Insider Revelations Raise More Questions On ‘Free Tibet’

As co-founder of the first Tibet Support Group UK (which morphed into ‘FREE TIBET CAMPAIGN’ about 1997) which was formed in connection with HH the Dalai Lama’s UK visit in 1988 (and which served, at the time, as a model and template for other similar groups to be formed around the world – it was in the forefront of the global Tibet support movement which mushroomed after 1988, in fact), I can add an insider’s insight here.

After helping to form, nurture and develop this seminal UK group from day one myself, acting as Director and holding its meetings in my own London office to start with, I continued on the management committee (Board) and as hon.treasurer of the group, until about 2000, when I was voted off the board. Who forced me out? It was a clique who opposed my recommended financial policy as hon.treasurer. Why did they do this, what was the problem? It happened that I was experienced and portrayed by certain colleagues as ‘difficult’ because I tried to insist, as hon.treasurer, that whatever funds were raised by the fund raisers in small donations (on the back of the suffering of the Tibetans in Tibet) should be spent in the most effective way possible within a reasonably short space of time, as this is what all those generous small donors themselves would SURELY want.

However, the Chair of the Board (supported by a narrow majority), disagreed. He opined that we must be very economical and save up as much as possible of the funds raised and keep them in a deposit account at the bank, as a cushion, in case of future shortages, in order to guarantee 100% that we would be able pay future salaries and rent, even if our income dried up altogether. Against my recommendation as treasurer, he persuaded a majority of the board to adopt the policy that we should accumulate THREE YEARS BASIC RUNNING COSTS – £150,000 at the time – and keep them in reserve, on deposit, earning interest at the bank. His stated long term plan was even worse that this – it was to increase this reserve to cover TEN YEARS RUNNING COSTS.

I opposed this policy as hon.treasurer tooth and nail, since I saw it as not only as selfish, insecure, ultra-conservative, unnecessary, self-indulgent and a wrong priority but also a betrayal not only of the donors’ own wishes but also of the Tibetans’ in Tibet who were suffering under the Chinese jackboot (and on whose back we were raising funds). I argued that reserves should not exceed funds sufficient to cover current liabilities, and to spend all the rest of our donations received, as and when received, in the most effective possible way to achieve our aims. As a result of my efforts, I was voted off the board and basically thrown out, after founding and supporting the group for a dozen years as a volunteer.

I hope this gives readers an insight as to where the kinds of symptoms you have noted (Editor’s note: reference to previous post)  in the attitudes and policies of the UK Tibet-support movement have originated.

Comments received from Mr Sean Jones March 13, 2013

Please note that we are happy to extend to  ‘Free Tibet’ the opportunity of a rejoinder to these claims.

4 thoughts on “Insider Revelations Raise More Questions On ‘Free Tibet’

  1. Simon Schneiter says:

    unbelievable, how shameless the people of the organisation “Free Tibet” are making use of the plight of the Tibetan people, to have their salaries paid. This office should be shut down immediately or all positions handed over to Tibetans.

  2. Sean Jones says:

    Correction: BEFORE i GET JUMPED ON FOR EXAGGERATING, for THREE YEARS COMPLETE RUNNING COSTS I meant “THREE YEARS BASIC RUNNING COSTS”. The exact figure I am not sure. It was £50,000 a year ir £150,000 a year. In any case, the whole idea is preposterous – that donations made to help Tibetans, often coming from people who are hard-up but want to help, should be put on deposit in a bank to guarantee some career-voluntary sector worker a job for years and years instead of being used for the purpose intended. I view this policy as dishonest, period.
    S.J.

  3. Number of worrying issues raised here, principal concerns though must surely be questions regarding the misdirection of funds which would surely merit being invested towards the actual cause, or for assisting Tibetan projects? The figures are unsettling too. If Ms Wilde-Blavatsky’s assertions are valid then currently some 50% of funding is seemingly targeting staff salaries, in what we gather is a small organization formed of a handful of paid officers. The amounts being paid are equally disconcerting, apparently some $40,000 or more, the figure when contrasted with the hardships of those Tibetans who this organization is dedicated towards supporting is acutely unsettling. Then we have a fundamental issue of transparency and also a respect and awareness of the probable motives and expectations of those funding this group via donations and membership fees. Is it too unlikely that such generosity is offered in the understandable assumption that the majority of donations would be directed to either Tibet’s cause or in supporting various exiled Tibetan projects? Are donors or members of ‘Free Tibet’ made aware of how each of their Dollars is spent?

    There are of course other concerns, most ferociously exposed by the articles from Gelek and Ms. Wilde-Blavatsky, that have been casting a shadow over this organization for some considerable time.These are political in nature and have been addressed on this Blog on a number of occasions, impacting as they do upon the troubling manner in which Tibet and its rightful struggle is being branded in England. Free Tibet are not alone in this, however they are an influential group and as such must be accountable for their role in failing to more effectively mobilize public political support at events such as March 10.

    As we have noted on other occasions there is a stasis that seems to have struck the Tibet movement in England, hard to tell from such a distance. but from what is known there appears to be something of a cabal that effectively runs the scene there. A mafiosi if you will. We said it previously and are happy to do so again it is time for Tibetans to regain control of their cause, until they do so, then we can expect more of the same, as there would seem to be an endemic corruption of mind operating that is elevating career or status considerations above the cause itself.

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