Ambassador Holbrooke had a keen interest in Tibet, was a steadfast supporter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and considered Special Envoy Lodi Gyari among his friends. Ambassador Holbrooke, who visited Tibet three times, strongly supported the Dalai Lama’s efforts at reaching a negotiated settlement on Tibet with the Chinese leadership and often raised the issue with Chinese leaders.
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama and lead interlocutor in the dialogue process with China, said today: “I have been privileged to receive regular counsel from Ambassador Holbrooke in the course of my work. He was a champion of the rights of the Tibetan people, while serving both in and out of government.”
Ambassador Holbrooke supported the work of the International Campaign for Tibet, participating in ICT events, including the 1998 and 2005 Light of Truth Award ceremonies and in panel discussions on Tibet. Ambassador Holbrooke was unfaltering in his support for a peaceful resolution for Tibet and was concerned about the impact of Chinese policies in Tibet, such as the influx of Chinese migrants to Tibet. He spoke strongly against the railway from Golmud, Qinghai to Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, fearing it would intensify existing threats to the survival of the Tibetan Buddhist culture.
In 1999 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of his confirmation hearing to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Holbrooke said: “I believe that the Dalai Lama’s position has been misconstrued by some people in Beijing. And I believe a solution is possible that protects the rights – cultural, religious and personal rights – of the Tibetan people within the sovereignty of Beijing, which the Dalai Lama does not question. And within that framework, I will be available to work on that issue if I can, because I really care about it.”
In 2003, he gave a moving introduction to the Dalai Lama, concluding with the following appeal that resonates with an even greater urgency today: “The time has come for the new leaders of China to have a dialogue directly with the Dalai Lama. It is in their interest as well that he finally be allowed to return to his people, perhaps in a staged, step-by-step process that permits a Middle Way between confrontation and extinction. That Middle Way must be pursued, for all other courses are worse. And there is only one person who can achieve this, a man born some 68 years ago in a tiny village in Amdo, a man who embodies the principles of non-violence, the winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, one of the world¹s great religious leaders, but also a man whose greatest tasks and challenges and, I pray, for the sake of his people and the entire world a final success still lies ahead of him.”