First photos of Tibet auctioned; British creator of 1940s Radio Tibet and recipient of ICT’s Light of Truth award passes away

A 1904 image that purports to show "Tibetan lamas" but may depict Lhasa officials

The very first photographs the West saw of Tibet went up for auction in Wiltshire, England, last weekend. The images were taken by members of the British Younghusband expedition, which mounted a bloody invasion of Tibet in 1904, forcing Tibetans in their capital, Lhasa, to sign a treaty effectively making their country a British protectorate until the Chinese invasion of 1950. The Daily Mail published dozens of the photographs, as well as images of other relics from the expedition; see them here.

Robert Ford, arrested by PLA soldiers in Tibet, 1950

In related news, Robert Ford, who received the International Campaign for Tibet’s 2013 Light of Truth Award, presented by the Dalai Lama, passed away on September 20, at age 90. Ford, a British political officer, became the first Westerner employed by the government of Tibet. He set up Radio Tibet in the late 1940s and was captured by the invading Chinese in 1950 as he attempted to continue informing the Tibetan government of the Chinese army’s advancement rather than leave his post. He became a lifelong advocate for Tibet after his release from prison in 1956.

The ICT obituary records Ford’s words at the April Light of Truth ceremony:

““I am a member of a rather exclusive club of Westerners who have the privilege and good fortune to see, know and witness a free Tibet before 1950…The Tibet that I found when I first went there in 1945 was vastly different to the Tibet of today. It was an independent country with its own government, its own language, culture, customs and way of life…To me as an outsider, the most remarkable feature of Tibetans was their devotion to their religion and their unswerving support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Another striking feature was their remarkable self-reliance both in the material and the spiritual sense. Tibet valued its self-imposed isolation and independence. Its simple wish was to be left alone to run its own affairs in the way that it thought best.”

Read the full memorial to Robert Ford here, including many images and video of Ford’s April speech.