Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India, on December 10, 2009. Photo: TPI/Yeshe Choesang

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Washington, DC — Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the former Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, senior Tibetan official passed away, on October 29, 2018 in San Francisco, U.S.A. He was 69. Not long after news of his death broke, compatriots and friends of Tibet from all over the world offered an overwhelming outpour of condolences and grief.

A prayer service was held in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the government-in-exile in honour of the deceased and all the offices of the various departments were shut as a mark of respect after the prayer event on October 30, 2018.

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari was a seasoned and skilled diplomat who spent the majority of his professional career working directly for and on behalf of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was an impassioned advocate for the Tibetan people, universal human rights and global democratic reform. He was also Executive Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.

Appointed the special envoy of the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC, in 1990, Gyari garnered widespread support for the Tibet cause in Washington. When he retired in 2012, the US Senate passed a resolution honoring his service and commending his achievements in building support for Tibet (ICT).

Dr Lobsang Sangay President of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) paid tribute to late Lodi Gyari in a sombre statement on his social media. “Today, we say goodbye to a true Tibetan patriot. Lodi Gyari Rinpoche dedicated his entire life serving Tibet and the Tibetan people. He was a trailblazer and leaves behind a lasting legacy of public service. We are eternally grateful for his distinguished service,” Dr Sangay said.

“Personally, I will always remember him with respect and gratitude from my many years of working with him. On behalf of all the civil servants of the Central Tibetan Administration, I extend my prayers and deepest condolences to the family of Gyari Rinpoche,” the Tibetan President stressed.

Tributes and condolences poured in from prominent leaders including Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

In her statement, Pelosi said “The world has lost an extraordinary champion for the Tibetan people. Driven into exile by the Chinese government, Lodi worked relentlessly to secure a better future for Tibet. As Special Envoy and a key leader of the International Campaign for Tibet, Lodi saw the development of historic proposals for progress and built deep support for the Tibetan cause throughout America and around the world. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle benefitted from Lodi’s insight and wisdom.

“Lodi’s legacy is ours to continue through action and advocacy. As friends of Tibet, we stand united with Tibetans in their journey to win the freedom to teach their culture and their religion to their children in their own language. The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. 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. May it bring comfort to Lodi’s loved ones that so many share in their sorrow and in their appreciation of the legacy he has left us.”

Actor Richard Gere, who is also the chairman of the board of the ICT expressed his condolences, saying, “Lodi was my dear friend and partner and mentor for over thirty years. He created a life of great meaning and sacrifice that will resonate for many generations—throughout the Tibetan and non-Tibetan world. He was extraordinary.”

A passionate advocate for the people of Tibet, universal human rights, and global democratic reform, Gyari Rinpoche was a co-founder of the Tibetan Youth Congress. Between 2002 and 2010, he led the Tibetan delegation through nine rounds of high-level dialogue with the Chinese government in attempts to resolve the Tibet issue.

Prior to his arrival in the United States in 1990, Gyari served in the senior most elected and appointed positions of the CTA – from Speaker of the Parliament to Cabinet Minister. He became the youngest elected Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament when he assumed the position at the age of 30. He was also one of the youngest people to be appointed by His Holiness to the Kashag (Cabinet) of the CTA.

Rinpoche was born in 1949 in Nyarong in eastern Tibet, where he received a traditional monastic education as the tulku of Khenchen Jampal Dewé Nyima from Lumorap Monastery. In 1959, he fled with his family to in India following the Chinese occupation of Tibet.