioneering initiatives as the Community Leader, Tsering spearheaded "Tibetans Helping Tibetans" initiative and within months, it resulted in securing the sponsorship of 30 Tibetan refugee children for their education in India from 25 UK-based Tibetan families. Prior to his current appointment as the Director of Tibet Foundation, Tsering served as Special Adviser to the Tibet Society, the world's oldest Tibet support group. He also worked for Tibet Relief Fund for over eight years, raising vital funds for Tibetan children’s education in India and Nepal. From 2001 to 2007, he worked for Tibet Foundation as Art & Culture Programme Manager. Tsering has conducted multiple field trips to India and Nepal over the past two decades. After returning from his 2008 personal trip to Mustang, Tsering saw a need to provide training to those Tibetan teachers working in rural areas. Within a year, with the support of western teaching professionals, Tsering initiated the vital training programme for the teachers. Over 50 Tibetan refugees and ethnic Tibetan teachers from Mustang, Manang, Dhorpatan, Pokhara and Kathmandu attended the trainings delivered in Mustang, Kathmandu and Pokhara. He developed partnerships with the local NGOs and schools in Nepal. From 2014 to 2016, Tsering served on the boards of Tibet Society and Tibet House Trust. He also served as the Chairman and a Trustee of the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust. Tsering continues his advocacy work on Tibet. He has attended and engaged with parliamentarians, special advisers and officials from the UK, UN, the US and EU. Tsering has also spoken at important public and closed forums – audience included governments representatives, policymakers, rights advocates, lawyers, journalists, NGO professionals, university students and researchers. In addition to his writings on the Tibetan affairs, published in the British, Nepalese and Tibetan media, Tsering was interviewed by the BBC, Sky News and Reuters. He is also frequently interviewed by the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Voice of Tibet. Tsering has conducted special interviews with leading Tibetan political figures - President of the Tibetan Government-in-exile (Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamsala) and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's former Special Envoy (Washington-based) and former Representative (London-based) for a Tibetan YouTube channel – LondonNey Production. Tsering’s personal blog: www.tsamtruk.com Tsering's latest initiative is the creation of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) - an advocacy group with the object of highlighting the issues affecting the Tibetans, Uyghur Muslims as well as other peoples persecuted by the Chinese regime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s