UPDATED at 12:45 p.m. EST on 11/01/2018
Lodi Gyari, former special envoy of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in talks with China on the status of Tibet, died early Morning morning of liver cancer at age 69 in a hospital in San Francisco.
His body will be taken to Mindrolling monastery in India for funeral rites.
As an official in Tibet’s India-based exile government, Lodi Gyari held several senior posts, including speaker of parliament and cabinet minister, before being appointed by the Dalai Lama in May 1998 to represent him in talks with Beijing.
Nine rounds of talks were held with high-level Chinese officials beginning in 2002, but stalled in 2010 and were never resumed.
Lodi Gyari was born in 1949 in Nyagrong in eastern Tibet. Recognized as a child as a reincarnate lama, he was raised in his early years as a monk, but later became a journalist and co-founder of the Tibetan Youth Congress, an organization dedicated to inspiring Tibet’s younger generation in exile to work for the future of their country, now occupied by China.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, which Lodi Gyari served for many years as president, voiced deep sorrow at his passing.
“Mr. Gyari was a seasoned and skilled diplomat who spent the majority of his professional career working for or on behalf of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” ICT wrote. “He was an impassioned advocate for the Tibetan people, universal human rights and global democratic reform.”
Building on visits to Washington by the Dalai Lama, “Mr. Gyari was able to successfully institutionalize the Tibetan issue within the United State government,” ICT added.
“He also earned and enjoyed access to the highest levels of leadership within both the US Congress and the White House.”
Writing on Facebook on Tuesday, Dr. Tashi Rabgey—a research professor of international affairs at George Washington University—praised Lodi Gyari’s “intense and unwavering conviction that Tibet should be propelled to the frontline of global politics and into the highest corridors of power.”
“[Lodi Gyari] also left us all with an extraordinary gift,” she wrote. “He gave us a glimpse into potential Tibetan greatness to come.”
Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, in a statement Tuesday, called Lodi Gyari “an extraordinary champion for the Tibetan people.”
“Lodi Gyari was a religious leader and a diplomat, an administrator and an activist, but, most of all, he was a teacher. Through diplomacy, he taught us how to seek understanding and create peace.”
“The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” Pelosi said.
“If we do not speak out for human rights in Tibet and China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world.”
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave Lodi Gyari's date of death incorrectly as Tuesday, Oct. 27.