“Remembering Exiled Tibetan Activist Chungdak Koren” By Woeser

2014 04 07 Chungdak 3

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on March 23, 2014 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on April 2, 2014.
In the post, Woeser pays tribute to Norway-based exiled Tibetan Chungdak Koren who recently announced her resignation from the Tibetan Parliament in Exile due to ill health.
Woeser outlines her and Chungdak Koren’s collaborations, such as working on the Tibetan translation of “Forbidden Memory” and ruminates on the larger exile condition. At the same time, the piece portrays a touching friendship between two Tibetan women.

“Remembering Exiled Tibetan Activist Chungdak Koren”
By Woeser

I was happy to see a recuperating Chungdak La (Chungdak Koren) on Skype. I was impressed by her tenacious perseverance but I was not without tears. Just like the Palestinians who became homeless, important scholar Edward Said wrote at the time, “Exile is one of the saddest fates”. The title of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s autobiography in Chinese is “Freedom in Exile”. This is two states, relating both to the real situation and also in the context of the metaphor.
It was around 2007 that we first started to be in touch online, I asked about Chungdak La’s hometown and the situation that forced her to leave her home, and I remember that she fled with her mother in 1959 and was never to go back. A few years ago, her Uncle in Tibet was seriously ill, she wanted to pay the expensive fares to travel from Nepal to Tibet in a group, but her travel was not approved and they would not let her cross the border to go to her ancestral home to see her relative one last time. Just like the story of too many of the bitterness of exiles in the world, returning home becomes like a dream.
2014 04 07 Chungdak 1Every time I would go back to Lhasa from Beijing, Chungdak La always urged me when I went to Jokhang Temple to pay respects on her behalf to Jowo Rinpoche. In actual fact it wasn’t just her who told me exactly to do this. When I gazed at the compassionate smiling Jowo Rinpoche, I could often hear words coming from quite a few compatriots in distant lands. I would silently recite each person’s name, detailing each of their experiences and hopes. For those exiles unable to return to their homeland, having someone pray to Jowo Rinpoche for them is an incomparable comfort.
Chungdak La is perhaps one of the most important Tibetan exiles in Norway and Europe. In 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and she played an important role as the point person in Norway between the Nobel Committee and His Holiness. Chungdak La regarded this as the greatest honour in her life. I’ve seen a photo of that time, she was wearing Tibetan dress and was kneeling respectfully before His Holiness, at that time she was in her prime.
2014 04 07 Chungdak 2
Chungdak la’s belief in and loyalty to His Holiness has supported her in her struggle for Tibet’s freedom that she carried out for most of her life. His Holiness personally appointed her as his representative based in Switzerland. Chungdak La long served as Chairperson of the Norwegian Tibet Committee and was also elected as a Member of Parliament to represent the Tibetan people of Europe. In 2009, a Taiwanese journalist met her in Oslo and full of admiration wrote: “The Norwegian Human Rights House has let her use an office space, from here she is responsible for the exchange of information among Tibetans all over the world, and thus she uses the office as her base before returning to Tibet… taking part in the huge undertaking of returning the Tibetans in exile to their home… she has a small frame, 150 or 160 cm tall, at nearly 60 years old she’s still running as fast as flying, when I’m leaving I’m thinking, this member of the ‘Dalai Clique’, really deserves the reputation she enjoys.” In 2010, Chungdak La was invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony when it was awarded to the Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.
From my point of view, the reasons for Chungdak La and I share a deep fate are not just because seven years ago when I won the Norwegian Authors’ Union’s “Freedom of Expression” Award, Chungdak La had constantly rushed off her feet to make the award possible, and said, “We are very proud”; and they are not just because Chungdak la had contacted many people for them to sponsor the Tibetan edition of my book entitled “Forbidden Memory”, based on interviews and research in accordance with historical photos of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. These contacts we had were not only for public events. One winter, I received a heavy package, inside of which was a traditional Norwegian sweater, it was warm and beautiful, a precious friendship.
My dear Chungdak La, you have already given too much and worked too hard, please have a good rest now, enjoy exile in peace with your husband Michael, and I will again pay homage to Jowo Rinpoche and pay respects on your behalf, and pray for your reunion.
March 23, 2014


  1. So painful to read this .its always gives a great joy and encouragement to see such tibetan women like you.i think this connection is really precious , it’s resembles the story of every tibetan , waiting for the reunion in and outside tibet.

  2. too chummy to believe. smacks of mutual sycophancy. what’s become of woeser. i thought she had better subject to write on. just yesterday someone got arrested in derge, tbet for shouting slogans supporting tibet.

  3. @spade……your comment is not only careless and arrogant, but also inaccurate. There is no such thing as ‘mutual sycophancy’……sycophancy takes place in an hierarchical relationship, but between friends and peers, the correct term you should be using is ‘mutual admiration’. But I suppose that doesn’t have the level of put down and venom you were trying to express.
    BTW – pressing the Caps key to achieve an all lower case text must be tiring for such a small person.

  4. I guess Chungdakla is destined to toil for our beloved motherland. It’s been over fifty years since our days in Zurkhang lobdra, Phari in the late ’50s, and your days in Saint Joseph’s convent and mine in St. Augustine’s in Kalimpong in the early ’60s. Since then I’ve not met you, but heard a lot about you from my relatives and friends for all your patriotic deeds for our just cause through thick and thin, till you’re incapacitated due to ailment which is line with life’s vicissitudes in the karmic cycle of life. I, too, am a diabetic.
    Believe it or not, I still remember the songs I had learned in school in the late ’50s during the height of the Great Leap Forward movement. At times life seems so bloody unfair. Our brethren inside our native land are devoid of any freedom while we’re exercising freedom in the West. However, what you have done all life for the cause of freedom speaks volumes, and will always remain so; a feat that can’t be bought but earned.

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