WASHINGTON, October 31: Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s right-hand diplomat who helped build the Tibetan leader’s clout in Washington but came away empty from years of talks with China, has died, colleagues said. He was 69.
The International Campaign for Tibet, which Gyari once headed, said he died Monday in San Francisco after a battle with hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.
A jovial former journalist whose eloquent English complemented the sometimes humorously fragmented speech of the Dalai Lama, Gyari was effectively a foreign minister for the Tibetan spiritual leader. Basing himself in the United States, Gyari became a driving force in building the broad, bipartisan support for the Tibetan cause in Washington.
When China in 2002 reached out to negotiate with the Dalai Lama, Gyari headed a delegation that visited Beijing, the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other largely Tibetan areas.
The visit was initially seen as a breakthrough that could open a way for reconciliation between China and the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for exile in India in 1959 during an abortive uprising against Beijing’s rule.
But after nine rounds of dialogue running through 2010, Gyari became increasingly discouraged, with China adamantly opposed to the Dalai Lama’s proposals for greater Tibetan autonomy and cultural rights.
Many analysts believed that Beijing was intentionally dragging on pointless talks, believing that international pressure over Tibet would end with the passing of the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who enjoys rapturous crowds around the world. He is now 83.
Gyari and a fellow envoy resigned in 2012, citing frustration over negotiating with China and a deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet. The move also came as the Dalai Lama handed over his political duties to an elected government-in-exile.
Lobsang Sangay, the president of the government-in-exile, in a statement said that Gyari “dedicated his entire life serving Tibet and the Tibetan people.” (AFP)