Tibetans in exile re-elect former prime minister

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile re-elects former Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay as its political leader to spearhead its autonomy campaign.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (R) and Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, arrive for a news conference in Vienna, Austria on May 25, 2012

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE) announced on Wednesday that its former Prime Minister, Lobsang Sangay, has been re-elected with 57 percent of the votes, as a result of the election held last month, and noted that Tibetans in exile were “practicing democracy, whereas China is not.”

The former PM, who is also a Harvard-educated lawyer, led the Tibetan diaspora in 2011 when Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama stepped down for the first time.

The new election results mark the second time Dalai Lama stepped down from his spiritual leader position, after Tibetans fled Tibet in 1959 when China took control of the territory.

China claims the territory that Tibetans fled, saying that it’s Communist Party has governed the Himalayan region since 1951. However, many Tibetans are seeking autonomy rather than independence, saying that they were independent for most of their history before China’s takeover.

Buddhist Tibetans say their culture is suppressed by China, which often restricts religious practices of minorities including Uighur Muslims.

Despite not being officially recognised by any country, TPiE maintains direct relations with the US and many other country through various forums and raises the issue of China’s takeover.

Tibetans seeking negotiations with China stated their trust in newly elected Prime Minister Sangay, saying that he was qualified enough to continue Dalai Lama’s advocacy over the Tibetan issue.

Choezin, a 53-year-old crimson-robed monk, who fled Tibet in 1985 to settle in Dharamsala - the exiled government's base – claims that the Dalai Lama has said Sangay was the right man.

“I voted for him because of his educated background,” he said.

The election campaign was marked by bitter rivalry between candidates that drew rebukes from the Dalai Lama.

Sangay, like the Dalai Lama and most Tibetans, backs the so-called middle way demand for autonomy within China. But in his first term he made no headway in convincing the Chinese to negotiate.

Formal negotiations between China and the Dalai Lama's representatives broke down in 2010, and the stalemate since has cast a pall over Tibetans in exile.

Beijing's growing economic might has slowly pushed the Tibetan cause out of the international limelight. The Dalai Lama has been denied audience with several world leaders in recent years, including the Pope.

TRTWorld and agencies