We are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Thuten Kesang, a cherished member of International Tibet Network.
Thuten la served as a member of International Tibet [Support] Network founding Steering Committee in 2000 and remained a devoted and active member of the coalition.
Thuten has been an inspiration to us all and we are forever grateful to have had him as a colleague and dear friend. He will always be remembered for his endless enthusiasm, indefatigable spirit, a wealth of kindness and compassion and his continuous efforts to bring freedom to Tibet.
We share our deepest condolences to Thuten la’s family, and to the Tibetan community in Aotearoa.
On Sunday, 23 May 2021, Thuten Kesang QSM, loving husband, father, grandfather and an ardent Tibet advocate passed away at the age of seventy six.
Born in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet in 1944, he was sent to India by his parents in mid 1950’s before the Chinese invasion of Tibet and later graduated from Dr Graham’s Homes, a Christian boarding school in Kalimpong.
He moved to New Zealand in 1967 and for many years was the only Tibetan in New Zealand. That said from day one he started disseminating information about Tibet by giving interviews to Auckland Star and New Zealand Broadcasting. He actively took part in Tibetan Children Relief Society of New Zealand from 1967 and became it’s Treasurer, a position he held until his passing. TCRS sponsors hundreds of Tibetan children in India across TCV and Mussoorie Homes Foundation. He founded Friends of Tibet, New Zealand in 1986, served as the President and was the political voice of Tibet in New Zealand. He also actively took part in Auckland Multicultural Society Inc. representing Tibet at its annual expos. He served in various capacities including President across various terms. He was also a life member at Browns Bay Racquet club. The name of one of his tennis teams, ’Team Tibet’, inspired the title of the 2017 feature-length documentary on his life. His memoir “Tibet- The Home I Left Behind but will never Forget” with foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama was also released the same year.
Prior to the inception of Office of Tibet, Canberra, Thuten was appointed internally as Honorary Secretary of the Liaison Office of Tibet New Zealand by Pema Gyalpo in Japan 1989, then representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the Asia-Pacific region. Through that he set up the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand and all of His Holiness’s visits were overseen by the Trust.
He served as the head of Tibetan Community in New Zealand from 1967 till 2015 and later as head of Auckland Tibetan Association till 2019. He facilitated the Tibetan language and culture weekend classes for Tibetan children in Auckland in 2020. He attended numerous conferences on Tibet worldwide, lobbied for Tibet in the Parliament in Wellington and gained multiple supporters. He was also the Secretary/Treasurer of Dr Graham’s Homes in New Zealand Committee. Words fail to describe his selfless dedication and contribution to the Tibetan cause.
He was conferred numerous awards for a life of service:
1) Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award, presented by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
2) Queen’s Service Medal, awarded by the Government of New Zealand.
3) Auckland City for Peace Award by The Peace Foundation and Auckland Council.
4) Certificate of Achievement at the New Zealander of the Year Awards 2019
5) Unsung Heroes of Tibet Award, by Auckland Tibetan Association 2020
6) Awards at his tennis club
The Auckland Tibetan Association with Whangarei, Christchurch, Dunedin Tibetan Associations and Tibetans in Nelson, Tauranga, Wellington as well as Tibetan Buddhist Centres across the country express great sadness and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Gwendoline Kesang, daughters Tsering Kesang Pheasant, Elizabeth Kesang Gee and extended family. Thuten lived a life full of compassion and purpose. He was a proud and happy Tibetan-New Zealander always ready to sing his favourite old Bollywood songs. We pray for his soul to rest in peace and consciousness to be reborn as a Tibetan under the realm of Avalokiteśvara.
ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ
Ngawang SherpaMay 24, 2021 9:52 am
It was very sad to hear that Mr. Thupten Kalsang La passed away. We met couple of time during the Tibet Support group Meeting in CA, NY and Washington DC. He was a great person. May his soul Rest In Peace. ༄༅། །ཨོཾ་མཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུཾ། ཨོ་མཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུཾ། ཨོཾ་མཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུཾ།
Tsering Yangdon BinaraMay 24, 2021 11:04 am
I am very sad to learn that Thuten Kesang la has passed away. We have surely lost one of our hardest working activists for Tibet.
I first meet Thuten la at one of the TSG International gatherings in the 1990s and later when, in his “Team Tibet” shirt, when Thuten la and his wife, Gwen la, came to pick me up at Auckland airport in 2006. Someone, I don’t remember who, told me that His Holiness the Dalai Lama referred to Thuten la as a “One man band” for Tibet. Although he was the only Tibetan in NZ then, he worked tirelessly drumming up support for the cause of Tibet. I offer my heart-felt condolences to Gwen la and their daughters and extended families.
Tenzin SewoMay 24, 2021 11:44 am
I met Thuten la in early 2000s and was totally inspired by his personal life story. It clearly demonstrates what one individual can achieve and contribute to a bigger cause. Such noble and real-doer character has become a rarity in our community in these days. With my prayers.
Tibet Support Group IrelandMay 24, 2021 12:28 pm
Sincere condolences to his family on their loss.
Alison ReynoldsMay 24, 2021 2:28 pm
I remember that Dan! I always thought feisty was a great word to describe Thuten Kesang la!
I first met him on a coach in Berlin in 2000, where TSG conference delegates were being whisked from the airport to the hotel (those were the days). I’d had extensive email contact with Thuten la, because we were both part of an ad hoc committee that had been brought together by Thubten Samdup to develop the proposals that became the International Tibet Network. Because of his style of communication, I got it into my head that Thuten la was a young man, a student maybe so my jaw was on the floor when I met this mischievous businessman. He was definitely young at heart.
Most of us saw him last in Dharamsala in November 2019. He wrote afterwards: “I was delighted to meet so many old friends who have been in the movement for many years and make some new friends. It was great seeing so many young Tibetans involved in the movement, so our future is bright. The icing on the cake was an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the delegates and I was delighted when His Holiness touched my hands and said “Oh Thuten Kesang” my whole body became warm. He radiates so much energy in me, that all my tiredness goes.”
The last time I saw him before that was at a Regional meeting in Taipei, doing what came very naturally; being larger than life, entertaining us all with some Bollywood songs and helping to make a fun evening both special and very memorable
So very sad to hear this news and my condolences to his family. I urge Tibet supporters in New Zealand to respond to his wife Gwen’s message below and ensure Thuten la’s incredible legacy lives on.
Tao Tenzing DhamchoMay 24, 2021 11:56 pm
Thuten la was truly was a “One Man show”. A huge loss for the Tibet movement.
My fondest recollection of Thuten Kesang la was his big smile and his magnetic personality. I first met him in 2003 at the TSG Conference in Prague, where I immediately got drawn to his down to earth, funny, and gregarious demeanor.
I take much solace from the good times I have shared with him, most recently in Dharamsala in 2019, joking around over a pint of beer after a long day of meeting. He was all-around a fun guy to be with and will be deeply missed.
My heartfelt condolence to Gwen and the rest of the family.
AnonymousMay 25, 2021 4:59 am
RIP, a unsung hero among us, who seek no credit but dedicated service to the Tibetan the cause is a true rarity in these times of age, and his contribution to the most oppressed people on this earth is beyond. I never met him or heard of him until I read his short obituary.
Victory for rangzen and Tibet.
AnonymousMay 25, 2021 6:31 am
RIP, a unsung hero among us, who seek no credit but dedicated service to the Tibetan cause is a true rarity in these times of age, and his contribution to the most oppressed people on this earth is beyond. I never met him or heard of him until I read his short obituary.
Victory for rangzen and Tibet.
Carolyn E HollandMay 26, 2021 5:32 pm
I had the pleasure of meeting Thuten Kesang la at the TSG International gatherings in the 1990’s. I remember him with a smile because his good humor
and enthusiasm was infectious and welcoming.
My heartfelt condolences to his wife, daughters and extended family.
Howard BuxtonMay 26, 2021 11:33 pm
Oh I was saddened to read the news.
Thuten had a printing business beside our IHC workshop.
Always a gentleman. Interesting to talk to.
Printed for us. Had his stickon Tibet notices on our cars.
Saddened so young. Only met Gwen and daughter a couple of times but our thoughts are with you you all.