In 1986 a few friends in Auckland got together to discuss the possibility of inviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to New Zealand. At the same time, the idea of forming a Friends of Tibet group was formed. Although the group was established, our political action was limited, due to the lack of members.

Our first memorial service was held at the Cenotaph on 10th March 1988, in a storm. At that time I played a low-key as I was in the process of getting a visa to visit my family in Tibet. All my political activity was in the background. However, we submitted our first petition to Parliament then, asking the New Zealand Government to declare Tibet an occupied country. This petition lapsed.

After my return from Tibet in 1989, I re-presented the petition to Parliament through Mrs. Sonyia Davies MP (Labour), asking the New Zealand Government to recognise Tibet as AN OCCUPIED COUNTRY. It went through all stages and the Select Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence recommended the Labour Cabinet to give this a favourable decision , but they didn’t do any thing and then there was a change of government.

We formed a strong committee of Friends of Tibet. We sent out our first newsletter in September 1989, to a total of 90 members.

Interest in Friends of Tibet grew steadily, and membership continues to increase.

In April 1993, Wellington branch was formed under the chairmanship of Chris Mathieson. In February 1994, Christchurch branch was established under Neil Cameron, and in April that year Dunedin was formed under Losang Dawa. Nelson Branch which started in December 1996 under Mary Glaisyer.

Today all the Branches are very active promoting the Tibet issue in their local areas. As at 2002 the following people were elected to represent each branch : Dunedin – Losang Dawa, Christchurch – Jonathan Collins, Nelson – Bob Bickerton, Wellington – Chris Mathieson and Sera Robinson, Auckland – Neil Cameron and Thuten Kesang as the National Chairman. We are also in the process setting up a branch in Hamilton and Tauranga in the near future.

In March 1994, after I visited Parliament and pleaded with interested MPs, a Parliamentary Lobby Group was established, with Ian Revell, M.P. elected as its Chairman. By September 1999 to our delight, there were 42 MP’s in this group.

As a result of the formation of this group, FOT sponsored Ian’s trip to attend two World Parliamentarians’ Conventions on Tibet-one in Lithuania in 1994, and the other in Washington in April 1997.

As the result of General Election in 1999. The new Government under Labour was formed, and there were a lot of MP’s who lost their seats and a lot more new MP’s elected, therefore we had to start the whole process of forming a new Parliament Lobby Group for Tibet. I sent out 120 letters to all 120 MP’s asking them to join the Parliament Lobby Group for Tibet. As the result of my letter, a meeting was arranged with interested MP’s and I flew down to Wellington to meet them. The Parliamentarians decided to have two co-chairs Dr Nick Smith (National) and Tim Barnett (Labour). It was decided that a member from each Party would be responsible for sending out fresh information to their colleagues.

Friends of Tibet played a major role in the fund raising and political contacts during the three visits to New Zealand by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 1992, 1996 and 2002. In all three visits we campaigned for His Holiness meeting with the heads of our government and happy to say that even though the Chinese Government put lot of pressure on our Government not to meet His Holiness. All Government leaders met His Holiness in all three occasions. During His Holiness visit in 2002 His Holiness made a brief appearance at the New Zealand parliament sittings and the speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt announced that we have a distinguished guest amongst us His Holiness the Dalai Lama Spiritual leader of Tibet and a Nobel Laureate. All MP’s got up and looked toward His Holiness and clapped, His Holiness in turn with folded hands acknowledged their response.

During the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1996, the Friends of Tibet launched a Nationwide Petition, calling on the New Zealand Government facilitate negotiations between the Peoples’ Republic of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Representatives, without any preconditions, to find a Peaceful Resolution for the Future of Tibet.

On 10th March 1999 the Anniversary of Tibetan uprising day against Chinese Occupation of their land. The above Petition was presented to Parliament with 20,000 signatures. Parliament referred this to the Select Committee of Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade. The Select Committee met on 26th August 1999 and I went down to Parliament to give the Committee my oral submission, which was backed up by Mr. Ian Revell MP the Chairman of the PLG for Tibet. The Committee recommended that Parliament gives the petition a favourable decision, but with the change of Government in the 1999 Election, nothing was done.

On behalf of Friends of Tibet, and the Tibetan community in New Zealand, I attended the Second and Third Tibet Support Group Conference in Germany in 1996 and 2000, which was sponsored by Friends of Tibet. (NZ) In both Bonn and Berlin I went with a aim of persuading the International Tibet Support Group world wide to adopt the policy of Tibet as an occupied country and push their respective government to recognise Tibet as an occupied country. In Bonn it was given a sympathetic hearing (1996) Then in Berlin (2000), this was adopted as a resolution that Tibet Support Group world wide will push their own government to adopt that Tibet is an occupied country. This made me very happy, now I wait and see what happens.

With the release of the movie “Seven Years in Tibet” in 1997 and “Kundun” in 1998. we produced a very attractive four colour Brochure to be distributed to the movie goers in New Zealand. The brochure title “TIBET CAN BE SAVED, it’s NOT too Late”. We’ve had a tremendous result in increase of membership almost 30% not only that but most of them agreed to sponsor a Tibetan child in India. The Premieres of both of the above movies raised about $20,000.00, which we have distributed amongst the Tibetan Refugees in India.

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese Occupation of Tibet , Friends of Tibet printed envelopes for our newsletter which has the map of Tibet and beneath 10th March 1950 – 2009, 50 years of Illegal occupation of Tibet by China. Then in September we managed to get stamp of the Tibetan Flag with the 1959 – 2009 direct under the flag produced by New Zealand Post. This created quite a stir after it was printed and distributed. $1 and 50c denomination was issued. We sold these to stamp dealers and our members. These have now become rare as New Zealand Post refuse to print anymore

During the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in December 2009, members of Friends of Tibet (NZ) wrote many letters to the Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully to meet Holiness, unfortunately for the first time a siting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister didn’t meet His Holiness, however the Opposition leader Phil Goff and the newly formed Parliamentary Lobby Group for Tibet met His Holiness.

Members of Friends of Tibet (NZ) throughout New Zealand came to the financial aid of the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand who was responsible for organising the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Christchurch in June 2011 to comfort and prayer for those families who have lost loved ones during the earthquake.   Over 5000 people attended the public prayer and talk given by His Holiness in TSB Arena in Christchurch. The people of Christchurch were very appreciative of His Holiness visit to their city. The visit was very successful. Thank you for your financial help to the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand.

Today Friends of Tibet (NZ) has members throughout the country and is still growing daily. Our 16 page Bi monthly Newsletters goes out to all members in New Zealand and overseas. Complimentary copies are send to Office of Tibet and friends around the world. These newsletter are well received by the members who appreciate the latest information on Tibet.

As a direct result of our advertising in Friends of Tibet (NZ) membership leaflet for sponsorship of Tibetan Children’s education in India, we have so far 300 children sponsored by New Zealand families. These are done through Tibetan Children’s Relief Society of New Zealand. 95% of the sponsorship come from members of Friends of Tibet (NZ)

The Aims and objectives of Friends of Tibet (NZ):

  • To promote awareness of the Tibetan issue through publicity, public lectures, meetings and the publication of literature,
  • To support His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s initiatives to persuade representatives of the People’s Republic of China to attend round table negotiations with His Holiness and his representatives,
  • To lobby the New Zealand Government to change its foreign policy on Tibet, to recognise Tibet as an Occupied Country,
  • To encourage Members of Parliament to join the Parliamentary Lobby Group for Tibet,
  • To support Tibetan refugees in India, and in other parts of the world,
  • To encourage New Zealanders to join the Friends of Tibet (NZ)
  • To gather and promote up-to-date information about the plight of Tibet and its people.
  • To engage in any other activities either on its own account or in association with any other individuals or organisations, to further the interests of the Tibetan people.

All of these objects listed shall be accomplished by peaceful/non-violent means.

Thuten Kesang
National Chairman
July 2011