Tibet Elects New Leader-in-New Exile
The Tibetan government-in-exile elected its new prime minister, or Kalon Tripa, who will assume many of the functions performed by the Dalai Lama until he retires from his political duties next month.
Dr. Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old senior fellow at Harvard Law School, took 55 percent of the vote, according to final poll figures.
The Kalon Tripa had always been appointed by the Dalai Lama until 2001, when the first elected prime minister took office in Dharamsala, India, home to the government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama remained the titular head of state, but has been working towards devolving power to the Tibetan people while he’s still alive.
The revered leader told his people in a statement when he announced his retirement, “My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened.”
Sangay, the youngest of the contenders for PM, said in a statement accepting his office, “It is sobering to realize that nearly 50,000 people in over 30 countries voted in the recent Kalon Tripa and Chitue [Parliament] elections.” He added, “Your overwhelming support is humbling and I will do my utmost to live up to your expectations.”
He also said that the high participation during the voting is a step in the right direction and will boost morale.
“I urge every Tibetan and friends of Tibet to join me in our common cause to alleviate the suffering of Tibetans in occupied Tibet,” he said.
He added that the Dalai Lama should be able to “take his rightful place in the Potala Palace.” The Potala Palace in Tibet, built in 1645, was the main residence of the Dalai Lama until the current Dalai Lama escaped to India after the Chinese invasion in 1959.
Currently, Tibetans as well as other groups such as Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs located in the western part of China, face the daily threat of arrest, torture, and sometimes death at the hands of Chinese authorities.
Sangay was born and grew up in the Tibetan settlement of Lama Hatta in the Indian province, Darjeeling, and attended school there. He moved to the United Staes in 1996 as a Fulbright Scholar and obtained his Doctorate in Law from Harvard in 2004. His expertise is international law, democratic constitution, and contemporary China.
The majority of Tibetans living in exile reside in Dharmasala. The government-in-exile oversees 21 settlements in India, and 20 Tibetan settlements in Nepal and Bhutan. The government also looks after 30,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns at 223 monasteries in the region.