As an activist and diplomat, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari inspired countless Tibetans and Tibet supporters
Free Tibet and Tibet Watch are saddened to learn of the passing yesterday of Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari (རྒྱ་རི་བློ་གྲོས་རྒྱལ་མཚན), the former Special Envoy to the Dalai Lama in the United States. He was 69 years old.
Born in Nyarong, eastern Tibet, in 1949, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari distinguished himself in the fields of Tibetan activism, governance and diplomacy. During his childhood in Tibet, he received a monastic education and was known by many as Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, ‘rinpoche’ being a mark of respect among Tibetans who recognised him as a reincarnate Buddhist teacher.
He lived through the Chinese invasion, but escaped with his family to India in 1959. While in India, he helped found the Tibetan Youth Congress, which has gone on to become one of the largest Tibetan organisations in the world. Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari served as editor of Tibetan Freedom Press and then established the Voice of Tibet, now called Tibetan Review. Between 1991 and 2014 he oversaw the work of the International Campaign for Tibet, first as the organisation’s President and then as its Executive Director.
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari’s work with the Tibetan government in exile saw him become the youngest ever Speaker of the Parliament, aged 30. He would go on to serve as a member of the Kashag, Tibet’s governing council, and from 1990 as Special Envoy for the Dalai Lama in Washington DC. Between 2002 and 2010, he worked on the negotiations over Tibet with China, leading the Tibetan delegation through nine rounds of high-level dialogue. Upon his retirement in 2012, the US Senate passed a resolution honouring his service and commending his achievements.
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari spent his last years living in Virginia. He was known to be battling liver cancer, with Tibetan media last week reporting that he was in hospital in San Francisco and that his condition was critical. He died on Monday at 6am Pacific Daylight Time, surrounded by his family.
Among those who paid tribute to Lodi were Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The Central Tibetan Administration held a prayer service between 2pm and 3pm local time in his honour today. Following the service, the CTA’s departmental offices were closed as a mark of respect.
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari is survived by his wife, Dawa Chokyi, their six children and his grandchildren, along with his mother, four brothers and three sisters.
Free Tibet and Tibet Watch send our condolences to Lodi’s family and friends, and to those touched by the life he led and the work he did for Tibet.