Who will get my 2016 Sikyong Vote?

sikyong election 2016Your-Vote-Counts

(By Tsering Passang, London)

In May 2011, I told Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay in Dharamsala that I did not cast my vote to him during the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. He simply returned a smile. And then I said, ‘Majority of the Tibetan people elected you to lead the Tibet Movement as the Executive Head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and it is now your responsibility to fulfil their aspirations. I accept the election result and I will now be supporting you as my political leader as well’.

The incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay won the 2011 election with a big margin against the two heavyweight candidates – Trisur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Kasur Tashi Wangdi, who both served in the Kashag (Tibetan cabinet). Sikyong Sangay recently stated that he still enjoys a good and cordial relation with the two CTA veterans, who between them had accumulated over 70 years of public service in the Central Tibetan Administration.

In the 2016 final Sikyong election, there is only one challenger against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay, who is seeking his re-election to complete the foundation of works he started during his first term. The contender is the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, who comes across as a strong Middle-Way advocate. Tsering bagged just over 10,000 votes in the preliminary round last autumn whilst Sangay scored over a massive 30,000 votes.

Last year, Tshoktso Penpa Tsering publicly stated that he would refuse to share platforms with the Rangzen (Tibetan independence) advocate, Mr Lukar Jam, who secured third in the Sikyong’s preliminary election. The former Tibetan political prisoner failed to make it to the final round of Sikyong election due to new rules set out by the Central Election Commission.

Unlike the incumbent Speaker, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay chose not to take the hard-line stance against the former Tibetan political prisoner, who is also the current President of GuChuSum, a well-respected Tibetan NGO representing ex-political prisoners, who all escaped from Tibet into exile. The GuChuSum changed its political stance from Rangzen to Middle-Way approach in recent years.

In this 2016 Sikyong election, we have been witnessing a big change compared to the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. Unlike the previous elections, the current two Sikyong candidates criticise each other, which is acceptable as this is a part of the democratic practice. What is unfortunate is that there are strong negative campaigns on both sides compared to the 2011 election. These were primarily initiated and carried out by the candidates’ respective supporters/camps; some are utterly baseless, which are uncalled for. The Tibetan democracy and the Tibetan electorates deserve better than this.

My personal observation on the incumbents Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Tshoktso Penpa Tsering

The Tibetans in Exile have a wonderful opportunity to elect their Political Leader who can represent them both at home and abroad. We should be able to place our confidence in the chosen candidate, who will be serving the Tibetan people during the next five years as our Sikyong.

In my view, it is better to look objectively at what these two candidates have done in the past, at least during the past four to five years in their respective offices and then analyse and decide whether the candidates are likely to deliver what they said they would do for the Tibetan people to secure freedom and justice in Tibet whilst getting the Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration and its affiliated bodies in the Indian sub-continent and abroad, in order or not during the next five years as Sikyong.

The Incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering 

penpa tsering
Tshoktso Penpa Tsering

I think Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has done an amazing job as Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament who conducted its affairs in good order during this last parliamentary term. There was only one exception when he briefly walked-out of the parliament after a Chithue raised a previously unfounded allegation against the Speaker.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has travelled extensively with his parliamentary colleagues and promoted the Tibetan cause in many countries in addition to his parliamentary duties in Dharamsala.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering also seems to have some good ideas on strengthening the Tibetan communities outside the Indian sub-continent amongst his other initiatives but we have not heard these in details.

We would like to know how Tshoktso Penpa Tsering intends to implement those good ideas into practical actions, including raising the required capital funds.

We would also certainly like to hear more of his plans and policies to bring about alternative change to the incumbent Sikyong’s legacy rather than dwelling on the Kalachakra postponement and other less important issues.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering did say that he was unable to organise the planned International Convention of World Parliamentarians for Tibet this past year due to some technicalities but nonetheless he did organise such conventions in the past, drawing international parliamentarians’ support for Tibet, which shows his capabilities.

The Incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay

lobsang sangay
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay

Over the past four years, I have been observing Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his administration very closely. Surprisingly, the Harvard legal scholar, who had no previous experience in administration, impressed me tremendously especially with his smart move as the ‘People’s Sikyong’ both at home and abroad.

To start with, Sikyong Sangay formed a great Kashag team, who delivered the public services beyond expectation. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag.* (Please see the postscript section at the bottom of the article for details on the resignation issue.)

Some of the achievements observed over the past four years:

Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay knows how the media world works. He uses it effectively to raise the plight of Tibet throughout the world.

Sikyong Sangay sets his aims and objects high when visiting foreign countries. He is unafraid to meet with foreign leaders, senior officials and politicians to garner support for Tibet and the Tibetan people both politically and through other practical means.

As alumni of Harvard, Sikyong Sangay has an added advantage which he uses unashamedly in his favour to share the story of Tibet and the Tibetan people to influential people. He was invited by numerous high-profiled Think Tanks and delivered lectures on Tibet in various countries in addition to speaking in front of over tens of thousands of students, a move likely to engage new young supporters for Tibet.

Sikyong Sangay said that he wanted to build direct link between Washington and Dharamsala, which he did. The New York-based Office of Tibet was moved to the newly acquired office buildings in Washington.

Evidence of improved ties with the United States is visible after President Obama publicly supported the Middle-Way policy, championed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2014.

More frequent visits by international dignitaries to Dharamsala observed in recent years. Institutional grants, US government and other foreign grants increased during Sikyong Sangay’s administration to support the Tibetan refugee community.

Most importantly, relations with the Indian Government both at the central and the states level have developed further under the incumbent administration. Thanks to the amazing work of Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his star colleague Kalon Gyari Dolma, who fully supports the incumbent Sikyong’s re-election.

These all show that the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay is capable of garnering increased political as well as other practical support from countries such as the US, Canada and India, who are close allies of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Department of Home:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2015/10/home-kalon-thanks-govt-of-india-for-40-crore-financial-aid/

The FRR Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has recently provided a grant-in-aid of Rs. 40 Crore for a period of 5 years commencing from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 to the extent of Rs. 8 crore per annum. The aid is provided to supplement the administrative expenses incurred by Tibetan settlements in India.

This is an amazing work of the CTA’s Department of Home towards the sustenance of the Tibetan settlements in India.

Department of Education:

  • Increased scholarships for Tibetan students in India, Nepal and Bhutan;
  • Increased and reserved scholarships for Tibetan students in Nepal

What it shows is that the Sangay’s administration can raise funds to support the education of young Tibetan students in colleges or universities with a long term goal to create a self-reliant community, once educated/qualified.

The previous yearly scholarships of 150 for college/university students, is now increased to over 630 scholarships per year. This is a massive increase!

Department of Finance:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2015/03/state-of-cta-finance-is-good/ )

In four and half years, the CTA budget has increased by over 100%. That is amazing achievement. In 2010, the annual CTA budget was just over 1 billion Indian rupees. In 2015-2016, the CTA budget increased to just over 2 billion Indian rupees. In 2016-2017, the CTA budget will increase to 2.2 billion Indian rupees.

The incumbent Sikyong recently stated that based on needs of the exiled community and from his past record, he is confident of sourcing new untapped funds to reach the annual budget to 2.5 billion (2500 million) Indian rupees by the end of the next Sikyong’s office term.

Department of Security:

Securing enhanced security services for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in human resource as well as financial and high-end technologies that enable the landing of plane ferrying His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Gaggal airport in the outskirt of Dharamsala during the poor weather from the concerned State and Central governments is a massive contribution.

Department of Health:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2016/01/tibetan-medicare-system-tms-announces-70-subsidy-to-the-most-vulnerable-sections-of-the-tibetan-population-in-india/ )

“In 2009 CTA survey, it was found that over 45% of the Tibetan exile community suffers from diseases such as Cancer, Tuberculosis, Liver cirrhosis, Diabetes and heart diseases, which require a high degree of secondary and tertiary care. Lack of an adequate healthcare coverage has been a major cause of high mortality as well as a primary cause of poverty and financial insecurity amongst the community.

Under the leadership of the Kashag of Honorable Sikyong Dr.Lobsang Sangay, the Department of Health had launched the implementation of TMS Health Plan on 1st April, 2012. Since then, TMS is being implemented successfully, for close to four years now and has provided an equitable and comprehensive healthcare coverage to the Tibetans living in India. During last four years, 49,000 Tibetans have enrolled in the TMS and more than 2000 have availed the benefits till date.  However, more participation of the Tibetan public is crucial to build TMS stronger and self-reliant; and to pre-empt financial constraints faced by the Tibetans during medical emergencies.

The revised TMS Health Plan got operational from 1st April 2015 and aims to further strengthen health care mechanisms by providing sustainability to the existing TMS Health plan. With this, the revised TMS Health Plan proposes to cover all the exile Tibetan population in India.”

Conclusion

Based on these findings, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay has finally earned my vote in 2016! Although I extend my best wishes to both candidates but I will be praying for the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay’s victory in this forthcoming election which will be held on 20th March.

In the next five years, I would like to see Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay to complete his unfinished tasks and pursue more political as well as related practical support for Tibet and the Tibetan people from Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

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*Postscript: Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay formed a great Kashag team in 2011. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag. It is a blow to the Sangay camp as Chhoyang’s resignation comes at a critical moment of weeks before the final election which is to be held on 20 March. The erstwhile Kalon chose to submit her resignation on a weekend by visiting the Sikyong’s residence. She immediately called a press conference after tendering her resignation to the Sikyong.

In politics, resignations, back-stabbing and defection take place. It’s nothing unusual but the calm and unshaken Sikyong Sangay knows how to handle the situation. After the urgent meeting of his Kashag team on the same day of Chhoyang’s resignation, the incumbent Sikyong called a press conference and updated the latest development to the public.

Many speculated implosion within Dr Lobsang Sangay’s Kashag team after Kasur Chhoyang’s resignation but the remaining Kalons reassured their full support and trust in the incumbent Sikyong Sangay for his outstanding leadership as well as for his re-election.

Days later Kasur Chhoyang released a written document outlining qualities of a Sikyong. Chhoyang said that she supports the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering as the next Sikyong. There is no doubt that her defection is a carefully planned political move to take vengeance against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay. It may well be that she knew Sangay was not going to reappoint her as a Kalon in the next Kashag.

To be fair we do not know the ins and outs of the situations and decision that led Kasur Chhoyang to resign from the incumbent Kashag but I did learn from a non-Tibetan a few years ago that Chhoyang was unhappy in her role as a Kalon at the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).

One can safely conclude that Kasur Chhoyang was unhappy with the Sikyong and therefore she carefully planned her defection for weeks, if not for months, to disrupt Sangay’s re-election. I do not think Sikyong Sangay expected this unpleasant news at the critical moment but this betrayal did shock Chhoyang’s other former colleagues.

 

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Useful Links:

https://lobsangsangay.wordpress.com/meet-dr-lobsang-sangay/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobsang_Sangay

http://www.sikyong2016.com/biography-of-penpa-tsering

General Election 2015: How do immigrants from Britain’s smallest minorities feel about one of the hottest issues affecting the polls?

The immigration debate has fixated on hotspots such as Eastern Europe. So how do new arrivals from Tibet, Tristan da Cunha and other countries feel when they land on these shores?

Simon Hemelryk

tsering

Tsering Passang, Tibetan Charity sponsorship co-ordinator, 39. Now in Bexley, Passang has lived in Britain since 1996

Tsering Passang: ‘It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities’ (David Vintiner)

‘Though I am Tibetan, I was born and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. My father, a nomad, had fled the Chinese regime.

“The Tibet Relief Fund was organising scholarships for young Tibetans to come and study at Weston College in Somerset, and I was lucky enough to get one. I did a BTEC diploma in computer studies.

“I think meeting me was a bit of a culture shock for some people in Weston-super-Mare. I had to explain to them that Tibet was the place with the Himalayas and the Dalai Lama. But that didn’t worry me. After all, as a Buddhist, I was ignorant about Christianity when I arrived here.

“I’ve read about racism in Britain in the papers, but I’ve not encountered it myself. I have easy access to lots of Buddhist centres and temples here to practise my beliefs, and I’ve never sensed any religious tension. Sometimes you might have teenagers throwing something at a bus you’re on. But when you’re a teenager, you’re just playing; you don’t mean anything by it.

“It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities. Nigel Farage and Romanians, for instance. If we focus on the positive stories and people in these communities, it will give their members more role models – and that will benefit everyone.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in and contribute to this country. I now work for the Tibet Relief Fund and I’m chairman of the Tibetan Community UK association. There are only about 700 Tibetans living here, but we are trying to share our Buddhist teachings, language and performing art and, as a peace-loving nation, I think we’ll help build a stronger society. I’m a proud British Tibetan!”

‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ Initiative Launched at London Imperial Hotel

The Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust was founded by a small dedicated members and supporters of Tibetan community in Britain in 1986. Ever since its founding, the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust has been focussing its work primarily in the field of education for Tibetan refugees. The Trust is being managed by successive elected members of Tibetan Community in Britain Council, who serve a two-year term on pro bono.

Over the past 29 years, the Trust has raised and spent £400,000 to support the education of Tibetan refugee children in the Indian sub-continent. The Trust’s main partner agencies are the Department of Education (Central Tibetan Administration) and the Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society based in Dharamsala, northern India.

In recent years, the Trust has been sending between £15,000 and £20,000 annually to its partner agencies to support the education of Tibetan children. Currently, the Trust supports 86 Tibetan refugee children in various schools.

‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ Initiative Launched

The incumbent Council of Tibetan Community in Britain recently launched a major initiative – ‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ to drive their community members to adopt child sponsorship through the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust. To lead by example, each Council member committed to sponsor a Tibetan child.

The formal launch of this important community initiative was initially planned for the Benefit Dinner with Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Central Tibetan Administration on 1stFebruary at the London Imperial Hotel. Despite the cancellation of Sikyong’s UK trip at the eleventh hour, the Council went ahead with the official launch, which was blessed and declared open by Mr Chonpel Tsering, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama based at The Office of Tibet, London.

Dr Tamdin Sither Bradley, who is currently serving on the Council as Sponsorship Secretary, is aiming to double the child sponsorships over the next two years. Soon after the official launch of the ‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ initiative, members and supporters of Tibetan Community in Britain committed to sponsor 25 children through the Trust. At least further 20 members expressed their interest as well as agreed to consider their support.

Great Success and Thank you!

The elected Council regards the launch of this good cause a historical event with great success, and extends sincere gratitude to all those who have committed to support the education of Tibetan refugee children through the Trust.

Afternoon Tea with Supporters
 As a token of appreciation, the Council of Tibetan Community in Britain hosted an Afternoon Tea for supporters of Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust on Sunday, 1st February 2015 at the Imperial Hotel, London.

We invited child sponsors, founding trustees and former sponsorship secretaries, who have been supporting the work of Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust over the past 29 years.

Since its inception in 1986, the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust has raised and spent £400,000 for Tibetan children’s education in India and Nepal. Our partner agencies are he Department of Education (Central Tibetan Administration) and Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society based in Dharamsala, northern India.

Tsering Passang (Mr)
Chairman
Tibetan Community in Britain & Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust

(This material is taken from Tibetan Community UK’s website. For full link please visit: https://tibetancommunityuk.net/upcoming-events/tibetan-community-in-britain-tibetans-helping-tibetans/

Briton Radio Broadcaster Remembered for Service in Tibet

Briton Radio Broadcaster Remembered for Service in Tibet

(28 September 2013, London)

Image
(Photo credit: Tibetan Community in Britain – Tibetan Prayer Service at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London)

Sir Robert Ford, who was serving the Tibetan Government when Communist Chinese forces began their invasion, died in London on 20th September 2013 at the age of 90. The Englishman was working as a radio officer in Kham for the government of Tibet in the 1940s, in charge of setting up Tibet’s first broadcasting station and training Tibetan radio operators.

On hearing the sad news, members of Tibetan Community in Britain organised a special prayer service led by Geshe Tashi Tsering, Spiritual Teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London on Thursday 26th September. A few members of Robert Ford’s family attended the Tibetan prayer service.

Whilst conveying condolences, Thubten Samdup, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid a fitting tribute to the Briton by saying, “Sir Robert Ford had a special relationship with Tibet and the Tibetan people. He had extensively engaged in raising the plight of Tibetan people after his retirement from the British civil service through public lectures. He was the last living Westerner who witnessed Tibet before she was invaded by China.” Samdup then delivered messages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan Political Leader.

Robert Ford presented with ICT's Light of Truth award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April 2013
(Photo: ICT – Robert Ford presented with ICT’s Light of Truth award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April 2013)

In his personal message to Sir Robert Ford’s family, The Dalai Lama wrote, “On this sad occasion, I join Robert Ford’s many other friends and well-wishers in paying affectionate respect to a man who lived a long and meaningful life.

“Robert Ford occupies a special place in the history of Tibet. Not only was he the first Englishman employed as an official by the Tibetan Government then, but he later became the only European to be captured by Chinese forces. He was imprisoned for his service to Tibet and held for nearly five years until his expulsion in 1955.

“His memoir ‘Captured in Tibet’ gave its readers a clear understanding of the tragedy that befell Tibet. This record of his time in the Land of Snow had the great value of being a realistic eye-witness account in which he revealed not only the Tibetan qualities he admired, but also the short comings that contributed to our vulnerability.”

Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay wrote, “Tibet has lost one of its truest and oldest friends. He was one among the very few Westerners who witnessed a free and independent Tibet, having worked for the Government of Tibet as a radio broadcaster in 1947. He will be remembered by Tibetans for being a tireless advocate for the Tibetan cause for over half a century.”

Appreciating the special Tibetan prayer service, Giles Ford, one of the two sons of Robert, said, “My father spent some of the happiest days of his life in Tibet … a free and independent Tibet. The Tibetan people were very close to my father’s heart. I know that he would be so honoured and touched by this wonderful ceremony tonight and I am sure he is smiling down on us.

“My father leaves a huge gap in our lives … but thankfully we have so many special memories to cherish. One of those is the wonderful 90th birthday celebration the Tibetan community gave my father. He was so very, very moved by the occasion and the affection shown to him.”

Acknowledging the Briton’s contribution, Tenzin Samphel, Chairman of Tibetan Community in Britain, said, “We cannot forget our dedicated supporter. We pay tribute and recognise Robert Ford’s contribution to the Tibetan cause”. Earlier this year, The Office of Tibet hosted a reception in celebration of Robert Ford’s 90th birthday in London.

In April, Sir Robert Ford received International Campaign for Tibet’s (ICT) Light of Truth award from the Dalai Lama in acknowledgment of his tireless advocacy on behalf of Tibet for more than half a century. After accepting the award, Mr. Ford said: “I am a member of a rather exclusive club of Westerners who have the privilege and good fortune to see, know and witness a free Tibet before 1950. I spent some of the happiest days of my life in Tibet. The Tibet that I found when I first went there in 1945 was vastly different to the Tibet of today. It was an independent country with its own government, its own language, culture, customs and way of life. … To me as an outsider, the most remarkable feature of Tibetans was their devotion to their religion and their unswerving support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Another striking feature was their remarkable self-reliance both in the material and the spiritual sense. Tibet valued its self-imposed isolation and independence. Its simple wish was to be left alone to run its own affairs in the way that it thought best.”

Ford is survived by his two sons, Martin and Giles, and three grandchildren, Emma, Candice and Nicholas.

(This report is compiled by Tsering Passang for Tibetan Community in Britain.)

< End >

Brief biography

Robert Ford was born on 27 March 1923, in Staffordshire, England. He served in the Royal Air Force as a radio technician during World War II in England and in India, and in 1945 he joined the British Mission in Lhasa as a Radio Officer. There is a unique historical relationship between Britain and Tibet because Britain signed treaties and conducted diplomatic and military relations with an independent Tibet, and so had an influence that no other Western country enjoyed. At the time, British influence across the Himalayas was an important counterweight to China’s for Tibet.

In late 1945, Mr. Ford transferred to the Political Office in Gangtok, Sikkim and remained there until 1947, when India became independent. It was then that he was able to fulfil an ambition to return to Tibet. He was asked by the Government of Tibet to join its service, to start Tibet’s first broadcasting station, train Tibetan radio operators and set up a radio communications network throughout Tibet. He was the first Westerner to be employed by the Government of Tibet and given an official rank. In Britain, newspapers at the time dubbed Ford “the loneliest Briton in the world” because of his remote posting.

He was captured by advancing PLA troops in 1950 after an earthquake cut off a planned escape route. During nearly five years of imprisonment, Ford was subjected to interrogation and ‘thought reform’ and was in constant fear of execution. He spent four years in jail before the Chinese allowed him to write a letter home to his mother telling her he was alive. After being sentenced in 1954 to a 10-year term for “espionage,” he was released in 1955 and expelled.

Following his release, in 1957 Ford joined the British Diplomatic Service. During his career he served in the Foreign Office in London and at various posts around the world; in Vietnam, Indonesia, the USA, Morocco, Angola, France, Sweden, and finally as UK Consul-General in Geneva, Switzerland, from where he retired in 1983. In 1982 Mr Ford was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

Ford married Monica Tebbett, a childhood friend from a nearby village in Staffordshire who was at the time working for the United Nations in New York, in 1956. “We met again and fell in love,” said Ford, according to a local village website. They were married for 55 years.

Ford remained active in retirement, enjoying hiking and travel, and only stopped skiing at the age of 86. His retirement also allowed him more time for active support to the Tibetan cause. He was a council member of the Tibet Society and remained a Vice President for the rest of his life. He wrote extensively and lectured on all aspects of Tibetan and Chinese affairs in the UK, the rest of Europe, Australia, and the United States.

In 1996, Ford organised the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and a member of the British Royal family. His Holiness met the late Queen Mother together with Ford at Clarence House.

(Biography credit: ICT)

OBITUARY: ROBERT FORD (1923-2013)

OBITUARY: ROBERT FORD (1923-2013)

By Tenzin Zega (UK)

The only Inji to serve as an employee of an independent Tibetan government, we Tibetans owe an immense sense of gratitude to Robert Ford (or “Phodo” as he was called in Tibet) who died on Friday morning, the 20th of September, at the age of 90.

He was of course the famous radio operator in Chamdo responsible for connecting the town to the capital, Lhasa. But Ford was much more than that. Ford loved the Tibetan people and wanted to help the country with his skills. He forged strong friendships with progressive Tibetan minds like Jigme Taring and Dzasa Tsarong to usher Tibet into 20th century. The Tibetan Government wanted him to set up a radio network throughout Tibet.

Indeed, had his advice been heeded about installing a forward radio post closer to the border at Riwoche, it is possible that Chamdo would not have fallen so quickly. One only wishes it was the more open Lhalu, rather than Ngaboe who had to face the invading Chinese as Governor General of Kham, because Lhalu and Ford had a more open working relationship. Ngaboe, on the other hand, according to Ford, was distant and formal. As a Tibetan, one can only feel ashamed by the way Ford was abandoned by Ngaboe at Chamdo to the advancing Chinese army.

Sir Robert Ford with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Sir Robert Ford with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Photo: ICT)

A grammar school boy brought up in Burton-on-Trent in England, Ford worked as a radio technician during World War II and in 1945 joined the British Mission in Lhasa as a radio operator, having his first audience with a 11 year old Kundun. Thanks to India gaining independence, Ford returned to Tibet in 1947 to be employed by the Tibetan Government.

Like the other injis in Tibet at the same time, such as Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter, Ford was lured by the ‘mystique and adventure’ of Tibet – although he did introduce the tango to Lhasa! These injis – although from very different backgrounds – were united in their love for the land and the people and had a common desire to modernise Tibet whilst retaining her unique culture. Indeed, while receiving the Light of Truth Award from the Dalai Lama in April 2013, Ford said that his time in Tibet had been “the happiest years” of his life.

Newspapers at the time described him as “the loneliest Briton in the world”. Of course, Ford disputed that, saying he was having the “adventure” of his life – until, of course, China’s invasion. Unlike other Injis who socialised with the upper echelons of Tibetan society (mainly in the capital), Ford’s posting in Chamdo meant that he mingled with ordinary Tibetans and could keenly observe their customs and manners.

He was a true friend of Tibet who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tibetan people in their hour of need. Although Ford was offered the chance to leave for England before the 1950 Chinese invasion, he stayed – out of loyalty to Tibet – a decision which subsequently cost him nearly five years in jail in China. He suffered repeated interrogation and thought reform, living in constant fear of death, until his release and expulsion in 1955. He had been accused of being a spy for the British and causing the death of a pro-Chinese Tibetan Lama. His imprisonment would have perhaps been reduced had he revealed his ‘suspicions’ about the real perpetrator but Ford – true to his character – endured the suffering rather than betray a Tibetan. Unsurprisingly, he has taken the secret to his grave.

He wrote about this experience in “Captured in Tibet” published in 1957 (and republished in the USA in 1990).

After the Tibet phase of his life, Ford served as a diplomat in various posts around the world ending his career as Consul–General in Geneva, Switzerland before retiring in 1983. In 1982 he had been awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). During his retirement he resumed his active campaign for Tibetan freedom: Ford was visibly moved when the Tibetan community in the UK celebrated his 90th birthday earlier in the year at Tibet House (London) in honour of all the work he had done for Tibet.

He is survived by his two sons Martin and Giles.

Yak brings Tibet message to London on his bike

Yak brings Tibet message to London on his bike

A Tibetan nomad completes his solo cycling tour of 13 European countries – covering over 5000 miles, and then leaves for Japan to further his mission to highlight China’s abuse of human rights in his homelands.

Rinpo Yak with Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North
Rinpo Yak with Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North

London, 13 August 2013:

He is 42, father of two young teenagers. He says he is in good health and loves cycling. Since 2000, Rinpo Yak has cycled across 44 of the 50 states in the US – covering over 8,400 miles. In March this year, coinciding with the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising, Yak set out his latest global solo cycling tour from Brussels, the European Union’s Headquarters.

Since 2009, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) of Amdo Province in eastern Tibet has witnessed the largest number of Tibetans resorting to self-immolations in protest of Chinese government’s misguided policy on Tibet. Showing solidarity with his brethren in Tibet, Yak said, “I am a Tibetan from Ngaba. I have been living in the US with my family since 1998 after fleeing Tibet into Nepal the year before. My main mission for undertaking this global cycling tour is to raise the deplorable condition of human rights in Tibet whilst carrying the messages of over 120 self-immolated Tibetans, who died calling for freedom and the return of our Spiritual Leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to the international community.”

In Europe, Yak cycled across 13 countries where he met with over 120 public figures such as parliamentarians, government officials and human rights advocates. Yak arrived in Britain two weeks ago after cycling across Europe, including Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Holland, Spain and Italy. London was the final stop in his European leg of the cycling tour, where he had meetings with government officials, parliamentarian and NGOs representatives. In addition to media interviews, Yak also met with local Tibetan communities and Tibet support groups across Europe.

On his arrival in the British capital on 2 August, Yak gave a live interview with Washington-based Voice of America’s (VOA) Tibetan Language programme from their London studio. Yak said that the European countries were showing overwhelming support and solidarity with the Tibetan people, and the public figures he met with were also candid about the growing influence of China’s economic power, indicating clear challenges to the Tibetan struggle in the years ahead.

Honouring Yak’s arrival, Thubten Samdup, London-based Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and members of Tibetan Community in Britain hosted a cordial reception at The Office of Tibet. They applauded Yak’s individual initiative for the Tibetan cause, which was very inspiring and motivating.

Yak then took part in the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle festival on the following day, which organisers estimated some 50,000 cyclists joined in the streets of London. Yak stood out from the cyclists as he was flying Tibetan national flag on his bike!

During the week, Yak participated in an action protest jointly organised by Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet outside the InterContinental Westminster Hotel in central London. The two leading Tibet groups have been urging the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to withdraw from their involvements in ‘The InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise’, which is opening soon in Lhasa. The Tibet campaigning groups maintain that the IHG presence and its naming of the hotel as the “Lhasa Paradise” is a ‘propaganda gift to the Chinese regime’ which is responsible for gross human rights abuses throughout Tibet, and severe repression, surveillance and denial of human rights in Lhasa in particular. The campaigners also said that the Chinese authorities may use the hotel and its business facilities to discuss and implement further repressive measures in Tibet.

Whilst acknowledging their Tibet campaigning work, Yak visited offices of several groups, including Free Tibet and Tibet Society, and urged them to continue their support for Tibetan people. They also helped Yak with facilitating meetings and media contact.

Rinpo Yak with Amnesty International HQ officials (Wednesday 7th August)
Rinpo Yak with Amnesty International HQ officials (Wednesday 7th August)

The main highlights of Yak’s London engagements were his meetings with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Member of Parliament, Amnesty International and the BBC World Service. Accompanied by London-based Tibetans, Rinpo Yak urged the Foreign Office to note Tibetan people’s aspirations when dealing with the Chinese government. He further urged Britain impress upon China to review its hardline policies in Tibet, address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people through dialogue and allow unfettered access to Tibet for the media and UN. The Tibetan delegate reiterated that Tibetans in Tibet were simply calling for their freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Despite the British Parliament in summer recess at present, Jeremy Corbyn, an MP for Islington North, met Rinpo Yak with several Tibetans at the weekend in his constituency. The Labour MP, who has previously raised Tibet issue in the Parliament, was quoted in the local newspaper – The Islington Tribune, by saying, “It was a pleasure to welcome Rinpo to Islington as part of his cycling tour around the world for human rights and against cultural suppression in Tibet.

“We have a locally based Tibet support campaign which I am happy to work with during their lobby of parliament on the treatment of Tibetan people, and as a fellow cyclist I admire his stamina in visiting 12 counties in Europe and over 40 states in the USA as part of his world tour to highlight the treatment of the people of Tibet.”

Yak spent some time with Temtsel Hao, producer at the BBC World Service Chinese programme. Later, the BBC World Service published an article about the meeting on its Chinese website. A local newspaper also reported Yak’s stopover in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, south London, which is home to nearly 100 Tibetans.

At the meetings, Yak asked concerned officials to write messages of support and pledges to act in his notebooks, which he plans to present to the Dalai Lama and then the European Union and United Nations.

The Tibetan Community in Britain, Greenwich Tibetan Association and Kailash Momo Tibetan Restaurant hosted receptions, farewell dinners and made donations to Rinpo Yak. Individual Tibetans offered khatas and spontaneous donations in support of Yak’s exemplary mission for the Tibetan cause.

After his successful UK and European cycling tour, Yak left for Japan on the morning of 12 August to continue his mission. From Japan, Yak plans to cycle to Taiwan and possibly China. His final destination is India, where Yak hopes to receive an audience with the Dalai Lama.

(This report is compiled by Tsering Passang, who assisted Rinpo Yak’s key engagements in London with Lodup Gyatso.)

Signs of the Dalai Lama: Is China’s Tibet Policy Changing?

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By  @TIMEWorldJuly 02, 2013

Can he be seen or not? Last week, different organizations that follow Tibet, including Radio Free Asia, reported that in certain Tibetan regions, local authorities appeared to be allowing images of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, to be openly venerated for religious purposes. The seeming policy shift in parts of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces with large Tibetan populations was seen as possible evidence of a gentler approach to the troubled region by the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief Xi Jinping. (Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, was once the hard-line party head for Tibet and his decade in power as China’s top leader was marked by continued repression on the Tibetan plateau.)

Adding to the positive indications, London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said on June 27 that local officials told monks at a monastery in Lhasa, the tightly controlled capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), that the Dalai Lama’s image could now be publicly displayed for the first time in 17 years. This report provoked particular interest because government suppression of Tibetan spiritual and cultural expression has been harsher in the TAR than in Tibetan parts of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

But on June 28, China’s Foreign Ministry told journalists in Beijing that there had been no change at all in the country’s Tibet policy. On July 1, Free Tibet reported that Tibetan residents of Qinghai province had received a text message on their cellphones saying that the government’s policy toward the Dalai Lama — whom Chinese officials have called everything from “a wolf in monk’s clothing” to a cult leader akin to David Koresh of Waco fame — remained the same. The text message, according to a translation provided by Free Tibet, was attributed to the spokesperson of the Qinghai Nationality and Religious Affairs Committee and said:

In the recent days, some people have spread rumors online, by SMS and on Wechat [a Chinese social-media service] saying a new policy has been introduced in the Tibetan Area [of Qinghai]. We clearly announce that there is no change in the policy of CCP and Government toward the 14th Dalai [Lama]. The policy is consistent and steady. So the rumors spread by some people are only exaggeration. It is their purpose to distort what they see and disturb the minds of the people. They intend to ruin development and security in the Tibetan area. Relying on the care and help given by Central Government for many years, economy and society in Tibetan areas of our province have been comprehensively improved. The life of farmers and nomads is conspicuously improved. The people are enjoying protection of freedom of faith and of the regular activities of religious practice. We should cherish this good state, which is rare to achieve. We should not make rumors, should not believe rumors, and should not spread rumors but should develop the economy of Tibetan area in our province and should spontaneously try our best to guard the social security of Tibetan area.

The text message was sent eight days before the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, a date around which Tibetans have rallied despite earlier government diktats banning them from celebrating the date. Since 2009, around 120 Tibetans have burned themselves in protest of the Chinese government, which they accuse of heavy-handed repression. Many of those who have died in fiery dissent have chosen as their final words praise for the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed rebellion against the Chinese state. Last month the 77-year-old Dalai Lama said the self-immolations have had little ability to influence Beijing’s Tibet policy but that he understood the desperation that has led everyone from monks to young mothers to douse themselves with petrol and strike a match.

For its part, the Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama (and his supporters) of orchestrating the self-immolations, a charge he denies. Beijing says that the CCP has dramatically improved the living standard of Tibetans since its troops marched onto the high plateau in 1950. Certain Tibetan areas are, indeed, profiting from a mining boom, and cities in the region have expanded quickly. But some Tibetans say that members of China’s Han ethnic majority, who have poured into the region in recent years looking for economic opportunities, have profited disproportionately from that growth.

A Human Rights Watch report released on June 27 estimated that since 2006 more than 2 million Tibetans have been relocated, often forcibly, as nomads and farmers are pushed off the land and into resettlement enclaves or so-called New Socialist Villages. In late June, the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the CCP, announced that the extensive reconstruction of Lhasa’s old town, where some of Tibetan Buddhism’s most sacred monuments exist, had the support of 96% of locals. Nevertheless, 100,000 people worldwide have signed a petition asking UNESCO, which has designated Lhasa a World Heritage site, to investigate reports that the city’s cultural legacy is being destroyed.

And what of the Dalai Lama’s image? When I was in a Tibetan part of western Sichuan in late 2011 to report on the rise of self-immolations, I saw his photos displayed discreetly in countless places: in small provisions stores, in monks’ quarters, on cellphone screens, even in large temples where Han Chinese tourists flock to. No one I talked to seemed clear as to whether his image was formally banned or not. But that didn’t stop them from quietly worshipping his picture.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups who follow Tibet have been hampered by the strangulated flow of information from the high plateau. Often when a self-immolation happens, phone and Internet access to the area is compromised. For such a vast, lightly populated region, the security apparatus in Tibet is fearsome. Still, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, the director of Free Tibet, has sounded a guardedly optimistic note: “For the present, the regional government believes it is necessary to deny any such change in policy,” she says. “But this does not preclude the possibility that a change may be introduced later.”

Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/07/02/signs-of-the-dalai-lama-is-chinas-tibet-policy-changing/#ixzz2Y5aleF99

British MP condemns China’s human rights abuses in Tibet

Teresa condemns China’s human rights abuses in Tibet  and raises concerns about the Panchen Lama on his 24th Birthday

April 25, 2013 by Teresa Pearce MP

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Teresa yesterday met with Tsering Passang, a member of Tibetan Community in Britain, to discuss his concerns about China’s continued human rights abuses in Tibet.

Mr Passang explained that the situation in Tibet is extremely distressing, and is characterised by continued human rights abuses.  He explained that the instances of self-immolation are increasing as the Tibetan people struggle to fight against their oppression.

He also explained that today is the 24th birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama, who was taken from his home at the age of 6-years-old. He has not been seen since this time, and nobody yet knows what happened to him.

Teresa said:

“Human rights abuses in Tibet cannot be ignored by the international community. The introduction of oppressive policies, and the unfair oppression of legitimate protests, cannot continue. The increase in cases of self-immolation by Tibetan people in protest against their repression shows how desperate their plight is, and how crucial it is to peacefully resolve this situation as soon as possible.

I am very concerned about the welfare of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama, who was taken by the Chinese authorities when he was just six-years-old. This means he could have been the world’s youngest political prisoner.

Today marks his 24th birthday, and neither he, nor his family, have been seen since the day he was taken. I think it is crucial that pressure groups, governments and other international bodies continue to press China to answer questions about his whereabouts.

The Tibetan people should be given all the support necessary to ensure they can enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted. Religious freedom should be a right, not a privilege.

I have previously written to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to ask what action is being taken to support the Tibetan people, and I will continue to press the Government to work effectively with other concerned governments to resolve the grievances of the Tibetan people, and to ensure that their human rights are respected.”

BBC Radio 4 Appeal for Tibet Relief Fund

Tibet Relief Fund

Duration: 4 minutes
First broadcast: Sunday 28 October 2012

Tsering Passang presents the Radio 4 Appeal for Tibet Relief Fund
Reg Charity:1061834
To Give:
– Freephone 0800 404 8144
– Freepost BBC Radio 4 Appeal, mark the back of the envelope Tibet Relief Fund.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nk24b