He was born in Tibet in 1949 and fled to India in 1959. Among the first of the Tibetan children to get modern education in exile, he finished his schooling from Delhi University. Thereafter, he began serving the TibetanGovernment-in-Exile, starting as an official in the Lugsung Samdubling Tibetan Settlement and slowly moving up to the position of a Kalon (Minister). Following his retirement from Dharamsala’s service, he joinedthe Tibetan service of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.
“I was greatly saddened upon learning of the news, particularly since he was not that old, said Kasur Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama, in a message of condolence broadcast by VOA Tibetan. ” But I recalled what His Holiness the Dalai Lama said when my own father passed away. HisHoliness said age is not important as what matters is how meaningful you have been able to make your life while you were alive,” Gyari said. “I have worked with Dawa la for a long time and was a friend and can say with certainty that his life was meaningful. He served His Holiness the Dalai Lama loyally and always considered the Tibetan public’s interest. Above all, he was a gentleman,” Gyari added.
Kasur Lodi Gyari is also the Executive Chairman of the InternationalCampaign for Tibet.
John Buescher, head of VOA Tibetan, remembered him as “a fine gentleman”.A wonderful colleague, a hard and careful worker, who took great care with the news stories he worked on.” He was a joy to work with because of his tremendous energy and professional integrity. Who lightened many of our long workdays with his unfailing sense of humor. We were fortunate indeed to have him with us.”
Mr. Tsewang Phuntso, came down from New York on behalf of Representative Tashi Wangdi of the Office of Tibet, to offer condolences to the bereaved family. Bhuchung Tsering offered condolences to the family on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet. Members of the Board of the Capital Area Tibetan Association also offered their condolences. The Tibetan community in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan gathered at the residence to offer condolences and conducted an all-night prayer vigil.
Kasur Dawa Tsering is survived by his wife Chime Lhamo Tsering and two sons, Thupten Monlam and Tenzin Chopak.
Following is an article on Kasur Dawa Tsering that appeared in the April-May 1999 issue of Free Spirit Magazine, a magazine published in New York.
Dawa Tsering, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to theAmericas, is also the head of the Office of Tibet in New York, the diplomatic liaison between the Tibetan government-in-exile and the governments of the Western hemisphere. He would be known as the Ambassador from Tibet if his people were not in exile from their country, and their government regarded as illegitimate. He has held this job for over two years now, having come to office following Rinchen Dharlo’s eight-year term. Like the man he represents and like Tibet itself, he is barred from the United Nations, without even nongovernmental or observer status, and must resort to behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
One of Dawa Tsering’s public roles is to read the Dalai Lama’s AnnualStatement on the occasion of the anniversary of the Tibetan NationalUprising. This year’s March 10th political rally, held as usual across the street from the UN-the 40th since the uprising in Lhasa-was the third time he has performed this duty. His readings are unremittingly intense,disclosing an impassioned dedication to his cause.
He was eleven years old when he left Tibet in 1959, immediately after the uprising and the subsequent crackdown. His mother had died when he was very young, and his father had stayed behind, confined to a labor camp administered by the Chinese.
It was his other, older relatives who made the decision to escape and take him with them. The family had been closely acquainted with two elderly lamas living as hermits in the nearby mountains. They agreed among themselves that the two men were venerable gurus, not only for all Tibetans but for all people-and they knew what would happen to the lamas when they were inevitably discovered by the Chinese. So they explained the situation to them and included them in the escape party.
Dawa Tsering’s memories of the journey through wartime Tibet are vivid.”We saw a lot of Tibetan guerrillas on the move,” he says, “and Chinese troop movements, and then encounters and clashes taking place. Fortunately we were close to Bhutan, so that within 24 hours we were across theBhutanese border. The high mountains were all under snow, and we saw hundreds of corpses of horses and donkeys, their baggage loads thrown,because they were not able to carry them in those mountains. I don’t knowhow many had gone ahead of us. We brought yaks for our loads.”
When their party of seven arrived in Bhutan, they were contained in aBhutanese military camp, along with many other Tibetan refugees who took the same route. Once the group numbered more than a hundred, they were sent on a month-long march to India. Dawa’s family ended up in one of the road-construction camps that the Indian government had established for the refugees in the high Himalayan foothills.
When Tibetan officers from Dharamsala came to visit the camp, they took all the youngest children, including Dawa Tsering, back with them to theTibetan Children’s Village-a newly constructed orphanage and school, run by the Dalai Lama’s sister Tsering Dolma. From Dharamsala he was soon sent with the older children to Mussoorie, where they attended the Government of India’s Central School for Tibetans. Finishing there in 1969, he received a scholarship from the Indian government to complete his college education at Delhi University.
Answering the Tibetan government’s call to service for Tibetans who could speak English, he then spent five years working in the administration of new Tibetan settlements in south India. He served for many years beyond that as secretary for a Tibetan cooperative society that assisted newly immigrated farmers in growing and marketing their crops.
Eventually in 1981 he was moved to Dharamsala to work for the government-in-exile. Until 1989, he worked in the Finance Department, and as a trustee of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Charitable Trust for the benefit of Tibetan refugees. In 1991, he was appointed by His Holiness himself as chairman of the Public Service Commission in Dharamsala.
Dawa Tsering rose fast in the ranks of the Tibetan government. After three years, he was nominated by the Dalai Lama and confirmed by the TibetanParliament to replace one of the cabinet ministers-His Holiness’s elder brother, who had resigned. Once his term had ended, while he was still deciding whether to run for re-election, he was asked to replace Rinchen Dharlo as the Representative to the Americas, based in New York.
Headquartered in India, but with more than a dozen offices abroad, theOffice of Tibet raises Tibetan and human-rights issues with all 185 of theUN’s member countries and their foreign missions based in New York, as well as with the UN’s Human Rights Commission based in Geneva. The overarching thrust of Tibetan policy, as Dawa Tsering sees it, must reflect the current thinking of the Dalai Lama, described succinctly as”the middle path,” of dialogue and peaceful negotiation for “genuine autonomy.” At the same time, he says, the Office of Tibet must remain vigilant against compromises easily made in the politics of peace, which can lead to rationalizations for “constructive economic engagement” with flagrant human-rights abusers.
“Sometimes,” he says, “unfortunately, human-rights violations are construed as being secondary to business interests. We try to put pressure on governments with that kind of policy, so that at least they can’t ignore the human tragedies.”
During China’s Cultural Revolution in the ’60s and ’70s, he says, “most ofTibet’s monasteries were destroyed. Then, between 1979 and 1994, they actually started allowing Tibetan people some degree of religious freedom.Since 1994, however, the monasteries have come to be regarded as the centers of counterrevolutionary political activity-trying to ‘split’ Tibet from the ‘motherland.’ ”
“They have been ruthlessly suppressed,” he says, “in what China calls itsStrike Hard campaign. Hundreds and thousands of monks and nuns have been expelled from their monasteries. Many of them have been arrested and put in prison. Right now there are over 1,500 Tibetan political activists jailed in Chinese prisons in Tibet, and most of them are monks and nuns.They spend months, usually years, in arbitrary detention, without trial.There they are subjected to barbarous torture methods, and compelled to denounce His Holiness as a ‘splittist.’ ”
Chinese colonists-business entrepreneurs and military personnel-now dominate Tibet’s economy and its indigenous minority. The only way that aTibetan can hope to lift his or her economic circumstances beyond the level of degradation and despair is to learn to speak the Chinese language and pretend to renounce Tibetan ways. As a result, Tibetan culture insideTibet is dying a slow but inexorable death.
“It’s a very crucial moment in the Tibetan situation,” says Dawa Tsering.”We are struggling for our survival and our freedom, and we would hope that all reasonable, thinking people will support the Tibetan cause andHis Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is now internationally recognized as one of the peacemakers, not only for Tibet but all the world.”
In the years immediately following China’s invasion of Tibet – in 1959, 1961, and 1965 – three different resolutions on the genocidal conditions of the occupation were passed in the General Assembly of the United Nations,all of them emphasizing the right of the Tibetan people to cultural and religious freedom, and to self-determination. But since the People’sRepublic of China was admitted to the UN and given a seat on the SecurityCouncil, it has been able to block any resolution or action on Tibet with its single veto. In this, the year of the 50th anniversary of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, which is contained within theCharter of the United Nations, those who most flagrantly violate the human rights of the Tibetans are in a position to block the Universal Declaration from being implemented.
China is also able to prevent the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prizewinner, from entering the United Nations building, even as a tourist. The forum for international negotiation is locked down tight against Tibetan exiles. By reading aloud the statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama every March 10th, in the public park across from the United Nations building, Dawa Tsering makes the loudest noise he can in the cold shadow of its great glass slab.