by Tenzin Jigme, 1 August 2012

Today in 2007 a Tibetan nomad who was attending a famous horse race festival made an impromptu speech that resonated deeply with ordinary Tibetans while rattling the Chinese official nerves at the same time. Not a minute into his speech, he was escorted by a dozen or more security personnel. He was later sentenced to eight years in prison for that act.

It was probably the first time when information flow between Tibet and outside world was fluid because of mobile phone uses. People with direct contact to the area received information as it was happening or soon after, which elevated both the urgency of the situation and people’s emotions.

Flurry of activities were organized to highlight the case, including petition signing, candle light vigil and street protest. At nightly candle light vigils, the resource person, usually a relative, recounted what has happened during the day. Timely and vivid detail of the occurrences made an lasting impact in my mind of Runggye Adak and of his simple yet profound act that I believe led the new Tibetan revolution.

Runggye Adak, a 50-year old Tibetan nomad from Lithang, was attending the annual horse race festival that drew thousands of other Tibetans from across the Tibetan plateau. But he was probably not in a festive mood. From the content of his speech, the one thing he alluded to was the Chinese government’s attempts at distancing Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama. In recent years the patriotic re-education campaign has increased in the monasteries across Tibet where monks and nuns were force to denounce the Dalai Lama.

On that day, he walked up to the stage where there were dignitaries – many of whom where Chinese officials – and started speaking. He said, ‘what do you mean you don’t want to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama?’ and then proceeded to ask the audience if they want His Holiness to return to Tibet.

It was an impassioned speech. In that instant he become a Tibetan hero. A leader born out of necessary.

Runggye Adak was not a political activist. He was not an educated leader. He was an ordinary Tibetan speaking his mind because there was too much policy and propaganda against Tibetan people’s real wishes. Tibetans want His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. This desire is born from within and is closely intertwined with Tibetan people’s spiritual, cultural and political wishes.

Following his speech there was a mass scale appeal for his release, which later turned into political protest. It was the political event of the year in 2007. In many ways, it inspired the Tibet wide protest in 2008.

Runggye Adak’s action was simple but its effect was enormous. Watch an extract of his speech below…..



Free Runggye Adak from International Tibet Network on Vimeo.