LONDON: The Office of Tibet in London hosted a gathering this Monday of the families of British who were in Tibet prior to 1959 – with direct family ties to Tibet going back 200 years.
Britain had a special relationship with Tibet before the Chinese invasion, with an influence that no other Western country enjoyed. This mattered to Tibet, because British influence across the Himalayas was an important counterweight to China’s.
Fourteen relatives of British officials stationed in Tibet in the 1930s and ‘40s gathered at Tibet House in St John’s Wood on 10 September on a mission to discuss ideas for collective action given the current crisis inside Tibet. The gathering included two sons of the late Major Desmond Palethorpe, who was in Lhasa for the British Army in 1946, a relative of one of the early mappers of Tibet, and the son of 89-year old Robert Ford, a radio operator and British diplomat who worked in Tibet in the late 1940s and who was imprisoned by the Chinese at the time of their invasion. Robert Ford was one of the few Westerners to be appointed by the government of Tibet, thus experiencing the reality of Tibetan independence, before the Chinese invasion in 1950.
The descendants of the British officials have met His Holiness the Dalai Lama three times over the past few years, and His Holiness was moved by his encounter with them at Westminster Abbey in London in June, during his visit to the UK.
At the meeting at the Office of Tibet, the group discussed a strategy for future action and for expressing their concern at the current situation in Tibet. They focused on the importance of Tibetan culture and the need for dialogue with the Chinese government and Tibetans. As one of the relatives said: “We know that a sovereign Tibet has a basis in fact and in history, and we also know how Tibetans have suffered for over 50 years. We have an ancestral and an emotional connection, and want to speak with a collective voice about our distress at the deteriorating situation in Tibet, and to seek to contribute to a resolution.”
[Report: Kate Saunders/The Office of Tibet, London]