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Shakabpa’s Passport Recovered

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With a great sense of achievement and elation, Friends of Tibet (INDIA) releases the information that the passport used by Tsepon Shakabpa Wangchuk Dedhen during independent Tibet, has been recovered after many years of missing, and it is now safely presented to the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 29th March 2004. The passport had received recognition from about seven countries in 1948 when the Tibetan Minister traveled abroad. For the past 12 years, after the death of the Shakabpa in 1992 in Kalimpong, the historical document fell in the hands of antique dealers.

Friends of Tibet (INDIA) has been working over the past one year towards a Tibet exhibition called “STORY OF A NATION: Independent, Occupied and Exiled Tibet”. In our efforts to gather the incredible story of this nation, we have been able to bring together some amazing old photographs and objects of historical importance belonging to Independent Tibet. So far, we have been able to collect more than 60 photographs and objects. The traveling exhibition will start its journey from May 2004 from Cochin, South India.

Besides, coins and paper currencies, postage stamps and a gun from independent Tibet, we came across Tsepon Shakabpa Wangchuk Dedhen’s historic passport. He was the Chief of the Finance Department of the Government Tibet and also the writer of the famous history book ”Tibet a Political History”.

In 1948, the Tibetan Government sent a trade delegation to China, United States of America, England and other countries. The passport issued by the then Tibetan Government to Shakabpa had received recognition, and upon that more than seven countries had granted visas and ‘transit permits’.

Recently, Friends of Tibet (INDIA) through one of its advisor-supporters Gyeshe Pema Dorjee la (former Head of Sarah Institute of Buddhist Dialectics) discovered it lying in the hands of an antique dealer in Nepal. Understanding the absolute importance of the document in itself and also the need of it to the exhibition, through Gyeshe Pema Dorjee La’s friend Mr. Kongpo Dhondup la (newly elected Settlement Officer of Boudha-Jorpatan Tibetan Refugee Camp, Nepal) Friends of Tibet (INDIA) expressed its wishes to buy it and asked for a price quotation.

The owner had expressed his willingness to sell it at a lower price if the document can be reached into the hands of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This, Friends of Tibet (INDIA) agreed. With this commitment made to the owner, through a long process of negotiation and confidence building, the owner finally sold the document and other related papers at a huge price.

Few days back, Mr. Kongpo Dhondup la bought the document for Friends of Tibet (INDIA). And on 28th March, Sunday 2004, the document made a historic trip to Dharamsala. Mr. Dhondup la handed it over to Tenzin Tsundue, General Secretary of Friends of Tibet (INDIA) in the presence of Gyeshe Pema Dorjee la. The next day, 29th March, Monday, 2004, Tenzin Tsundue and Gyeshe Pema Dorjee la presented the document to Mr. Tenzin Gyeche la, the Private Secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his office. Mr. Tenzin Gyeche la said that he had presented it to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and he said His Holiness was much pleased with the new find. Thus ending the 12 years of lost of the document to Tibet.

The passport is a big spreadsheet of traditional Tibetan hand-made paper folded, old looking, with holes at the corners eaten by silver fish. There are seals and stamps of many countries, which granted visas and transit permits to Shakabpa. In the lower right corner there is the photograph of the passport holder in black and white. In the center is the declaration by the Government of Tibet:

“ The bearer of this letter ─ TSEPON SHAKABPA ─ Chief of the Finance Department of the Government of Tibet is hereby sent to China, the united States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries to explore and review trade possibilities between these countries and Tibet. We shall, therefore, be grateful if all the governments concerned on his route would kindly give due recognition as such, grant necessary passport, Visa, etc. without any hindrance and render assistance in all possible ways to him.

Stamp of the Kashag (Cabinet of Tibet), Lhasa,
Dated this 26th day of the 8th month of Fire Pig
Year (Tibetan). ”
coinciding with 10 Oct., Friday, 1947 in Gregorian calendar.

The passport, bearing official stamps of recognition by countries like India, the United Kingdom, the United states, Italy, Swiss and France, remains one of the most important documents proving Tibet’s status as an Independent country in 1948, just before China’s aggression on it in late 1949.

Friends of Tibet (INDIA) would like to thank Gyeshe Pema Dorjee la and Mr. Kongpo Dhondup la for their tremendous effort in securing the treasures back to the Tibetan community.

Tenzin Tsundue
General Secretary

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