Phuntsok Wangyal

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Phuntsok Wangyal Goranangpa
Geranlanba Pingcuowangjie.jpg
Born2 January 1922
Died30 March 2014(2014-03-30) (aged 92)
Political party Tibetan Communist Party (1939–1949)
Communist Party of China (1949–1958)

Phüntsok Wangyal Goranangpa (2 January 1922 30 March 2014), also known as Phüntsog Wangyal, [lower-alpha 1] Bapa Phüntsok Wangyal or Phünwang, was a Tibetan politician. He is best known for having founded the Tibetan Communist Party and was a major figure in modern Sino-Tibetan relations. He was arrested by the Chinese authorities in 1960 and subsequently spent 18 years in the infamous Chinese high security prison Qincheng in solitary confinement. He lived in Beijing until his death.



Phünwang was born in Batang, in the province of Kham in Tibet. Phünwang began his political activism at school at the special academy run by Chiang Kai-shek’s Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in Nanjing, where in 1939 he and a small group of friends secretly founded the Tibetan Communist Party, [1] He was expelled from his school in Nanjing the following year. From 1942 until 1949, he organized a guerilla movement against the Chinese Kuomintang which expanded military influence in Kham.

The strategy of the Tibetan Communist Party under his leadership during the 1940s was twofold: influence and gain support for his cause amongst progressive Tibetan students, intellectuals and members of the powerful aristocracy in Central Tibet in order to establish a program of modernization and democratic (i.e. socialist) reform, while at the same time sustain a guerilla war against the rule of Liu Wenhui, an important warlord who affiliated with the Kuomintang. For sometime, Wangyal lectured at Tromzikhang on Barkhor square in the 1940s when it was used as a Republican school. [2]

Ladakh was claimed as part of Tibet by Phuntsok Wangyal. [3]

Phünwang's political goal was to see an independent and united Tibet, and to achieve a fundamental transformation of Tibet's feudal social structures. He was expulsed by the Tibetan government in 1949, and after joining the Chinese Communist Party's fight against the Kuomintang he fused his Tibetan party with the Chinese Communist Party, at the behest of the Chinese military leaders, which meant that he had to abandon his goals of an independent socialist Tibet. [4] He was present during the negotiations for the Seventeen Point Agreement in May 1951, in which Tibetan leaders saw no viable option than that of capitulating to China's insistence in the preamble that Tibet had formed part of China for over a century. He played an important administrative role in the organization of the party in Lhasa and was the official translator of the young 14th Dalai Lama during his famous meetings with Mao Zedong in Beijing in the years 1954 and 1955. [5] [6]

In the 1950s, Phünwang was the highest-ranking Tibetan in the Chinese Communist Party, and although he spoke fluent Chinese, was habituated to Chinese culture and customs and was completely devoted to the cause of socialism and to the Communist Party, his intensive engagement for the well-being of the Tibetans made him suspicious to his powerful party comrades. Eventually, in 1958, he was placed under house arrest and two years later disappeared from the public eye. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Beijing for the next 18 years. During his imprisonment, his wife, a Tibetan Muslim from Lhasa who stayed behind in Beijing with their children, died while she was imprisoned, and all children were sent to different prisons. It was only in 1975 that his family was told that he was still alive and had been incarcerated in a maximum-security prison for political prisoners. Unbeknownst to Phünwang, his younger brother was also imprisoned in Qincheng for 16 years.

Phuntsok Wangyal Goranangpa was officially rehabilitated a few years after his release in 1978 but remained in Beijing without any outside contact. [7] [8] Later, he was offered the position of Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, which he declined.

A biography has been published in English, where he particularly emphasises the need to better understand the interests of the Tibetan people in the context of peace and unity in the People's Republic of China. [9]

Later, he declared in an open letter to Hu Jintao that he should accommodate for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, suggesting that this gesture would be "...good for stabilizing Tibet." In a third letter dated 1 August 2006, he wrote : "If the inherited problem with Tibet continues to be delayed, it is most likely going to result in the creation of 'The Eastern Vatican of Tibetan Buddhism' alongside the Exile Tibetan Government. Then the 'Tibet Problem', be it nationally or internationally, will become more complicated and more troublesome." [10]

In a letter Hu Jintao in 2007, Phuntsok Wangyal criticised cadres of the CCP whom, to support Dorje Shugden, "make a living, are promoted and become rich by opposing splittism". [11]

He died on 30 March 2014 at a Beijing hospital. [12]

Published works

Further reading


  1. This is the form given in the Dalai Lama's autobiography Freedom in Exile.

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  1. Melvin C.Goldstein, Dawei Sherap, William R. Siebenschuh, A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye, University of California Press ISBN   978-0-520-24992-9 2006 pp.32,123
  2. Hartley, Lauren R., Schiaffini-Vedani, Patricia (2008). Modern Tibetan literature and social change. Duke University Press. p. 37. ISBN   0-8223-4277-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Gray Tuttle; Kurtis R. Schaeffer (12 March 2013). The Tibetan History Reader. Columbia University Press. pp. 603–. ISBN   978-0-231-14468-1.
  4. The prisoner by Tsering Shakya
  5. Goldstein et al.2006 pp.140-153.
  6. Jonathan Mirsky,'Destroying the Dharma, Times Literary Supplement, 2 December 2004 p.45-47,p.46
  7. Lectures critiques par Fabienne Jagou
  8. Le dernier caravanier Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine par Claude Arpi
  9. Biography of a Tibetan Revolutionary Highlights Complexity of Modern Tibetan Politics
  10. Baba Phuntsok: Witness to Tibet's History
  11. Allegiance to the Dalai Lama and those who "become rich by opposing splittism" Archived 2008-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Tibetan Communist who urged reconciliation with Dalai Lama dies". DNA India. 30 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2020.