Friends, former colleagues and His Holiness the Dalai Lama pay tribute to the life of Fredrick “Riki” Hyde-Chambers OBE, who sadly died at the age of 77 on 31 October 2021. Riki was a friend to the Tibetan movement for many years and was known throughout the Tibetan community in the UK as a fervent supporter and for getting the Tibetan message to policymakers in the UK parliament for many years.
In a letter to his son, Robin, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes: "Your late father was a steadfast friend of the Tibetan people. He was a longstanding and active member of the Tibet Society UK, which was one of the world's first Tibet support organisations set up within weeks of our escape to India in 1959 by friends and well-wishers who included the late Hugh Richardson. In that role Riki passionately promoted the just cause of Tibet in Britain, as well as the value of preserving its rich and distinct cultural heritage, for which we remain grateful. Over the years we met several times both in the UK and here in Dharamsala. He and his dedication will be sadly missed in the Tibetan community and the Tibet movement."
“It would be hard to overestimate Riki’s impact on the Tibet movement. From the 1960s onwards he was a passionate and tireless advocate for Tibet through his role at Tibet Society. He brought the occupation of Tibet to the attention of countless MPs through his parliamentary work, and was a figure of great respect and fondness among the Tibetan community and the Tibet movement. Only last year, he played an integral role in the merger between Tibet Society and Free Tibet, joining our Board and bringing his trademark passion and energy with him. He leaves a hole in the movement that cannot be filled, but also a legacy of great deeds and memories that will never be forgotten.” – Daniel Russell, chair of Free Tibet and a trustee of Tibet Watch.
“I knew Riki for some 20 years, beginning with roles I had at the Tibet Society and the Tibet Relief Fund, and I can think of few people it gave me such pleasure to meet during those years. He was truly an exceptional man, gentle and kind, of huge integrity, often very funny, and profoundly knowledgeable. He had a particular dapper style of his own, with those bow ties, and he carried a massive reputation and status in Tibetan, Buddhist and also parliamentary circles – from his work in Africa, Georgia and Moldova, as well as with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet (APPGT). He was always interested in other people and was reticent in talking about himself. He was a friend you could depend upon. He had great commitment, continuing working into his late 70s, and he leaves an unfillable hole behind him.” – Nigel Smith
“[I am] truly saddened to be saying goodbye to Riki. My friend, a friend of Tibet and a great personal friend to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In recent years I had the privilege of working with him on the Tibet Society. Riki cared deeply about the world and he was truly a citizen of [it]. He more recently was involved with the campaign for justice of the Gurkas and he has also done work in Georgia and elsewhere. I will sorely miss Riki as will the rest of the Tibet movement, where he leaves a huge gap. The rest of us will need to work extremely hard to ensure we pick up the baton and ensure that we continue [Riki’s] lifelong fight [to] ensure that the Tibetan movement goes from strength to strength.” – Pempa Lobsang, Board member of Free Tibet and Tibet Society
“Riki was a truly unique person who dedicated so much of his life to Tibet. I first met him in 1997 and it is down to him that I became absorbed by Tibet. During my early days in post at Tibet Society and Tibet Relief Fund, Riki quietly became my mentor, looking out for me, giving me good counsel and unceasingly gently boosting my confidence. I was always entranced by his reminiscences of the early days of Tibetans coming to the UK and his work at Tibet Society (his first job). Having been allocated a young Tibetan living in Darjeeling [, India] as a pen friend whilst still at school, Riki went on to be part of the UK’s history with Tibetans from that beginning up until [his passing].” – Zara Fleming
“I'm extremely saddened by the demise of Frederick [Riki] Hyde-Chambers. He stood for the Tibetan people since [the] 1960s when very little was known of Tibet and has carried the voice of the Tibetan people since then. His contributions will remain unparalleled. Our prayers and condolences.” – Sikyong Penpa Tsering
“Riki was a great British gentleman and a very good friend. He helped me stay in the UK. I will miss him forever.” – Gu Feng, Chinese dissident
“I will never forget how we worked together in Tibet in 1988 when [Riki] travelled there with Lord David Ennals. After interviewing Tibetans [he] left Tibet with deep impressions and many documents pasted on your body. When we just recently reminisced about this moment [Riki] said that [he was] afraid to be strip-searched at the Lhasa airport when [he] left. [Riki] made it to the UK with all the information where [he] continued to be a great supporter of Tibet. I was planning to come and see [Riki] in London in October to go through a box of documents and tapes you told me [he’d] kept from that memorable trip. I was sad to hear [Riki] died before we could do so but happy we relived these special days before [he] passed on. Rest in peace.” – Christa Meindersma
“Riki was a dear friend that I knew for more than 20 years. I chaired the APPGT and of course Riki was absolutely key, not just to the group but also to ensure that we visited Dharamsala and that we met the Tibetan government and parliament in exile. When I first met [His Holiness] the Dalai Lama with Riki, I realised there and then Riki was very special to the Dalai Lama and [vice versa]. Since then, Riki has introduced me to people in Georgia and his work [there], which was absolutely extraordinary and brilliant. His range of friends, contacts and interests was always huge and he is leaving a massive hole behind him after his loss. We will never forget him [and all] he has done for humanity and for the world. God rest his soul.” – Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP
“Riki has been a part of the Tibet movement for as long as I have known him and much [earlier]. I first met Riki back in June 1976 during my first ever visit to the UK in the small basement office of the Tibet Society in Belgravia Square in London. It was the centre point of all things to do with the Tibet movement in the UK at that time. The Tibet Society of the United Kingdom was formed in July 1959, soon after the escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to India. [Riki’s] relationship with Tibet first started through the sponsorship of a young Tibetan refugee back in the early 1960s, which led him to join Tibet Society to advocate and campaign for a free Tibet. Riki was a member of the sponsoring committee for the first visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the UK in October 1973. The visit was such a unique, historic and successful [one] that has sowed the seeds for all subsequent visits by His Holiness to the UK. In the late 1980s, Riki was instrumental in helping to form the APPGT and accompanied Lord Ennels to Tibet in 1988 for [a] field fact-finding study sponsored by the International Alert – who reported and submitted its findings to the UK Parliament under the title “Tibet under China” in August 1988. [Riki] has successfully managed to save Tibet Society’s advocacy work and history through a successful merger with Free Tibet, which is one the most stable Tibet-support organisations in the UK.” – Sonam Frasi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“It was with great sadness [that] I heard about the death of Riki, one of the greatest friends to Tibet and Tibetan people worldwide. In my near 25 years as a member of the APPGT, and more recently as co-Chairman, Riki was a constant presence and a familiar figure around Westminster – always standing out with his flamboyant bow ties. He was a great source of wise advice to all those advocating for Tibet and [was] a gold mine of contacts across all those who supported the cause internationally. He was invaluable in raising the profile of the injustices against the Tibetan people with successive governments. I once had the pleasure of joining him on a delegation [trip] to Dharamsala where, as usual, he succeeded in bringing together politicians across the party divide and his knowledge of the area and the people was considerable. He seemed to know everyone and everyone knew him and greeted him as an old friend. His passing is a great loss to the Tibetan cause but it will be his legacy that [will] keep its flame burning brighter than ever.” – Tim Loughton, Conservative MP
“Riki knew it was hugely important to keep the cause of Tibet before Parliament and parliamentarians. He was no fair-weather friend of Tibet. In season and out, Riki would ensure that MPs and peers were recipients of news and information about Tibet and never tired of reminding anyone who was willing to listen [to] what terrible things had been [inflicted] on the people of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party.” – Lord David Alton of Liverpool
“[Riki] has always been a mentor to myself and he has also helped two of my friends to actually stay in the UK. One of the friends Riki helped to make sure he can spend the rest of his life free from fear. Riki [was] an idealist and we [did] not always agree on how we can fight for Tibetan identity internationally but he respected me. The best way to honour his legacy is to [continue to] carry the Tibetan cause, carry the Tibet flag proudly and keep fighting for Tibet.” – Marshal Yuan