Washington, Oct 30 (AFP) Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's right-hand diplomat who led rare negotiations with China that proved frustrating and fruitless, has died, former colleagues said. He was 69.
The International Campaign for Tibet, which Gyari once headed, said he died Monday in San Francisco. It did not specify a cause of death.
A jovial former journalist whose eloquent English complemented the sometimes humorously fragmented speech of the Dalai Lama, Gyari was effectively a foreign minister for the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Basing himself in the United States, Gyari became a driving force in building broad support for the Tibetan cause in Washington.
When China in 2002 reached out to negotiate with the Dalai Lama, Gyari headed a delegation that visited Beijing, the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other largely Tibetan areas.
The visit was initially seen as a breakthrough that could open a way for reconciliation between China and the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for India in 1959 during an abortive uprising against Beijing's rule.
But after nine rounds of dialogue running through 2010, the Tibetans became increasingly discouraged, with China adamantly opposed to the Dalai Lama's proposals for greater Tibetan autonomy and cultural rights while accepting Beijing's rule.
Many analysts believed that Beijing was intentionally dragging on pointless talks, believing that international support for Tibet would end with the passing of the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who enjoys rapturous crowds in much of the world. He is now 83.
Gyari and a fellow envoy resigned in 2012, citing frustration over negotiating with China and a deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the US House of Representatives and longtime activist on Tibet, mourned Gyari as an "extraordinary champion for the Tibetan people."
"Lodi's legacy is ours to continue through action and advocacy," she said.
"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," she said, adding: "The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world."
Gyari's resignation as an envoy also came as the Dalai Lama turned over his political role to an elected government of exiled Tibetans, saying he would devote himself only to the spiritual. (AFP)
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