Mr. Robert Ford speaking at the London function marking His Holiness' 73rd birthday (Photo: Ugyen Choephell)
London, July 5 - Speaking at a function here today to mark the 73rd birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the guest speaker, Mr. Robert Ford, one of the last remaining British who has worked and lived in Tibet when it was an independent country, said that with the Chinese Communist occupation following his last audience with His Holiness, the nightmare had begun for Tibet and that his own personal dreams was also shattered. In 1950 he was arrested by the invading Chinese army and suffered imprisonment for nearly five years.
The former British diplomat told a mixed gathering of Tibetans and others in the Westminster Cathedral Hall that his last “official audience” with His Holiness the Dalai Lama took place in 1949 in the Tibetan capital Lhasa before he was asked to leave for Chamdo in eastern Tibet to establish a radio link from there to Lhasa.
“Sadly, this was the last time I saw the Dalai Lama in Tibet, the abode of the Gods. Nineteen months later the Chinese Communists invaded. For Tibet the long nightmare of foreign occupation had begun. My personal dreams were shattered,” recalled Mr. Ford, who has also written a book entitled, Captured in Tibet, about his experience in Tibet.
Mr. Ford joined the British Mission in Lhasa in 1945 as a radio officer. The same year he was transferred to Gangtok (Sikkim), where he worked for British-India relations with Tibet. In 1947 when India became independent, he returned to Lhasa and became the first foreigner to be given an official Tibetan rank after his appointment by the Government of Tibet.
Mr. Ford, who last served as the Consul-General in Geneva before retiring in 1987 and receiving the Commander of the Order of the British Empire, told the gathering about his admiration for the Tibetan people’s simplicity and faith in their religion and devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whom he again had the opportunity to meet in London in May.
“Tibetan Buddhists do not proselytise. Throughout my years in Tibet, I never felt any pressure to convert. Conversely I found a remarkable tolerance of my own Christian religion”, said the 85-year-old Mr. Ford, who had enjoyed a privileged life in Tibet from 1945 to 1950, when he was arrested by the Chinese forces and wrongly accused of espionage and spreading anti-communist propaganda.
Mr. Robert Ford, flanked by his son and Representative Tsering Tashi watching the function proceedings (Photo: Ugyen Choephell)
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Tsering Tashi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe, Poland and the Baltic Countries, based at the London Office of Tibet, said that despite some of the official Chinese criticisms, His Holiness’ is respected all over the world as a man of peace and with a high moral standing.
“The warmth with which His Holiness was greeted by the leadership and the public in this country during his visit to London, Nottingham and Oxford this May was a testimony of this fact. And despite all the official Chinese criticisms, the international recognition of His Holiness continues to grow," said Mr. Tashi.
He said only last month he had the great honour of collecting two awards on behalf of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
"One was the International Statesman of the Year award given at the UK House Magazine’s parliamentary awards ceremony which was hosted by the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson and attended by ministers and parliament members. The other was the Honorary Citizenship bestowed upon His Holiness by the Polish city of Wroclaw. During the awards presentation ceremony, the Mayor of Wroclaw not only expressed their sympathy for the plight of the Tibetans inside Tibet but also lauded His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s leadership based on non-violence and compassion that is a source of much inspiration for them,” Mr. Tashi said.
Representative Tsering Tashi also said that through better awareness and information more and more Chinese are showing respect for His Holiness and expressing their support for the just Tibetan cause. He appealed to the Tibetans and supporters to reach out to the Chinese students, scholars, businessmen and other to inform them about Tibet’s true situation and the positive stand that His Holiness has consistently taken to non-violently resolve the Tibetan problem and also of his support for the Chinese people, who themselves do not enjoy genuine human rights and freedom under the Chinese regime.
Mr. Sonam Frasi, one of the two Europe member of the Tibetan parliament in exile said Tibetans in the free world should draw inspiration from the bravery shown by the Tibetans inside Tibet. He said the recent uprisings in Tibet have shown how Tibetans from all walks of life despise the oppressive Chinese policies and that even the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama has not spoken against the Tibetans. Speaking about the Western Shugden Group, which had staged protests during His Holiness’ visits, he said they have become a tool in the hands of the Chinese authorities and therefore urged Tibetans and Western Buddhists to be vigilant about their activities.
This time with due consideration for the prevailing sad situation in Tibet, the function jointly organised by the Office of Tibet, the Tibetan Community in Britain and the Tibet Society did not include any singing and dance items. Instead, the gathering saw and participated in an extended prayer session for His Holiness, Tibet and world peace led by Ven. Geshe Tashi Tsering, resident teacher of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre.Report by Office of Tibet, London