Dharamshala, January 9 - "The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) mourns the passing away of Heinrich Harrer and offers prayers and condolences to his family members. His death is a great loss for the Tibetan people and for the just cause of Tibet which he championed so vigorously throughout his long and fulfilled life", said Kalon Lobsang Nyandak Zayul, Kalon for the departments of finance and information and international relations of the CTA.
Heinrich Harrer, a famous mountaineer, died at the age of 93 in the Austrian province of Huttenberg on 7 January, according to a statement issued by his family. His classic travel book, Seven Years in Tibet, which recounted his experiences in Tibet after escaping internment in British India in 1944, sold millions of copies worldwide and was translated into 48 languages. This book more than anything else brought Tibet and its tragic situation to the attention and conscience of the world. This book in 1997 was made into a Hollywood movie.
After his escape from British custody in Dehra Dun, he and his companion Peter Aufschneiter were provided refuge in Tibet, which remained neutral during the Second World War. Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschneiter, two well-known mountaineers, were involved in a mountaineering expedition when the Second World War broke out and the two were brought under British custody.
During their stay in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa from 1946 to 1951, they came to a deep appreciation of the culture and way of life of the Tibetan people and the aspiration of the Tibetan people to live a life in peace and freedom. Heinrich Harrer came in contact with the highest authorities of Tibet, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama whom he tutored briefly on subjects ranging from geography to English. During this time Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschneiter came to speak flawless Tibetan. This experience of Lhasa compelled Heinrich Harrer to write the classic travel book, Seven Years in Tibet, which served as a textbook for several years in many schools throughout India and elsewhere.
When China introduced more liberal policies in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer went back to Tibet in the early 1980s and wrote a sequel to Seven Years in Tibet called Return to Tibet, in which he lamented the devastation that was brought to Tibet and its people.
"We owe a great debt to Heinrich Harrer for his consistent support for the just cause of the Tibetan people. The passing away Heinrich Harrer is a big loss for his family and Austria. It is an irreparable loss for the Tibetan people as a whole", said Kalon Lobsang Nyandak Zayul.
(www.tibet.net is the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration.)