Dharamshala: - Mr Robert W. Ford- first foreign to serve in the government of Tibet and becoming the first westerner to be given an official rank in the country has passed away in London at the age of 90. Ford was a high-profile foreign official who witnessed a free and independent Tibet.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders expressed their sadness over demise of Robert W. Ford. According to media reports, he passed away at the age of 90 in London on 20 September 2013.
The spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama offered his prayers and deep condolences in a personal letter to the family members of Robert Ford at his passing away, His Holiness said in a statement on Thursday.
His Holiness stated that Robert Ford occupied a special place in the history of Tibet as the first Englishman employed as an official of the pre-1959 Tibetan Government. His Holiness recalled his many meetings with Robert Ford, most recently this year in April in Switzerland.
The Dharamshala, India based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) expresses deep sadness over the demise of Mr Robert Ford, adding he was "first foreigner who served in the Tibetan government service before the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
A resolution was passed by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile on 26th September, 2013 to sincerely commend the accomplishments of the deceased and may his great visions be realized. Further, it is prayed that he attains noble rebirth, and that his family be extended with profound condolences.
Robert Webster Ford- a radio operator and British diplomat who was one of the few Westerners to be appointed by the Government of Tibet in the period of de facto independence between 1912 and the year 1950 when the Chinese army marched on Chamdo.
In 1994, he declared that during the five years he spent in Tibet, he "had the opportunity to witness and experience at first hand the reality of Tibetan independence.
Mr Ford first traveled to Tibet in 1945 to join the British Mission in Lhasa as a radio operator. It was during this time that he had his first audience with Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was then 11 years of age.
When India became independent in 1947, Robert Ford returned to Lhasa and was appointed by the Government of Tibet, becoming the first foreigner to be given an official rank in the country. After one year in Lhasa, he was requested to go to Chamdo, capital of eastern Tibet (Kham), to establish a radio link between Lhasa and Chamdo. With three wireless operator students, he left for the city in 1949. They helped the Governor General of Kham, Lhalu Tsewang Dorjee, improve defense in Chamdo and the surrounding area.
In addition, a direct link was established for the first time between Lhasa and Chamdo. Early in 1950, Lhalu requested Ford shorten the training of the wireless operator students. By that time, new instructors had arrived to train soldiers in the use of Bren guns. Robert Ford wrote that "the Tibetan Army began to look a little less like something out of the Middle Ages."
He was arrested in 1950 by the advancing Chinese army, along with the Governor General of Kham, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, and other Tibetan officials. The People's Republic of China accused him of espionage, spreading anti-communist propaganda and causing the death of Geda Lama, a vice president of the provincial government of Xikang and envoy from the Chinese government who was to have submitted a 10-point peace proposal to the Lhasa government.
Ford spent nearly 5 years in jail, in constant fear of being executed, and was subjected to interrogation and thought reform. Only in 1954 was he allowed to send a letter to his parents. At the end of 1954 his trial was held and he was sentenced to ten years jail. He was eventually released and expelled in 1955.
In 1957, he published the book Wind Between the Worlds about his experience. The book was reissued in 1990 under the title Captured in Tibet with a preface by the Dalai Lama and an epilogue by the author entitled "The Occupation".
In 1956 he was appointed at the British Diplomatic Service and served in the Foreign Office in London, Vietnam, Indonesia, United States, Morocco, Angola, Sweden, France and finally as Consul-General in Geneva. The same year, he married Monica Tebbett, a childhood friend. They were married for 55 years and had two sons, Martin and Giles.
He retired in 1987 and was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire. After his retirement, Ford lectured in support of the Tibetan Government in Exile in various countries (the UK, other European countries, Australia and the United States). In 1992, he undertook a countrywide lecture tour in India, at the request of the Dalai Lama.
On September 13, 1994, together with other foreigners who lived, visited and worked in Tibet prior to 1950, Ford was invited for lunch by the 14th Dalai Lama, then on a visit to London, to exchange their reminiscences and endorse a statement that Tibet was a fully sovereign country before 1950.
In 1996, Ford was able to arrange the first meeting between the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and a member of the British royal family. The Dalai Lama met Queen Elizabeth and the Queen mother, with Ford, on 17 July, at Clarence House.
On his 90th birthday, on March 27, 2013, the former radio operator was handed the last of his salary, a 100 Tam Srang note worth 65 pounds, by the Tibetan Government in Exile, at a ceremony in London.
On 13 April 2013, Ford was given the Tibet's Light of Truth Award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Fribourg, Switzerland.
Born on 27th march, 1923 at Staffordshire, United Kingdom, Ford also served in the Royal Air Force as a radio technician in UK and India during the World War II.