Bapa Phuntso Wangye, founder of Tibetan Communist Party, dies at 92

Bapa Phuntso Wangye

Bapa Phuntso Wangye in an undated file photo. Photographer unknown

By Lobsang Wangyal

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 30 March 2014

The founder of the Tibetan Communist Party, Bapa Phuntso Wangye (Phunwang), died in a hospital in Beijing on Saturday morning, weeks after he called on the Chinese government to abandon its paranoia and let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet. He was 92.

Born in 1922 in Batang, in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet, Phunwang founded the Tibetan Communist Party in the 1940s to establish an independent and united Tibet, and to transform Tibet’s feudal social structures to a modern socialist democratic system.

He was expelled by the Tibetan government in Lhasa in 1949, and after joining the Chinese Communist Party’s fight against the Guomindang he fused his Tibetan party with the Chinese Communist Party.

He was the translator for the 19-year-old 14th Dalai Lama during his meetings with Mao Zedong in Beijing in the years 1954-55.

Phunwang remained devoted to the cause of socialism and the Chinese Communist Party. However, the Communist Party cadres became suspicious of his intensive engagement for the well-being of the Tibetans. Eventually, he disappeared from the public eye in 1958 for his active role in Tibetan affairs, and was imprisoned for 18 years in Beijing’s notorious Qingchen Prison, serving most of the time in solitary confinement.

He was released in 1978, but remained in Beijing without any outside contact.

In recent years he wrote a few letters to then Chinese President Hu Jintao, urging him to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to let him return to Tibet.

A song written by Phunwang in 1940

Rise up, rise up, rise up,
Tibetan brothers.
The time for fighting has come but
Still haven’t you awoken from sleep?
We can no longer bear to live
Under the oppression of powerful officials.
Tsampa eaters, rise up,
Seize control of your own land.
Seize political power.

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