Top image caption: Exile Tibetans perform a religious song during an inter-faith meeting in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. The Dalai Lama brought religious leaders together on Saturday to mull some of India’s most pressing problems, from gender violence to widespread poverty, while praising the country’s religious harmony as proof to the world that different communities can live peacefully together. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

The following article was sent in by a contributor who only wishes to be known by ‘Sally’. Sally has worked as a volunteer in various Tibetan advocacy programmes, and in the last six years she was actively involved in the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Sally has expressed concerns with what she deems to be serious malpractices within a number of international bodies that campaign and raise funds for the advancement of the Tibetan cause. Her request was for this site to publish the following article.

Raising money alone won’t help free the oppressed nation

By Maura Moynihan – Monday, June 8, 2015

As Chinese battleships advance in the South China Sea, breaking news that 147 people in Tibet have now set their bodies on fire to protest the Chinese Communist occupation of their homeland adds to fearful tremors racing through Asia about China’s rise. Tibet, one of China’s most prized possessions, is a war zone, and this poses a great danger to stability in Asia.

In 1973 my father, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was appointed U.S. ambassador to India. We met Tibetan exiles, learned of China’s conquest of Tibet, which enlarged Communist China’s landmass by nearly 50 percent, and poses a security threat to India, with Chinese armies stationed on its Himalayan borders for the first time in history. For many years I worked with Radio Free Asia, and in the 1990s I was a consultant to the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Founded in Washington in 1988, ICT has for many years been seen as the “voice of Tibet” in Washington. Many Americans donate generously to ICT, with trust that their hard-earned dollars advance ICT’s goal: “Protecting human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet.” But as Tibet burns, it is time to assess whether ICT is achieving its objectives.

Lodi Gyari, former chief envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, last year resigned from his position as director of ICT, and other staff changes were made. Many are wondering why Richard Gere, ICT Board chairman, installed Matteo Mecacci, a former Italian parliamentarian whose resume shows work in Eastern Europe but nothing in Asia, to operate the world’s largest (and best-funded) Tibet advocacy organization.

Mr. Mecacci is a prolific blogger: In a recent letter to ICT donors, Mr. Mecacci wrote:

Too many people think of Tibet as Shangri-La — a Himalayan paradise where everyone lives in peace and harmony. Nothing could be farther from the truth! In a perfect world, Tibetans would be living in peace and you could stand down. Your 2015 gift will help give Tibetans hope for an end to their suffering and the start of a brighter, peaceful future.

This sounds promising, but Mr. Mecacci does not explain exactly how giving money to ICT will accomplish this lofty goal.

ICT is hardly a cost-effective model of a non-profit organization representing a small, penniless refugee community. Indian government surveys report that 150,000 Tibetan refugees are trapped in disintegrating settlements, with poor, often broken families living on less than $1,500 a year. ICT’s annual operating budget is $3.6 million. ICT’s annual report and Charity Navigator reveal that it spends most of each dollar on overhead, including 44 percent for fundraising. The $1.6 million spent on fundraising each year reflects a breathtaking level of inefficiency. While ICT’s 2014 financial statements have not been released, Mr. Mecacci’s annual salary is alleged to be $150,000. Based on ICT’s 2013 tax filing, Mr. Mecacci earned $16,800 for less than one month’s work in December 2013, and ICT spent $640,000 on just one direct mail company.

In 2002 ICT helped push through one substantive bill, the Tibet Policy Act. That was 13 years ago. ICT publishes records of human rights abuses in Tibet, which, sadly but plainly, have no power to alter China’s oppressive rule over the Tibetan people. But ICT is not addressing the crisis of statelessness that is overwhelming Tibetans in exile. Refugees are especially vulnerable to exploitation, bribery and coercion, and Tibetans are no exception. I have interviewed many Tibetans in New York City, trapped in an illegal alien underground, desperate to escape refugee status in India or Nepal.

Illegal passport rings operating from India, trafficking Tibetans to the United States, and the proliferation of fake asylum claims have harmed the reputation of Tibetans with American officials. In 2005 the “Fake Nun” scandal erupted, when Sonam Chodon, a Tibetan from Nepal, claimed that she was a Buddhist nun fleeing persecution in China, became a media sensation and was granted asylum, but was later charged with using a fake passport and lying to authorities. A U.S. diplomat told me:

There is a lot of sympathy for the Tibetan people, but in the past two decades so many have come to the U.S. on tourist or student visas then immediately claimed asylum, used fake papers, broken the rules in other ways. There is a clear lack of leadership.

In 1990 the State Dept. issued 1,000 immigrant visas to Tibetans, but in 25 years, ICT has not successfully advanced any legislation allowing more Tibetans to resettle in the United States, or taken the lead in providing legal counsel about rights and procedures whereby refugees can legally immigrate. None of these matters are addressed in Mr. Mecacci’s blogs.

For the many millions of dollars that have flowed through ICT over 25 years, the story of China’s strategic and resource advantage gained by Tibet’s capture, has received scant attention or analysis. In January 2014, I testified before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee about the explosion of Chinese hydro dam construction on Tibet’s rivers, and the environmental catastrophe looming over the nations of South and Southeast Asia, which are nourished by Tibet’s waters. Afterward, members of Congress, scientists, and military officials, approached me in evident shock, to ask, “How come we never heard any of this before?” I was stunned: The International Campaign for Tibet failed to get the basic facts about China’s control of Tibet — the Water Tower of Asia, one of the greatest crises facing the 21st century — on the desks of Congress and the Pentagon.

Many Tibet support groups are concerned that ICT has no clear purpose other than self-preservation, raising funds to pay for trips to Asia, comfortable salaries and maintenance of an elegant townhouse in Dupont Circle officially assessed to be worth $2.7 million. Many activists groups have done far more on far less, but ICT remains the top-funded Tibet organization in America.

Richard Gere, as head of the ICT Board, has said he wants to focus on Chinese outreach, dialogue and peace. This is a noble aspiration, but it is more a sentiment than a strategy. At this late date, ICT must make a better case for funding than Mr. Mecacci’s breathless and exclamatory message: “You give me hope about Tibet. More important, you give hope to Tibetans for a better future!” Promoting comforting stereotypes of cheerful-but-needy Tibetan refugees is a disservice to the Tibetan people, and obscures the hard geopolitical facts about what China’s dams, mines and armies are doing to Tibet’s environment, Asia’s waters and the region’s stability. The real story needs to be told.

Maura Moynihan, daughter of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been a longtime supporter and activist for the Tibet cause.


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  1. Michael S.

    July 6, 2015 at 3:52 am

    A subject which is hardly discussed by the CTA or media related to the Tibetan government. It is important to be transparent on such matters as it involves the lives of people who are suffering . Also, if they are being used as the reason to justify fund raising activities then there should be transparent updates on how much money is raised and how the money is being used to help these victims. The motivation and intentions of the ICT should be stated clearly and since they work so hard to raise awareness and funds they should be willing and happy to come out transparent with their activities and results.
    I hope to hear a fair reply from the side of the ICT.
    Everyone should not take this as a personal bashing. If we are practicing Dharma free of the 8 worldly concerns, we should be able to discuss this subject openly with no malice on either side.

  2. Eli Buchen

    August 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you Michael, you have made very important point, that we should open to talk about it as it is not about bashing the ICT. But the fact some of the really crucial issues happening in Tibet were not picked up by ICT, like the Water issue just shows that ICT may not be functioning as it should be.

    We really have to thank Maura for bringing this to light.

  3. Samten

    January 28, 2018 at 1:12 am

    Although His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s secretary had previously denied that His Holiness was paid $1 million to speak for Raniere, a trace has been found that the Dalai Lama’s trust has received US$ 2 million in donation ten days after the event. Raniere is the leader of a cult called NXIVM which brands women on their pubic region with his initials and requires them to give him nude photos of themselves and other damaging material in case they reveal the secrets of his cult.

    Although the Dalai Lama office continues to deny that the donation was related to the speaking engagement, one can’t help but wonder whether His Holiness would have received such donation if he did not come to Albany to speak in the first place?

    Dalai Lama Secretary denies $1 million paid to speak for Raniere; Yet Dalai Lama Trust founded 10 days after Albany speech with $2 million in donations
    January 27, 2018 | By Frank Parlato
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary has denied the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million by Clare and Sara Bronfman to endorse cult leader Keith Raniere. That may be true. He might have got $2 million.
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary, Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, wrote:
    Clarification in Response to the Daily Mail Story of 24 January 2018
    The 24 January 2018 Daily Mail article by Ryan Parry regarding an appearance by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at an event held in Albany, New York in 2009 contains incorrect statements and untrue allegations. We wish to categorically state that His Holiness the Dalai Lama never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort, nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organizations, as a condition of his making a personal appearance. Therefore, the reported allegation has no basis. Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor the Dalai Lama Foundation ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with His Holiness’s appearance in Albany. As reported in the Daily Mail, during His Holiness’s talk in Albany in 2009, he called on the media to investigate the allegations made about the NXIVM organization and its founder, and was quite clear that the truth should be exposed.

    It is true, the Dalai Lama asked the media to investigate Keith Raniere. But whether he received money or not is another issue. Let’s parse the above statement a little:
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary said the Dalai Lama “never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort”.
    A donation is not a fee or an honorarium.
    The secretary said: “nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organizations, as a condition of his making a personal appearance.”
    Again, the secretary says a payment was not required. But he does not say a donation was not made by Clare and Sara Bronfman.
    The Dalai Lama appeared in Albany on May 6, 2009 and he gave Raniere a white scarf onstage. He allowed the Bronfman sisters to sit onstage with him. [For readers unaware, Keith Raniere heads a cult called NXIVM which brands women on their pubic region with his initials and requires them to give him nude photos of themselves and other damaging material in case they reveal the secrets of his cult.]
    The Dalai Lama may have received a donation that was understood to be an ‘unconditional donation” not connected to his speaking engagement in Albany.
    He may have agreed to speak in Albany, and they may have agreed the donation was unconnected to his speaking so, therefore, it not ‘connected’ to his appearance.
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary does not deny that the Bronfmans donated money.  The Secretary said, “Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor the Dalai Lama Foundation ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with His Holiness’s appearance in Albany.” [emphasis mine].
    I get it: He did not receive the $1 million ‘in connection with His Holiness’s appearance’ but, again, the secretary does not say the Dalai Lama did not get $1 million [or possibly more] from the Bronfmans.
    He only states the Dalai Lama did not get $1 million ‘in connection with his appearance’.
    It may have been what is called an ‘unconditional donation.’
    Now let us look at some coincidences:
    The Dalai Lama spoke in Albany on May 6, 2009.
    The Dalai Lama Trust was founded May 16, 2009. [10 days later].
    See the Dalai Lama trust’s IRS return for 2009.
    See also: Dalai Lama Trust certificate of incorporation.
    The IRS return shows $2.2 million in unconditional donations and royalties for 2009.
    It could be a coincidence, but it is peculiar that the Dalai Lama appears in Albany on May 6, 2009 and 10 days later the Dalai Lama trust is formed in the USA which gets $2 million plus in donations etc.
    When I worked for NXIVM/Bronfmans, I was told by a high ranking NXIVM official that, prior to the Dalai Lama’s coming to speak [before he canceled the first time] the Bronfman sisters pledged to donate $1 million to him.
    When he canceled, the sisters, plus Keith Raniere and Lama Tenzin, rushed to India to get the Dalai Lama to change his mind. I was no longer working for NXIVM. But I heard they offered the Dalai Lama another million [making it $2 million]. I never confirmed the second million, and I never saw the checks.
    It may be true the Bronfmans did not donate anything. But it seems far fetched that the Dalai Lama came at his own expense to Albany and got nothing in return. And then a trust suddenly opens in the US just 10 days after his appearance?

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