Author Topic: Dalai Lama’s former biographer takes up residence in mainland China  (Read 4169 times)


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By: Tenzin Wangchuk

The opinion piece below was sent to for publication. We accept submissions from the public, please send in your articles to [email protected].

In 1959, the Tibetans were exiled from Tibet. Given asylum by India for the next 100 years, the Tibetans re-established themselves as refugees in South India. Although life as refugees was full of hardship, they endured all, hoping that that they may one day return to their home in Tibet; a task which H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and his government appeared to place great importance on, but with no results to show so far.

Fast forward 56 years later, two generations of Tibetans have lived out of Tibet. The Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) is no closer to bringing their people back to Tibet than they were half a decade ago, despite going as far as demoting the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE) to CTA in order to entice China to be more accepting of their Middle Way stance.

Many Tibetans realized this reality and have migrated to richer Western countries to have a brighter future than what was being offered by the CTA. Although outwardly, Tibetans starting a new life abroad is not a big deal, but behind closed doors, it is a known fact that the CTA heavily discourage Tibetans from receiving naturalized citizenships from foreign countries, as they desperately try to claim each and every exiled Tibetan for their own benefit and power.

With these factors in mind, it seems astonishing to hear news that Amchok Rinpoche, an ex-abbot of Gaden Shartse Monastery, one of the biographers for H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama who also compiles the teachings of the Dalai Lama, and an ex-member of the Dalai Lama’s private office, has defected to China’s Tibet.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with his former personal biographer and confidant, Amchok Rinpoche (right). Notice Amchok Rinpoche who, in a traditional gesture of devotion, remains bowed, keeps his head lower than the Dalai Lama’s and holds his hand in a way that implies he supports the Dalai Lama. So is his move to China a genuine defection or are there other underlying reasons?
Could it be that Amchok Rinpoche have lost hope for the Dalai Lama and the CTA that he decided to return to China’s Tibet, the sworn enemy of the CTA; despite the risks of being scorned and branded a traitor to the Tibetan cause by the Tibetan public and authorities?

It is common to see people who are not favoured by the pro-Dalai Lama’s group, such as the Dorje Shugden practitioners, being put down and accused of selling themselves out to the Chinese. These people are ostracised within the Tibetan community, often due to false allegations by the CTA and more often than never have been brought to the media’s attention for defamation and shame. Yet, here what we witness today happens to be one of Dalai Lama’s close confidants. More people are leaving the Tibetan settlements in India as they see no hope. Are they truly loyal to the Dalai Lama when they leave India to live comfortable lives in Western countries, instead of trying to remain as close to their leader as possible? In fact, this second Tibetan diaspora from India to other countries also sees many Tibetans returning to Tibet, China. However their moves remain unreported as they are not high profile like Amchok Rinpoche.

Supposing some people give Amchok Rinpoche the benefit of the doubt, and claim that this story is nothing but Chinese propaganda stirred by China in order to paint a bad picture of the CTA, and that China is being generous by accepting exiled Tibetans back into China. However, it is incredibly difficult to believe that Amchok Rinpoche would put himself in a position to be used for propaganda, unless done intentionally, especially since this is not Amchok Rinpoche’s first time visiting China.

The fact it is not Amchok Rinpoche’s first time visiting China highlights a number of hypocrisies on the CTA’s part. Their silence regarding the Dalai Lama’s personal biographer making repeated visits to China over many years, and befriending Chinese officials on a personal level is in stark contrast to their vocal criticism of Shugden lamas who are pictured with Chinese officials. It is clear that if anyone does not share the same opinion as the CTA, they are branded as traitors and accused of being anti-Dalai Lama. However, the same action becomes perfectly acceptable if it furthers the CTA’s own interests.

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How effectively the CTA functions as a governing body is debatable. It is evident that in the last 60 years in exile, the CTA has achieved nothing close to getting independence. The CTA’s influence has seen a huge decline, especially since they have not been able to convince the Tibetans to unite. Seeing how the CTA has failed to meet with its objective and even those who are pro-Dalai Lama are going against their policies, like Amchok Rinpoche who took things in his own hands. Now it seems Amchok Rinpoche is the one getting Chinese government aide and finances.

The inconsistency in the CTA has brought itself to the doorstep of its own downfall. On one hand they persecute Shugden Lamas who they claim have been receiving money from the Chinese despite having zero evidence to back up that claim; yet when it comes to those who are working closely with them, similar issues are swept under the carpet and hoped that people do not talk about it again. It is through such poor governance that members of their own parliament can get away with murder, and embezzlement, or even defect back to China’s Tibet, an act that Tibetans consider as a huge disgrace and betrayal towards the Dalai Lama.

Similarly with the persecution of Shugden Buddhists, we can see how biased and senseless the CTA has been in clamping down the freedom of Shugden practitioners when everything they accused Shugden practitioners have committed, the same or worst is being done in their own backyard. As to how the CTA is going to react with Amchok Rinpoche’s move, it sure opens up the possibility for the Shugden ban to be eliminated soon. Amchok Rinpoche one of the close people to the Dalai Lama has defected back to China and proudly says now he is a Chinese citizen.

Achok Rinpoche’s biography
In this biography of Achok Rinpoche, it states clearly that he is the former abbot of Gaden Shartse Monastery, and was the biographer of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

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In the Media
The news of Amchok Rinpoche’s defection is now being publicised on Chinese media.

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(Newspapers above also available HERE and HERE for easier reference)

Left column (starting at the light blue box):
Dalai’s Close Official Returned to Settle in Sichuan, Receiving Mark of Courtesy

Official media widely reported that in May this year, Achok Rinpoche who has served key positions in the exiled Tibetan Spiritual Leader the Dalai Lama’s “Government In Exile”, declined to participate in the Dalai Lama’s 80-year-old birthday celebrations, returning from India to China, to settle in Aba Sichuan, and receiving mark of courtesy from the government. Achok Rinpoche could be the first important member of the Dalai Lama “government in exile” to return home in 30 years. Beijing’s scholar, Jiang Zhaoyong told this newspaper that “this is an important change in Beijing’s policy on Tibet, and I hope this will play a role in dividing and splitting up Dalai Lama’s “government in exile”.

Achok Rinpoche was born in Sichuan, Markam County in 1944. He is the third incarnation, associated with Tsanney Gompa. In 1959, when he was 15 years old, Achok Rinpoche followed the Dalai Lama into exile in India. Achok Rinpoche served as director for the Dalai Lama’s “Government In Exile” Tibetan Medical & Astrological Institute, director for the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and other key positions.

The official China Tibet website reported that Achok Rinpoche first visited China in 1982. Since then, he has returned to the mainland several times to visit relatives and friends in his hometown in Sichuan. On August 30th 2012, receiving approval from the Central United Front Work Department, Achok Rinpoche came home. According to reports, “every time he returned home, he witnessed tremendous changes in the rapid development of the motherland and his hometown,” he also thinks that the Chinese high standard of living and a variety of social security are such that even those living in Dharamsala or in the big Indian cities do not dare to dream about, and “the only hope and way out for overseas Tibetans is only in China.”

Late last year, Achok Rinpoche had injured himself from a fall. The Sichuan government sent experts to treat him. Achok Rinpoche subsequently filed a formal application to reside permanently in China. In April, his application was approved by the Sichuan Provincial Government. He received the news that his application was approved and returned early in May, not attending the the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebrations although he was invited.

On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, Sichuan Provincial Committee and Head of the United Front Work Department, Cui Baohua visited Achok Rinpoche in the Aba Tsanney Gompa on September 22nd, conveying greetings from Sichuan Provincial Party Committee’s Wang Dongming, and Sichuan Province Governor Wei Hong. According to reports, the first words that Achok Rinpoche blurted out when meeting Cui was: “I am truly a Chinese citizen now!”

It was reported that when Achok Rinpoche spoke about his wandering life of 56 years, his eyes had flashes of hardship and helplessness. He said, “While in the past I have been a Chinese citizen in name, but I was wearing the coat of ‘refugee’ for decades. Today, I am considered a real Chinese citizen.” Achok Rinpoche is the current abbot of Tsanney Gompa.

Tsanney means “institute of philosophy”. It is one of the monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the first monastery in Aba to implement debate. It has also established subsidiary monasteries in many areas, and it is one of the three major monasteries in the Aba region.

Middle column (under the main headline):
“This is a bit unusual!” said Jiang Zhaoyong, a independent Beijing researcher on Mongolian, Tibetan and other ethnic issues, who said that extensive reporting of the return of Achok Rinpoche reflects Beijing’s preparation to deal with the post-Dalai Lama era. This also shows the important policy change of the United Front and that this “will have some effects” on Tibetans who have been wandering for decades.

By the end of 1978, the central government promoted “All patriots belong to one big family, whether they rally to the common cause early or late”, welcoming visits by overseas Tibetan compatriots to return home for visits. In the 1980s, some influential Tibetans have continued to return to settle in China. After the Tiananmen Square Protests, although China is still in contact with the Dalai Lama, there has not been any progress. Achok Rinpoche may well be the first influential overseas Tibetan to return home in 30 years.

Jiang Zhaoyong also said that Achok Rinpoche’s repatriation could not have been determined by the Sichuan Provincial Government alone. It was the decision of the Central Government, and it is an important preparation by Beijing to deal with the post-Dalai Lama era, as well as United Front’s strategy in hopes to divide and split up the Dalai Lama’s “government in exile” in India. He also mentioned that the Tibetans who exiled together with the Dalai Lama have been wandering for decades, and that their Indian identity issue has not been resolved. They are still refugees and as they age, the longing to return to homeland gets stronger. The official announcements of the repatriation of Achok Rinpoche and of him receiving the mark of courtesy from the local government, “will have some effects!” to attract more Tibetans to repatriate.

In addition, the Dalai Lama announced that due to health reasons, the trip to the United States in October is cancelled. Agence France-Presse said that the decision would lead to concern about the Dalai Lama’s health from his supporters. However, the Dalai Lama’s secretary Tenzin Takla, said that there is nothing wrong with the Dalai Lama’s health.

This is good news for Buddhism, and for the Buddhists in China. That the biographer is willing to relocate back to China I can only think it is to benefit the buddhists in that part of China. Also it is a sign of greater interest of Buddhism in China, and mosslike in Dorje Shgden and Je Tsongkhapa tradition. 

The fact that CTA is silent is showing that this is vintage CTA and they have double standards in relation to Dorje Shugden people and practitioners.


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Re: Dalai Lama’s former biographer takes up residence in mainland China
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2015, 06:08:48 AM »
I hope and think this is the first of many steps in reconciliation with China. Perhaps not in the "middle way" that the Dalai Lama proposed but in a more practical way nonetheless. It perhaps shows the practicality of Amchok Rinpoche in showing others that there isn't really much differences in the race "label" that we call ourselves; Tibetan or Chinese. After all, isn't that what Buddhism is suppose to teach. That we are all mother sentient beings to one another?

I hope there will be more progress in this direction leading to reconciliation with China and the ban of the Shugden practice be dropped as soon as possible.


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I wonder what is the mindset of the biographer when he made that step?

He is definitely too old to play spy i feel. 


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This is a sure sign that the Tibetans are losing faith in the leadership. Even those considered close to HHDL and his entourage are seeking for refuge with China. As they see His Holiness get older and the shameful performance of the CTA leaders like Penpa Tsering and Sikyong Lobsang Sangye, people are making choices that are more beneficial in the long term.

Under Chinese leadership, TAR has improved education system and improved literacy rate, better infrastructure, better security etc. In the meantime, Tibetans in exile are fighting against each other more and more, they still live in poor conditions, many still cannot access quality education, do not possess an official travel documentation (a yellow pass book is not a proper travel document). They do not even have a place they can call home.

This is a blinding contrast between the Chinese leadership and that of Tibet's. Anyone who has the opportunity would do the same. We can only expect more and more modern, educated and exposed Tibetans to go home to China soon.


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As a personal biographer, Achok Rinpoche would have access to a lot of information about the Dalai Lama. He also would have met and talked to a lot of people within and outside of Tibet whilst researching the past activities and relatives of the Dalai Lama.

For him to change his mind and move back to China is like a slap in the face for the Dalai Lama and the CTA. He must know something that the CTA is not willing to share with the world at large. Whatever the information, it is good enough for Achok Rinpoche to do a 180 turn and make that move. The CTA may yet claim that China has "bought" Achok Rinpoche or they may try to put him on the list of 'enemies of Tibet".

My prayer at this point is for Achok Rinpoche to be able to educate us on the truth.


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It is interesting that someone so close to the Dalai Lama decided to return to his homeland in Sichuan, China. Achok Rinpoche was the personal biographer of the Dalai Lama and therefore should be privy to every events (whether public or private) that happened as well as the Dalai Lama's thoughts and feelings. Being in this position of importance and with the trust of the Dalai Lama, it would have been expected of Achok Rinpoche to remain close to the Dalai Lama sharing the same vision. However, here he surprised both sides of the divide and returned to China.
Many theories had been banded about but I do wonder if maybe Achok Rinpoche was a secret Dorje Shugden practitioner as most Tibetans in exile were. Maybe he had decided that he prefer to return to a place that accepts freedom of religion as compared to Dharamsala where any sign of Shugden practice would mean immediate danger and being ostracized.
Another thought I had was that Achok Rinpoche may have returned to China to pave the way for the Dalai Lama's return. Establishing himself and waiting for the best time and condition to advice the Dalai Lama to make a move to return to Tibet. As China would never surrender the rule of Tibet, even autonomously, the Dalai Lama would probably return as a citizen of China. However, I can envision the Dalai Lama's return as a grand and celebratory affair where he would be treated as a VIP, although without power. Hmm, come think of it... if the Dalai Lama's political power becomes non-existent then won't he be able to propagate the real dharma and be his true self? And reinstating the Dorje Shugden protector practice as there is no longer a need for blame. How wonderful!
Whatever reasons there may be, CTA is on the loosing side as more and more will find out how well received Achok Rinpoche was and they may just follow in returning to their homeland.
Its definintely a wakeup call for CTA to start changing their manipulative and dirty politics to one that show real concern for their brethren or they just may end up with no citizen to govern over.