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Showing posts 1 - 30 of 827. View more »

The Shugden issue used to be just a religious one

posted Apr 13, 2016, 8:35 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Apr 13, 2016, 8:35 AM ]

By Woeser:

 Author Tsering Woeser uses her blog "Invisible Tibet," together with poetry, historical research, and social media platforms, to give voice to millions of ethnic Tibetans who are denied freedom of expression. In a recent commentary for RFA's Mandarin Service, she talks about the politicization of a centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist dispute by the ruling Chinese Communist Party:

On Dec. 21, 2015, Reuters ran an article by three of their most experienced journalists titled "China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama."

"A Reuters investigation has found that the religious sect behind the protests has the backing of the Communist Party. The group has emerged as an instrument in Beijing’s long campaign to undermine support for the Dalai Lama," the article said.

The name of this Buddhist sect is Dorje Shugden, shortened to Shugden.

Problems first began to emerge with Shugden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but weren't spoken about publicly until the 1990s.

The Dalai Lama, based on many years of observation and more importantly on Buddhist teaching, has said that if monks and believers wish to be true followers of his Gelugpa sect, they should give up the worship of spirits like Shugden and base their practice on Buddhist doctrine.

The problem of Shugden has lasted for 300-400 years, and through five incarnations of the Dalai Lama.

However, a more detailed examination of the issue would mean investigating experiences which are often only accessible to meditators who have worked through certain practices in sequence. The very precise words used to describe such experiences are frequently misunderstood by a lot of people.

But it's not just about spirits: religious belief is in itself a very personal thing.

There is no question that human beings have worshipped all manner of spirits, gods, animal and plant totems through history.

But if you call yourself a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, and you rely on deities and spirits rather than Buddhist doctrine; if you see them as more important than the Buddha himself, then there's a problem.

Even more importantly, adherents of Shugden practice are the fundamentalists of the Gelugpa sect, because they recognize only the Gelugpa school as the true form of Buddhism. They are intolerant, and reject the Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya and any other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, seeing them as inauthentic.

The Dalai Lama doesn't want to see infighting between the schools lead to the fragmentation of Tibetan Buddhism, and sees the fundamentalism of the Shugden followers as religious intolerance.

Monks in the pay of China

In indicating that followers of the Gelugpa school should drop their Shugden practice, he is effectively handing over greater religious freedom to believers. It is effectively a negation of something negative that yields a positive.

He also makes the point that Shugden practice doesn't really constitute a religious belief. Tibetan Buddhism has its wellsprings in the teachings transmitted by Nalanda monastery, or university [c. 400 B.C.-1200], and it would be sad and terrible if its rich teachings were to be reduced to the worship of a deity and the protection of a single soul [rather than the salvation of all sentient beings].

That's why the Dalai Lama has acted to set the Gelugpa school to rights. This is the first major reform to Tibetan Buddhism since that of the Tsongkhapa [1357–1419].

Unlike today, Tibet was entirely under self-rule back in the day of the Tsongkhapa, and he was only able to bring in his sweeping reforms and restore Buddhism to its original state because religious affairs were the province of religious people. His reforms ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity.

The Shugden issue used to be just a religious one, and one confined to the Gelugpa school at that, although the Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya schools were deeply alienated by the desire of Shugden followers to suppress all of the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and despised Shugden as a symbol of evil.

But other forces had to get involved, both overtly and covertly, turning the Dalai Lama's reforms into a tug-of-war, and making what should have been a religious matter political.

As the Reuters report put it: "A leaked internal Communist Party document shows that China is intervening in the dispute. The party document, issued to officials [in 2014], said the Shugden issue is 'an important front in our struggle with the Dalai clique'."

What about the Tibetan view? One Tibetan intellectual told me: "There are many good things about Tibetans as a people, and many weaknesses, which include narrow-minded contentiousness and the endless internecine bickering of religious sects. This even goes on among Tibetans in exile ... And they can be greedy too. Some of these followers of Shugden see him as a lifelong cash cow."

He's right. Some people get their livelihood from Shugden; some have got rich from him or been promoted to higher office because of him.

As the Reuters report said, China paid senior Shugden monks to plan and coordinate the activities of the sect’s followers overseas, controlled and funded by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s ideological unit, the United Front Work Department.

For a lot of people, Shugden isn't about religious belief any more; he's their bread and butter.

Originally published at:

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Appeal letter from Shokjang

posted Apr 11, 2016, 8:52 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Drukar Gyal (a/k/a Shokjang)

 The following appeal was written by Tibetan blogger Shokjang and translated by International Campaign for Tibet:

To the Qinghai Higher People’s Court

My name is Drukar Gyal, or Druklo in short, and my pen-name is Shokjang. I come from Khagya village in Gengya area of Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho [Gannan] prefecture.[2] On March 19, 2015, I was detained by Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren)[3] county Public Security, and held in the detention centre there from the 20th. On May 5, the formal announcement of my arrest came. On July 21, the Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court convened; I presented the defence that my actions were not illegal, and the court’s deliberation was postponed for over seven months, until the second session on February 17 2016, which announced a sentence of three years imprisonment with two years suspension of political rights.

As I myself cannot accept this judgment, I have written this appeal to the provincial Higher Peoples Court, cherishing the hope of justice being done.

The Malho Peoples Court has condemned the matters I wrote about as “inciting the splitting of the nation”. The main points are (i) A composition about the freedom of religious belief posted on the internet; (ii) A written account of the events of March 16 (2015), when police and soldiers came to search my hotel room at gunpoint;[4] (iii) Reproducing a short section from the book ‘The Division of Heaven and Earth’ on the internet;[5] (iv) Sharing a news report that the Chinese government would hold talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on matters unrelated to Tibetan independence; (v) Reproducing on the internet an internal video clip of Chinese police beating ordinary Chinese people in the street; (vi) Having copies of six books, including ‘Sky Burial’ by Wang Lixiong, on my phone.[6]

Concerning the first four points, while I presented the case for my defence earlier, the present sentencing document rules that my arguments citing the constitution and so on are without foundation.

If even the provisions of the Chinese constitution are not valid arguments, I find the basis for the Intermediate People’s Court’s decision hard to understand. With the merest of hopes, I am restating my case that my actions were not illegal, along with an unreserved statement of my position, and request that you the provincial Higher Peoples Court give it full consideration.

1. Freedom of religious belief is an important right of citizens defined by the constitution. On the basis of this constitutional right, my composition expressed my view of the restrictions imposed by armed soldiers on the occasion of the ‘flower offering’ ceremony at Kumbum monastery,[7] and addressed my readers on awareness of the right to religious belief. Any citizen has the right to comment on developments in society according to legally guaranteed rights, while conveying awareness of the law to others is a responsibility. I have only exercised my right and responsibility according to the constitution, and made no mention of separatism etc. as they allege.

With regard to the overall relationship between religion and politics, I clearly wrote that I was expressing my opinions on the outcome of politics dictating to religion and the outcome of religious rights dictating politics; the former [is discussed] in the present composition, and the latter is still unwritten.

To put it straight, this was basically just a short piece that has nothing to do with a serious political allegation like “splitting the nation”. The Malho Intermediate Peoples Court cited a fragment of what I wrote, “…this is not just trampling on the Tibetan people’s right to freedom of religious belief, but on the right of the Chinese people as a whole to religious freedom”, to accuse me of having a separatist attitude. If knowledgeable people were to examine this, would they not find it laughable? Not only did I not make even the slightest reference to separatism, my statement posits no distinction between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples. Their talk of separatism does not establish what is being separated from what.

At that time, the situation at the Kumbum Flower Offering ceremony [Monlam Chenmo, marked by a massive presence of armed troops] was widely discussed on the internet, with lots of devotees giving their opinions one after another, as you well know. After seeing these things, I simply wrote down what I thought, and the photos inserted in my text were entirely borrowed from others, none of them were taken by me. As someone staying in Labrang, my camera lens cannot reach Kumbum monastery, as any ordinary person would understand.

Further, straightforwardly writing down my view of the situation at that time is my right to written expression, a right enshrined in and protected by the constitution. If such situations in the cultural sphere turn into serious political issues, issues of national separatism, does that make visitors from both nationalities who post photos and other observations on the situation at Kumbum monastery on the internet into perpetrators of separatism? By this logic, only a minority of the general public would not be considered as separatists or instigators of separatism. Won’t such extreme suspicion make for an authoritarian stranglehold? Doesn’t it contradict the core socialist values of “freedom, democracy, equality, transparency, upholding law…” etc. being propagated by President Xi Jinping and others? Won’t this apparent deliberate dereliction of the decisions of the top leadership be ridiculed by nations from the four corners of the world? Won’t future generations be ashamed? I request the Higher Peoples Court to review this carefully.

2. On the evening of March 16 (2015) I was in a hotel in Rebkong [Tongren]. Late at night, two people wearing police uniform and army uniform and carrying guns came inside saying they needed to search the place. When I asked them to show some documentary proof, they pointed their guns at me and loudly intimidated me. That was the first time I have experienced the terror of facing the barrel of a gun pointed at me. Such unspeakable, unimaginable intimidation embittered me towards the Rebkong security [forces]. Confronted with those, whether policemen or gangsters I knew not, I wrote that [account of events] in the hope of getting the protection of the security authorities and the public.

In case those searching me at gunpoint that night really were police and army personnel, is it not illegal to conduct a search without a warrant? The injured party here is myself, and the proper object of the court’s protection is me. In case they were gangsters, I am even more so the injured party, and the one due to be protected by the court. However, quite unbelievably, the court instead accused me not only of inciting separatism, but of fabrication, saying “Results of police investigation confirm the use of fabrication and incitement to cause unrest” [quoted in Chinese]. As to whether my account is fabricated, take another look at the CCTV footage from that day, and it can be clearly seen.

The term ‘instigatory’ is a mystery. If one talks about instigating separatism, I have not written even a word of separatism, much less instigated it. If I write about an incident in which I suffered harm, and that becomes an unfounded accusation against me, and I write an appeal to the court about the incident, that does not make me a separatist. Helplessly subject to a punishment that makes your flesh creep the more you think about it, I appeal to the Higher People’s Court to look for the objective truth.

3. The short extract from ‘The Division of Heaven and Earth’ [a major contemporary work by the Tibetan author Shokdung] was copied by someone else and posted on the internet. In the course of my involvement with it, I wrote: “Look at this again and again, and think about it again and again” there. The reason for that is that I do not want to see any more of such tragic bloodshed. I will never fight to secure my own happiness through shedding the blood of others. China is a vast country with 56 different nationalities, and Tibetans are one of the largest minorities. I am a Chinese citizen, and as a Tibetan intellectual, I have to be concerned for the precious lives of my own kin. If doing so is called “instigating separatism”, nothing is more laughable. I might joyfully and voluntarily serve my sentence, but I never want to be a person without regard for the lives of his brothers and sisters. Come to that, I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters.

4. The news about the Chinese government talking with the Dalai Lama was an internal thing. I shared it from my friend’s Weibo [Chinese social media] page. It is extraordinary that even sharing a piece of internal news can be illegal. Such negotiations have taken place in the past, and a few years ago some representatives of the Tibetan government [in exile][8] came to China to hold discussions. But the Malho Prefecture Peoples Court does not seem to understand that this has nothing to do with state secrets and suchlike. Otherwise, there is no basis for such a decision. According to the Malho Prefecture Peoples Court’s way of making judgements, not just I but the Chinese government has committed a serious crime, and internal news channels should just be closed. I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to show some understanding.

5. The video clip is of a real life incident somewhere in the mainland. It got a very high number of hits. I also shared it from a Chinese friend’s Weibo. The oppressed Chinese public sympathised with the suffering of the victims. As I said earlier, “I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters”. This has nothing whatever to do with so-called separatism, neither can it be construed as illegal. Without even looking into the content of this video clip, the Malho Prefecture Intermediate Peoples Court declared it to be Tibet-related, and landed the weighty accusation of instigating separatism on my little head, a weight I can hardly bear. I await exoneration by the Provincial Higher Peoples Court.

6. It is true that I have read books like Wang Lixiong’s ‘Sky Burial’, but I have not quoted a word from such books, and certainly not passed them on to others. If ‘Sky Burial’ is a book that should not even be read, it is excellent that its author has been shown such leniency by the law. Such application of the law has all my respect. Writers like him should be cherished by the nation and the people. And yet, showing leniency to an author and then punishing his readers – under which point of law this is sanctioned, I really do not know. If my grasp of the law is too poor, I do apologise, but otherwise, I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to clearly distinguish such “One Country, Two Systems” practices.

There are further implications: for my friends even to say that they had seen the previous three posts on my Weibo page is counted as prime evidence of law-breaking. If even setting eyes on these things is going to be considered illegal, then not only all my writings, but everything down to the birds and the bees could be too. Which intelligent person can accept charges based on evidence ‘ridiculed by people but tolerated by dogs’?

Another thing I don’t understand is that they took away my iPhone5S, because they retrieved those posts through the phone. But if they had found those writings in my house, would they also confiscate the house and its contents?

They may be like ‘an old mouth used to eating, and an old hand used to taking’,[9] but I don’t have that many benefactors, and trust that you, the Provincial Court, will not ‘blow an ill wind into a poor man’s tsampa bag’.[10]

Finally, as a Chinese citizen, my right to free expression and right to compose writings about my experiences are provided for by the constitution, but on account of my lack of familiarity with the law, I apologise if I have not expressed myself well, verbally and in written. Most of all, with my old mother and siblings looking at me with constant tears in their eyes, and my wife and children waiting for me every second, I await a proper decision as swiftly as possible from the Higher Court.

Druklo, also known as Shokjang
February 24, 2016

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Precious Little Space for Uyghur or Tibetan Grievances

posted Apr 10, 2016, 8:03 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Elliot Sperling

  It’s already been many years since anyone seriously asserted that continuing political liberalization would be the certain result of economic growth in post-Mao China. One might propose, however, that we are seeing something somewhat opposite: as economic indicators turn downward the post-1989 idea that if left to its authoritarian ways the CCP will continue to deliver economic progress and better lives is no longer taken for granted. In this environment, the lashing out at scapegoats and the tightening of the space available for dissident speech and action in the PRC is unquestioned. The indications are so numerous as to make any doubts risible: human rights lawyers arrested, Hong Kong booksellers abducted, and on, and on, and on.

If this sort of reaction is now familiar, it has long been evident in the way the most aggrieved of China’s “minority nationalities” (or, if one wishes to use the newer mandated terminology, “ethnic groups,” the status to which they’ve been rhetorically relegated, lest someone take the term “nationalities” too seriously) have been treated. The troublesome incorporation of Uyghurs and Tibetans into the PRC has been particularly fraught since the inception of the PRC, essentially as a result of the late-19th-early-20th centuries’ structuring of Chinese identity in such a way that Uyghurs, Tibetans and Mongols have come to be viewed as indisputably Chinese (rather than subjects of China). Thus, their centrifugal impulses—real or perceived—invariably seem threatening to a regime for which the unification and of China has, since 1949, been infused with legitimating significance.

In this environment dissent and grievances from Uyghurs and Tibetans are not seen simply as expressions of discontents that might be redressed. They are, rather, threats to the stability of the regime and the nation. And these grievances are very substantive: demographic marginalisation; internal travel restrictions (for Tibetans); blatant discrimination in employment and other areas; harsh restrictions and monitoring of religious and social practices; and even (particularly with Uyghurs) restrictions on clothing and grooming. This is not to mention the particularly severe nature of political imprisonment visited on Uyghur and Tibetan dissidents. Given all this, it would be surprising if there weren’t widespread resentment of the Chinese state. But the official response is not to ask what policies and conditions are behind the discontents being expressed. It is to ask who is doing this to China; who is behind it all. It is to demand scapegoats. This ought to seem reasonably clear when recourse is made within China proper to the plotting of foreign anti-China forces. Uyghur and Tibetan protests and dissent are respectively and reflexively ascribed to Islamic terrorism and the machinations of the Dalai Lama and his clique. The former claim, regarding the Uyghurs, may yet become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For over two years one of the most prominent Uyghur intellectuals, Ilham Tohti, has been in prison (now under a life sentence) for voicing Uyghur grievances and publicising violations of their basic human rights. Almost uniquely moderate (he does not advocate independence), his persecution and imprisonment exemplifies how China feeds and bolsters extremism: by sweeping up moderates who work and speak openly, it leaves only extremists, who by necessity are below the radar, to speak to the grievances that afflict large numbers of Uyghurs.

Inside Tibet the use of the Dalai Lama as a scapegoat has a history of decades and has had no success (except, perhaps, in increasing veneration of and allegiance to him on the part of the Tibetan population). The greater visibility of the Tibet issue has generated a greater degree of attention to Tibet as an international issue impacting China’s image than has been the case with the Uyghurs and a greater amount of ink in official publications and pronouncements has been given over to vehemently asserting the correctness of China’s policies and actions in Tibet. But in spite of the repeated rhetoric about the Dalai Lama plotting to split China, his stand against Tibet’s independence is known to a number of those who deal with the Tibet issue inside Chinese officialdom. Similarly, Ilham Tohti’s rejection of independence for the Uyghurs is also not unknown.

The Uyghur opposition outside China has advocated self-determination as a goal (and it would be the height of political cynicism—as far as both Uyghurs and Tibetans are concerned—to assert that, given what has been done to them since 1949-1950, they should have no voice in their future), while the Tibetan exiles, whose political base is in Dharamsala, India, have been following a chimerical China, based on the Dalai Lama’s assessments, and offering compromise after compromise.

Expectations of any sort of Chinese accommodation with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile community (whose discontents with China are shared with large segments of the Tibetan population inside Tibet) have been misplaced since the 1990s. The authorities in China are effectively counting on the Dalai Lama’s death to end the Tibet issue. They’re now confident that this end is near and remain certain that there is no further need to deal with him. The exile authorities (under the Dalai Lama’s tacit leadership; he has ostensibly relinquished political leadership, though his name is invoked by exile politicians with authority and none seem willing to treat him as less than infallible) have fecklessly made repeated concessions while China has retained its position. In the upcoming exile leadership elections, the two remaining candidates have been speaking disproportionately about welfare and other issues pertinent to exile life and have had few words for addressing the dead end into which their fantasy image of China has led them.

The various negotiations that have engaged Chinese representatives and exile delegates have come to a halt and there is little to indicate that this will change. Since the 1990s China used the talks as busywork for the Tibetan exiles: something to keep them otherwise diverted while China waited for the demise of the Dalai Lama. And the exile side accommodated this, periodically asserting that their chimera was real. Now, more powerful than ever, China sees no need to budge. Indeed, it constantly pushes back and now lobbies (with growing success) to prevent high-level visits and meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders.

Professor Elliot Sperling is an Associate Professor of Central Eurasian Studies and  the history of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University.

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Tibet: a victim of India-China conflict

posted Mar 26, 2016, 7:10 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Mar 26, 2016, 7:11 AM ]

By Tenzin Lhadon

 In light of the recent news on one of the write-ups in Hindi journal "Congress Darshan" blamed Nehru for the state of affairs in Kashmir, China and Tibet and how Nehru ignored Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s advice against trusting China with heart and soul. The remark that led to the sacking of its editorial content in-charge and editor Sanjay Nirupam’s apologetic note has brought forth old and unpleasant memory. The incident that was reported hold great significance and interest for it not only reopened old wounds which makes India-China relations vulnerable but more importantly it brought the issue of Tibet out with open. Although extensive discussions and number of scholarly articles were written on India-China relations, there is still a lack of strong voices for the political reality and misfortune handed down on Tibet and the Tibetan people.

 Tibet in India-China debacle

The debate and discussion on the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s handling of Tibet issue at the time when India-China relations were at its nascent stage is still widely argued and contested. It is contested on various hypothetical grounds but equally reasonable questions were raised on matter related to the issue of Tibet and how Nehru managed the situation taking into consideration that its relation with the emerging powerful Communist China takes precedence. Following which shows that a thorough study and an extensive analysis on Nehru’s approach and position over Tibet before and after its annexation by the PLA display a differing attitude. However, the major question or debate lies in how Tibet was then regarded and played between the two Asian giant  in a modern nation-state context. How Tibet became the victim of geopolitical game and why is it still being disfavoured and blamed for the frail and uncertainty of the India-China relations are some questions this article analyses.

Historical incidents and memories do have a significant effect and far-reaching outcomes in terms of defining and managing a relation based on mutual trust and cooperation. India-China relation in such terms can be called a relation that suffers from the past memory of 1962 war stretching it to the present unending border dispute and border region. Despite the encouraging growth in their economic partnership, the overall India-China relations is viewed rather fragile with major political and security issues lurking at the top. The weak India-China relationship is because it is one based on trust deficit with old memory of humiliation and deception from China or political instigation from India as the Chinese strongly believed (China's Decision for War with India in 1962 by John W. Garver). The relationship contains an old bruise but the wound is still fresh.

Apparently, three major interpretations of Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies on China prevail:       of which a) one section being empathetic, b) the second section being contemptuous of Nehru and c) the third exuding pity rather than contempt of Nehru’s attitude towards Chinese as Ramachandra Guha wrote in his article titled “The Dalai Lama's War”. Likewise there continues to exist two major perspectives on the role of Tibet issue in India-China relations at present. There are large sections of people, intellectuals and politicians who strongly support the cause of Tibetan freedom movement whether discreetly or openly while there are other sections of the masses and scholars that believe Tibet issue plays an irritant factor in the advancement of India-China relations and future progress. However, a third perspective from Tibetans in the India-China conflict and debate has been underrepresented and less talked about despite the issue of Tibet being at the core issue of India-China relations.

A Tibetan perspective

The issue of Tibet has developed to be one of the most distinct and powerful roles in the course of the modern history of Asia. Tibet was not only the victim of geopolitical game and Nehru’s miscalculation but it ironically also happened to be the perfect vengeance against Communist China. The 1962 war left India traumatized and humiliated was triumphantly able to leave profound scars in the Chinese psyche by accepting the Dalai Lama to India and rushing to his defence that enraged the Chinese and still provokes them. Secondly, Tibet serves as a battleground for India and China in their political bargaining and a space to exhibit historical animosity. Thirdly, whether the issue of Tibet is an irritant or not, and whether or not ‘Tibet card’ is used discreetly against China, the issue of Tibet assumes an important part in the historical discourse and political reality of Asia which remains to be a fact that is much discredit for and underestimated. In fact, Claude Arpi mentioned how John Garver argued that the 'Tibet' factor is the main reasons for Mao’s decision in waging war with India.

Finally Tibet certainly takes a significant and special role in the eventual prospects of India’s relation with China. Whether Tibet issue is sidelined, if not dismissed or treated with negligible role, Tibet remains to be of special concern and great relevance with strong historical bearings and possibility for India and China. As rightly pointed out by Srikanth Kondapalli who has once again reminded that Tibet is inherently linked to the Indo-China border dispute and unless the Tibet issue is resolved in favour of China, the border issue will not be resolved. Hence, treating Tibet issue with pettiness and annoyance will never make the situation better for both India and China nor will it going to solve the situation without considering Tibet taking a significant part in India-China relations. Infact, Tibet issue could turn out a potential means of assistance in bridging gap between India and China. Till now the issue of Tibet has been seen as divergence of views and a source of conflict between the two, however, India’s substantial role in bridging gap between Chinese representative and Tibetan exiles delegate in their dialogue will extend enormous message of potential peace and coexistence between India and China and for Asia as a whole. Since India, China and Tibet are inextricably linked to each other, prioritising India’s role in bridging gap between China and Tibet could eventually led to peaceful coexistence between India and China for real.

Whether we call it Nehru’s miscalculation or China’s deceitful aggression or even British imperial interest and strategic hypocrisy that left the Tibet issue unresolved and deemed a victim of real politik is a matter that needs much more attention and credit. India and China should cease victimising Tibet in their conflict and treat it as source of potential solution for the two. The whole debacle of India-China relation makes me end with the note that India-China conflict starts with Tibet and that it should end with resolving the issue of Tibet.

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Tibetan Democracy and the Freedom Movement

posted Mar 23, 2016, 8:35 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Lhadon Tethong

 Many Tibetans around the world are anxiously monitoring the results of the March 20th elections for the Tibetan government in exile. Our democratic system is far from perfect, but, unlike in China, it exists and is here to work on and improve. This is clearly something all Tibetans are proud of and was one of the main points made in the election-day interviews of both the incumbent, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, and his challenger, the speaker of the Tibetan parliament, Penpa Tsering.

The fact that this democratic system exists is thanks to the extraordinary vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the many Tibetans who came before us. In spite of the grief and trauma they experienced - having lost their homes and land, seeing their families and sacred places of worship attacked and ripped apart, and being forced to find safety in a foreign land - they worked tirelessly to rebuild not just our community, but our nation in exile. And they didn’t just go ahead and re-establish the old political system, they worked to create something better and stronger that we could one day offer to our people inside Tibet.

As Tibetans, we can never forget this part of the founding vision — that this was a nation-building project, and not just a cultural preservation project. It was about political progress and hope, even in the darkest times. It was to reject the backwardness of China under the Communist Party, and the system of authoritarian government there, and demonstrate that Tibetans were indeed the modern and progressive ones.

If there was a time to lose hope and feel desperate, it was in those early years in exile, not now. Back then the international community did not know of the Tibetan plight, or even the name of the Dalai Lama, and Tibet seemed lost to the world, locked up by China and almost completely cut off behind the highest mountains on earth. In those dark times, as my parents and so many of our people witnessed, Tibetans in the refugee camps died by the hundreds and thousands of simple and curable sickness and disease.

Now, though life remains very difficult for Tibetans inside Tibet, much has changed and there are many reasons to have hope for a better future. For one thing, the dawn of change is on the horizon as China looks closer to the brink of major upheaval. As history shows us, with change in China comes opportunity for change in Tibet. And, most importantly, Tibetans inside Tibet are holding strong to the desire for freedom. A new generation has taken up the struggle and people from every walk of life are engaged. Despite the massive obstacles and challenges they face, clearly they have not given up, so how can we?

As I see it, our responsibility to Tibetans in Tibet is to keep up the pressure on China by continuing to take action and build the strength of the freedom movement. Tibet needs to be an issue that confronts Chinese leaders and future generations of Chinese leaders at every turn. It has to be an issue of global concern - one that is raised every time China is discussed and consistently tugs at the conscience of the international community - for decades to come.

The only way this happens is if we keep the Tibetan freedom movement strong and free. By ‘strong’ I mean by engaging many more people in the struggle - especially Tibetan students and youth, and non-Tibetan allies across the globe. By ‘free’ I mean through openness and inclusivity; by not just allowing, but actually encouraging diverse voices and approaches. These are the conditions that foster creativity, maximize the numbers of people involved and will ultimately ensure Tibetans have an active and effective grassroots movement that can help build leverage for the Tibetan side vis a vis the Chinese leadership. These are the conditions that used to exist in the Tibet movement and, I would argue, are a main reasons why our struggle has been so successful to date. As long as people remain nonviolent, they should not be controlled or told what to do by those who think they “know best”.

If we want to honor the democratic vision laid out by His Holiness, we will continue to work on improving our democratic system. We will not be trapped by the conservative, and wrong, view that democracy means only “rule by majority” where the voices of those not in the majority are shut down and shut out. There are many countries in the world that have this kind of democracy right now. They are ruled by vicious and authoritarian leaders who like to use the facade of elections to cover up their despotism.

When the Tibetan election results are officially announced, all of the people who voted for the losing candidate technically become the “minority”. But this does not mean that their voices no longer count; that everything they say is no longer valid and that they should be marginalized. In a liberal democracy, which is what Tibetans should aspire to, the voices of the minority, no matter how large or small, are not silenced by those in power, nor at the grassroots level. The “majority” should seek to understand their views, should make space for them and protect their right to speak. And, even if they do not agree with these views or positions, should not try to shut them out of the national conversation. This is the beauty of a truly democratic society. This is what should distinguish the Tibetan system from that of the Chinese. This is what we should be proud of.

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Untangling the Kalachakra Fiasco

posted Mar 23, 2016, 8:29 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Phurbu Rinzin

 The Speaker of Tibetan Parliament in exile, who is also one of the Sikyong/Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming election allegedly says that he knew Kundun got upset on learning that the 2016 Kalachakra mass initiation is being turned into a political tool.

How true or not true, the full information is not yet known and so far it is only Penpa Tsering himself as the judge, witness and the complainant, but suppose what he says is true, how irresponsible and lack of leadership he has shown to completely disregard the upset that Kundun is alleged to have felt, by doing exactly the opposite, which is further politicize publicly the Kalachakra as a political tool on his campaign trails to discredit his opponent!

How childish and untactful of him to gulp out matters of state secrets, matters concerning the personnel of Kundun, state of affairs within the palace to public on being questioned by individuals on the campaign trails? He says he doesn’t want to dwell on it and clearly his body language also agrees to it, but then why couldn’t he keep is mouth shut? Suppose he becomes our Sikyong, and he is on the BBC hot seat, facing an anchor like Jeremy Paxman, who is known for his savaging of politicians, would it not make all Tibetans eat our fingers for our Sikyong may say everything, or anything that comes to his mind or more precisely his untamed mouth? Trust and confidentiality are the two sides of a coin that a leader must have and adhere to as a basic principle; candidate Penpa Tsering has unfortunately done himself a damage on this.

Routinely China’s Govt. and its cohort Dolgyal group complain and criticize us for using Kalachakra as a political tool but this time, regretfully one of our own is doing the service for our enemies. For saying publicly that he knows from start to end, even to the crucial details of date/time, only to be accepting later, in-front of the media scrum that he has actually not been fully informed on it; for him to be knowing that Kundun get upset over politicization of the Kalachakra and yet unsagaciously politicize it throughout his campaign are not a mere embarrassment that not only hijacked this election period from discussing other facts based and crucial policy issues facing Tibet, but also it has now been unwittingly damaging for Kundun, his aides, the Kashag, general public and no doubt, for the candidate himself.

For discussing this Kalachakra fiasco, many like candidate Penpa Tsering, mix up facts and invalidly sourced information or rather probable rumours to make their arguments. This attributes to further complicate and create confusion in the public on the issue. Though the wisest thing would have been for the candidate to make this not a campaign issue or at least control the damage that has been done initially when he said, in NY, he is withholding despite knowing from A to Z only to be saying more on it at various next stops in Minnesota and other places in Mysore, Varanasi etc.

Holistic and judicial means to untangle this issue, this writer feels is to not to mix the rumours side or unconfirmed information part and assess thoroughly fact based, what is being said from place to place by the candidate and see if there are inconsistencies. Therefore, based on what actually candidate Penpa Tsering has been saying on the issue, following inconsistencies can be deduced and voters who weigh on this topic to give their vote, are welcome to draw an informed conclusion. Otherwise, it can go endless to-fro mudsling, dragging this issue even after the election.

  1. On Jan 17th, 2016 in NY, Speaker Penpa Tsering in response to a public question said he will not discuss in public on the Kalachakra issue, though he claimed that he knew from the start to end, even the details of date and time on the issue, because he respects what Kundun said in Tashi Lhunpo which is that the postponement is on “health and medical treatment” reason alone.

  1. On 23rd Jan 2016, in Minesota, US, Speaker Penpa Tsering, though have right not to comment to a public question, yet responded on the issue in much more details. Earlier in NY, he said he respects what Kundun said on the issue but this time, he reiterated he considers what Kundun said at Tashi Lhunpo as “དགོས་པའི་དབང་གིས་” ‘for a purpose’, hinting a possible cover up. Kundun has unequivocally said the postponement is medical reason at Tashi Lhunpo and Minesota; hence transfixing this message to suit one’s own interpretation is misleading and wholly inappropriate. Being the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament and also one of the Sikyong candidate, naturally such comments will raise eyebrows and questions amongst the public.

  1. After the 2nd Statement by the Kashag on 5th February 2016 regarding the Kalachakra postponement, candidate Penpa Tsering accepted to media questioning by saying that he would not have made his comments in the US had he been fully informed on this then by the Sikyong. Whilst he has been busy with his Sikyong campaign, it is clear that the Kalons responsible for the Kalachakra preparation, including the Sikyong have had an indebt consultations with Ganden Podrang and thereby its coming out into public has apparently been agreed by all sides and done accordingly.

  1. In the absence of the Speaker, it is now known that the Deputy Speaker has been fully briefed in the discussions. If Sikyong or the Kashag has not fully informed both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker in the matter, they would have surely raised concerns with the Kashag soon after the first announcement by the Kashag on 31st August, 2015. To this date, the Deputy Speaker has not uttered a word on this like the rest of the Kalons. If the Speaker Penpa Tsering has doubts and concerns or feels he has been misled, why did it took so long for him to raise the matter either directly with the Kashag or in the public? From 31st August 2015(1st Postponement Announcement) to 17th Jan 2016 (PT speech in NYNJ), he has got more than about 4 months to fully grasp the matter before making any public statement, but he has not.

  1. On careful listening to what Speaker Penpa Tsering said in Minnesota (23/01/2016) and in Dharamasala (5/02/2016), a clear inconsistency can be deduced that Mr. Penpa Tsering is contradicting himself. This is because in his Minnesota speech, while explaining the matter, it was clear that he knows about and did mentioned that the two secretaries from Ganden Prodrang came to brief the Kashag on 29th August 2015 regarding the postponement. Yet in answering the media after the 2nd statement by Kashag, Speaker Penpa Tsering on 5/02/2016 in Dharamsala said that only through the 2nd statement, he was being made aware of about the two secretaries of Ganden Podrang coming down to brief the Kashag. He also added that had the Sikyong briefed him in detail, he would not have made the public comments in Minnesota. Therefore, why did he mention, in the first place, about the two secretaries coming down to Kashag in Minnesota?

  1. Also on carefully observing what the Speaker Penpa Tsering said in Varanasi (02/03/2016), he did mentioned that in his phone conversation with the Sikyong on 30/08/2015, he was briefed by the Sikyong on the reasons why the Kalachakra is being postponed. In the conversation, the Speaker mentioned about the Sikyong informing him on the need for His Holiness to rest by cutting down on his heavy and busy schedules. Interestingly he also said that the Sikyong did mentioned to him about the medical reasons for His Holiness to seek treatment. Matters concerning His Holiness’s health is utmost important and is dealt with strict secrecy. Even the Sikyong would not have information unless being briefed on it by Ganden Podrang. Therefore, by saying that the Sikyong did mentioned about the medical reasons behind the postponement, it is highly probable that the Sikyong also mentioned about the two secretaries briefing the Kashag on it; even if he has not, the strength of the argument is that Kalachakra has to be postponed for health and medical reasons, not political as the Speaker keeps on bragging throughout.

  1. Since the 2nd statement by the Kashag on 5/02/2016, and further clarification by the Sikyong on VOA subsequently, the Speaker ostensibly turned more defensive, tried to turn the debate into his version by saying that what he said in Minnesota dealt specifically on the events happened on 27th and 28th August 2015. The inconsistency in this is that in NY/NJ he said he knows full from A-Z, even the details of dates and time. In Minnesota also, he talked about the whole events, not specifically on the date 27th and 28th of August 2015. The subsequent letters he wrote to the Kashag for demanding answers for harming his credibility and questioning is integrity is more of a tactic to shift the topic into a personal complaint and divert the attention when the overwhelming and available evidence reflect inconsistencies in his version of the story.

  1. In Kollegal (22/2/2016), India, the Speaker talks about him having the truth, honesty and willingness to go any lengths to prove him right. However in Varanasi (2/3/2016), still implying that the reason for Kalachakra postponement is political, rather than health/medical reason, the speaker held to his version of the story and said even if he get scolding from Kundun, he will have to take it. For the record now, His Holiness has mentioned about three times at different location, first at Tashi Lhunpo, then Minnesota and very recently in Geneva, Switzerland on 22/3/2016 that the Kalachakra has to be postponed for health and medical reason as advised by his doctors. Still, to continually state the reason was not medical but political by the Speaker Penpa Tsering on uncorroborated circumstantial evidences belies his insensitivities and insecurities in presenting himself as an honest and a credible Sikyong candidate in this election period, otherwise he does not have to attach political overtones to the Kalachakra postponement decision, fearing it may swing public opinion for the incumbent Sikyong Hon. Dr. Lobsang Sangay.

Finally, from a wider perspective, the decision to cancel and postpone the Kalachakra has been a wise and a correct one. Available statements by Ganden Podrang and the Kashag on the matters are fairly consistent. The comments to media, public and news on the issue by Hon. Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay are also consistent throughout and sheds further light in to the fact that the decision was taken with full consultation and understanding with Ganden Podrang by the Kashag, particularly in view of the medical advice given for His Holiness, in July 2015, New Delhi for Prostrate treatment.

Indeed the decision has to be taken at the time as per the circumstances whether it be in an election period or not, because the well-being and health of His Holiness is indisputably the most important for us all, six million Tibetans and followers and fans of His Holiness throughout the world. For our Hon. Speaker Penpa Tsering, the best decision would have been to press the incumbent on policy based issues, demonstrate his credentials as a proven leader and seek public support through an inspiring and fact based clean politics; winning or losing the election is never guaranteed beforehand, still then the Speaker could have chosen not to drag and politicize the Kalachakra decision.

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Tibetan Parliamentary Elections in Exile: Glitches and Prospects

posted Mar 22, 2016, 3:49 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Apa Lhamo

The energized debates and intensive discussions among the public seem to have lost their spark after the preliminary elections. What led to this development? Should this be a cause of concern for the nascent Tibetan democracy which is at a nascent stage?

The fourth direct preliminary elections of sikyong (Prime minister) and chithue (Members) of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile were held on 18th October 2015, and the final stage of the same is slated for March 20, 2016. Tibetan Democracy, though conceived in Tibet, was essentially born while in exile in India. The 13th Dalai Lama tried to initiate a number of democratic reforms in Tibet but was severely suppressed by conservative sections of the society at the time. In 1950, the incumbent Dalai Lama after assuming the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet also introduced a number of progressive changes to the centuries old Tibetan theocracy, and inculcated ideas of direct democracy through his Reform Committee. However, the Committee and its introduction of democracy was soon thwarted by the 1959 invasion of Communist China, its subsequent occupation of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's resultant exile. Therefore, while there was an indigenous move towards democracy in Tibet, direct involvement of the general Tibetan public in democracy was experienced for the first time by Tibetans in exile.

This Tibetan implementation of democracy "from the top down" contrasts to the traditional and conventional transition and struggle of Democracy by people across countries in the world. This uniquely different Tibetan democracy was born in exile in India with the formalisation of the Draft Constitution for the Future Tibet on March 10, 1963, and the subsequent adoption of the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile on 14 June, 1991. Although the new born Tibetan democratic movement is different from many other democratic movements, the Tibetan version does share a common characteristic with other fledgling democratic movements in that it has its own dynamics and processes.

The Election Commission: Progress and Problems

The Election Commission of the Tibetans in exile although made an impressive move by setting rules for the candidates and their campaign procedures, and by setting limits on campaign expenditure in accordance with the charter of the Tibetans. The Election Commission, headed by a chief and two additional commissioners, was applauded by many for its efforts in managing the stateless Tibetan Diaspora's spread across the world in the preliminary election. However, the Commission incurred criticisms from others for its incompetence in specific areas, its authoritarian nature and its questionable enforcement of election rules. Some critics claimed that the Election Commission even deliberately manipulated the rules of the election to give advantage to two incumbent candidates.

The Central Election Commission was severely criticised when it failed to respond after institutions affiliated with the Central Tibetan Administration actually banned a sikyong candidate from speaking and campaigning for the post. The Central Election Commission garnered even more criticism when it issued a circular notifying a new 20 per cent regulation regarding the number of candidates shortlisted for the Sikyong and Chithue elections, and this just a day after the preliminary elections on October 19, 2015. As many critics noted, common sense dictates that the number of candidates to be shortlisted for the final should be decided in a more reasonable time frame. There were five candidates vying for the post, out of which only two could make it to the final. Critics claim that this action on the part of the Commission was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Election Commission officials-- who are at the beck and call of their superiors in the administration-- to keep a certain candidate out of the race because of his strong position of total Tibetan independence from the Chinese government. In the previous election in 2011, as many as five candidates were allowed to campaign for the finals and all of them happened to support the Tibetan Government in Exile's position of middle way. These questionable actions, coupled with incompetence of the Election Commission, were of particular concern to the larger Tibetan Diaspora and also to a group of “long-time Tibet Supporters" who published an open letter to the CTA, expressing their misgivings and their disappointment. USA Congressman Rohrabacher and Director of USAID voiced similar concerns through a letter addressed to CTA's election commission.

Participation of the General Tibetan Populace in the Election

Many Tibetans scattered across the world engaged themselves enthusiastically in rigorous debates and discussions about potential sikyong candidates. These intensive debates and discussions, from almost every household to social gatherings to both online and offline platforms, imply growth and progress of the nascent Tibetan democracy. The scale of participation, in both numbers and intensity, in the preliminary elections indicates an impressive growth spurt when compared to the previous election in 2011. The competition of candidates vying for a seat and the youthful nature of many candidates standing for parliamentary seats is impressive.

The road ahead

The incumbent political leader Dr. Lobsang Sangay and Mr. Penpa Tsering, the speaker of the Tibetan Administration, both middle way advocates, are the only two finalists for the upcoming election in March. Their positions and agendas are somewhat divergent, but the discussion and debate --as well as the election itself--would have been more energized, interesting and democratic had the Election Commission not issued their last minute twist to the rules and allowed the third candidate, Mr. Lukar Jam Atsock, a former political prisoner and an advocate of Rangzen (Independence) from the Chinese rule to campaign in the finals. Although he garnered considerable support for his "radical" views, his intellectual depth, and his political acumen he was opposed by many for his stand and his alleged “critique” of the Dalai Lama's position of political compromise with China to solve the issue of Tibet. It is clear from the preliminary poll results that the incumbent Mr. Sangay is likely to retain his post for the next five years, but his "opponent,” the speaker of the Central Tibetan Administration, is not far behind and crawling steadily. However, it would have been a dramatic developmental marker for the nascent Tibetan democracy had there been the third contender, Lukar Jam Atsock, who emerged as a strong catalyst to rigorous discussions and debates prior to the preliminary elections.

Apa Lhamo is an M.Phil Research Candidate at the Centre for European Studies, School for International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. The author is also associated with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

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Sikyong Candidates on Women's Leadership

posted Mar 22, 2016, 3:31 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

Courtesy of Canada Tibet Committee

Excerpt of interview of Lobsang Sangay and Penpa Tsering conducted by the Canada Tibet Committee. The precise question asked to both candidates was: "How would you bring more women into leadership positions within the CTA?"

Response - Lobsang Sangay

(transcribed from at 22:11)

The three guiding principles of my administration are unity, innovation and self-reliance. For unity I say: non-regional; non-sectarian; non-gender. And obviously there are other elements to it. So gender equality and women empowerment are very important. We have programs in the CTA to do that.

Not only that, actually if you look at my 7 colleagues in cabinet, I have appointed 2 women: one to take care of the Home Department, which is the largest department; and the second largest department is the International Relations. Both are led by very capable women. So you can clearly see that I trusted that they would do a good job. In four years they have done a very good job.

Then if you go down, you will see that even in education there are more girls graduating from high school than boys. There are more girls getting scholarship when they go to college than boys. And in fact there are more women in the graduate level MA, MPhil , and PhD than men. So you can clearly see that in education they are doing well.

Economically Tibetan women have always done well. They have always equally participated in income-generating activities. So Tibetan women, by-in-large are doing relatively well but then we continue to improve and keep providing facilities.

Response - Penpa Tsering

(transcribed from at 13:23)

Women have always played a very important role, but unfortunately in the CTA and also I think, elsewhere, once women get married then their priorities get diverted. Even under the present circumstances I think we have more women in the CTA than men but unfortunately there are very few women at the top level. But now we have new trends coming up. We have quite a number of ladies in the rank of additional secretary and unless they resign, they are going to assume important roles within the CTA.

Now what is important is to harness the younger generation of Tibetans, particularly women or girls who are going into colleges and they would need… I believe that there should be a guardian-student relationship so that students can have a regular connection with one of the political leaders or official within the CTA so that they can always reach out to the concerned people. I have been conducting workshops for grade 10, 11, and college level students since 2003 but we have always said we need equal number of girls, if not more, going to colleges, universities and schools. We have to encourage more girls to participate in the opportunities that are prevailing right now.

And then I think things are going to change for the better, particularly for women, because the social behavior is also changing. Now there is a lot more respect for women and a lot more respect for women’s wisdom and their patience and perseverance.

So there also has to be effort from the women themselves that they will take up the responsibility. They will also need to commit themselves that they will not resign half way through – go all out to reach wherever they have to reach.

There is already a section that is looking for women’s empowerment and I am sure we can devise many more projects that will help women’s empowerment.

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Why I Won't Vote in The Final Sikyong Election

posted Mar 17, 2016, 4:01 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Choenyi Woser

In this year’s election for the post of Sikyong, we have had five candidates. Out of them, Lukar Jam stood for Tibetan independence. The rest of them—all Middle-Way advocates seeking Tibetan autonomy within the framework of Chinese constitution—went out of their ways to demonize Lukar Jam for ‘disrespecting’ His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Speaker Penpa Tsering even declared that he would not sit down with a “person who desecrates the name of His Holiness the Dalai Lama”, while Lobsang Sangay was so busy with his official engagements that we have been denied a public debate so far. Although Lukar Jam secured the third position in the preliminaries, the election commission prevented him from participating in the finals. Now that Lukar Jam is out, the ongoing election has not much significance as far as Tibetan struggle is concerned. The only issues that preoccupy the two remaining candidates are the Kalachakra teachings and putting up the portraits of Sikyong on! the walls of a prominent Tibetan office.

Kalachakra is a religious matter. Hence, monasteries should be responsible for organizing it. All that the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) could do is provide some help, such as maintaining security during the teachings. Kalachakra, thus, cannot become the most important issue of a political leader. In the past, Kalachakra teachings were organized by the Department of Religion and Culture, not by the Kashag.

The 2016 Kalachakra teachings was postponed. The primary reason for this, according to the Kashag, was that His Holiness was not feeling well. But controversy erupted when speaker Penpa Tsering, during one of his election rallies in the US, denied this by saying, “one of the Tibetan organizations in Dharamsala wanted to offer a long-life ceremony to His Holiness. The Tibetan leader, however, said that it could do this during the Kalachakra teachings. But the Kashag refused to incorporate it into their program. As a result, Kashag and the private office of His Holiness had a meeting. On 27 August, during an audience with His Holiness, the Tibetan spiritual leader, out of frustration, said that the Kalachakra is becoming political and should be postponed.”

I don’t understand why speaker Penpa Tsering brought up this issue. What’s his real motive? We have been proudly claiming that all political power has been devolved to the Kashag. But it seems Kashag who is organizing the Kalachakra doesn’t have the authority to postpone it! I don’t think the Kashag failed to consider that postponement of Kalachakra teachings would cause many difficulties to thousands of Tibetan devotees in and outside Tibet. We can afford to believe that the Kalachakra was cancelled because His Holiness needed medical check up.

As the incumbent Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay repeatedly claimed that he was not seeking Tibetan independence. It appears Sangay, as Sikyong, has allocated more welfare schemes and scholarships to Tibetans in exile compared to Samdhong Rinpoche, when the latter was Kalon Tripa. The huge amount of votes that Sangay received in the preliminaries, perhaps, testifies to this. But the great legal scholar from Harvard, as Sikyong, also organized far more official prayers than Samdhong Rinpoche did during his reign as the Kalon Tripa. In other words, Lobsang Sangay has not made any significant contribution to our freedom struggle. Perhaps he doesn’t have much power and capability to do so. After all Samdhong Rinpoche once warned Sangay, “You can make any changes as head of the Tibetan cabinet. But if you make any error, no matter how small it is, in your efforts to promote Middle-Way, I will come to your office with a stick.”

Chinese observers began writing articles on Tibetan democracy after a speech by His Holiness on 15 June 2013. The speech was on the issue of who truly represents the Tibetan struggle. Many politicians criticized Sangay for not following in the footsteps of His Holiness; moreover Chinese authorities assert that they would only negotiate with the private representatives of the Dalai Lama. All of these show that no one, except His Holiness, can make progress on seeking regional ethnic autonomy for Tibet. As speaker, Penpa Tsering has had to weather many a storm in the parliament. He personally attacked Tibetan independence advocates. He made controversial claims such as people like Jamyang Norbu are responsible for shortening the life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As speaker, he failed to achieve anything significant for the Tibetan struggle. His solution to fixing up the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) crisis is not very progressive: he called for its division into two camps. He wasn’t sympathetic to Tibet Support Groups calling for Tibetan independence either.

In his campaign tours in North America, Europe and India, Penpa Tsering attacked Lobsang Sangay for failing to uphold his administrative duties. This forced Sangay to embark on a similar tour to defend himself. Despite all the negative campaigns by supporters of the two candidates, the general Tibetan public embraced them with much love and respect as Tibetan leaders. While criticizing each other can be considered a sign of progress in democracy, but holding onto the branches and forgetting the roots will not achieve anything substantive. However, if we seek regional ethnic autonomy for Tibet, we can’t expect better than this. Can we?

The ongoing electoral contest between Sangay and Tsering also reveal the curse of regionalism that still infects the Tibetan people. Both the Utsang and Amdo provinces went out of their ways to promote Penpa Tsering, while we hardly see any Amdo-wa openly rooting for Lobsang Sangay and a Khampa supporting Penpa Tsering. No matter who wins this election (Lobsang Sangay or Penpa Tsering), as far as I am concerned it will not make any positive impact on Tibetan freedom struggle. All they would do is find a few more scholarship schemes (I don’t deny their necessity), pretend how much devotion they have for His Holiness and declare to the world that they do not want Tibetan independence. This is the principle reason I have decided not to vote in the finals – not because Lobsang Sangay’s mortgage bills were allegedly “paid by the Chinese Communist Party” and Penpa Tsering “killed a man and drinks too much whisky.”

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Ten Reasons Why Penpa Tsering is Unfit for Sikyong Seat

posted Mar 17, 2016, 3:43 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Minyak Kunga Tashi and translated by Tensung (Penname)

Recently on Khabdha, an online Tibetan news website, an article titled “Ten Reasons for why Hon. Dr. Lobsang Sangay is unfit for Sikyong” written by an anonymous or penname writer called Zurney Lhoden is published. Although I did not see this article worth reading, the title of it caused a deep worry and a big question in me, that is, “if Hon. Dr. Lobsang Sangay is unfit for Sikyong, who else is more suited and where is that person?” If your answer is Hon. Penpa Tsering for Sikyong, I have below 10 Reasons why Mr. Penpa Tsering, unfortunately is unfit to be Tibet’s Sikyong.

1. It is now common that a certain allegation of murder is going on in our society with Mr. Penpa Tsering’s name in it. In view of this, minimally had there been a statement from a recognized court of law, clarifying Mr. Penpa Tsering’s name, it would have easily quashed this allegation. However, the speaker has not produced such a document thus far. Hence, electing a candidate dogged by allegation to the highest political Office of Tibet is demeaning and disrespectful to the office itself. Therefore, clearly Penpa Tsering is unfit to be the Sikyong.

2. With regard to Academic Qualification, Mr. Penpa Tsering has a class 15, a Degree level qualification from a college in India. Apart from India and Nepal, this qualification may hardly get official recognition elsewhere. Therefore, from a mere academic perspective alone, Mr. Penpa Tsering, if elected for Sikyong will face difficulties in fulfilling the heavy leadership responsibilities of Sikyong without a doubt. Moreover, unlike Kalon Tripa of the past, Sikyong of Tibet today is vested with full political powers. Therefore, it is simply unbecoming of a candidate with just over a Degree level qualification to become our Sikyong. Hence, Mr. Penpa Tsering, unfortunately is unfit to be the Sikyong.

3. Apart from his recognizable 20 years of experience in the Tibetan Parliament, as an individual MP and the Speaker later, there is nothing much outside of it that can put weight to his candidacy. It must be pointed out that this parliamentary environment that Mr.Penpa Tsering spend his last 20years is a tiny body comprising of about 40 something MPs, riddled with inactions and regionalistic infightings. Therefore with no experience of leadership and administration outside of the parliament, it is hope against hope to think such a candidate will fulfill and perform well the responsibilities of Sikyong. Penpa Tsering quotes his Class 9 captaincy amongst his leadership experience, but far from a mere classroom scenario, Central Tibetan Administration CTA is the nerve center and control hub of Tibet’s freedom struggle, administering a complex and integrated networks of Tibetan world across the world. Hence, Mr. Penpa Tsering unfortunately is unfit to be Sikyong.

4. If one listens to and analyse all the speeches given during his campaign tours, Mr. Penpa Tsering has effectively proved himself as an untrustworthy, flippant and a gullible person. Under the influence and garb of his associates, Penpa Tsering has abandoned his moral conscience and spewed numerous baseless speculations to discredit the incumbent Sikyong and the Kashag. Such negative behavior, devoid of moral principle and foresightedness has caused shock, sadness and chaos amongst ordinary Tibetans. Hence, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit to be Sikyong.

5. One characteristic trait of Mr. Penpa Tsering is his loose mouth. At public gatherings, he will say a thing today, changes his mind later and says something else tomorrow. The recent shameful fiasco over Kalachakra postponement in the public is principally created by Penpa Tsering’s speeches without being himself accountable and knowledgeable in the first place. In essence, he is a petulant individual who can neither take responsibility today for his words nor predict its social ramifications tomorrow. Hence, with regret, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit to be Sikyong.

6. The depth of Penpa Tsering’s character is now widely known that for those who are more successful, more educated and above him, he is resentful, shows complete disrespect and disdain. For those humble and below him, he can be bossy and mean. Moreover, another habit and hobby of him is unnecessarily creating lots of enemies within. Therefore it is unthinkable that such a person of questionable character will assume the highest political office of Tibet. Hence, without a doubt, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit to be Sikyong.

7. Penpa Tsering is certainly not a man of thoughfullness and forbearance. Never before in CTA’s living history, the exile parliament was brought to near closure except during Penpa Tsering’s tenure; he quitted the chairmanship twice unceremoniously. Therefore, Penpa Tsering quitting the Sikyong hot seat upon being subjected to barrage of questions and personal criticisms by vitriolic MPs cannot be ruled out. Such a possibility may cause disruption down the spine of CTA. That time, it may certainly cause upset for His Holiness also. Hence, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit for Sikyong.

8. As being the Speaker of the Parliament, apart from the responsibilities and roles strictly within the Parliament or to do with the parliamentary business, the speaker does not have much responsibility over talking to the public and media, meeting and engaging with Tibet supporters and visiting international luminaries on behalf of CTA. Penpa Tsering, in some of his various talks, scathingly mentioned about the death of H.H 14TH Dalai Lama, the gratefulness of China Govt. and ludicrously implied that what Kundun said few times regarding the postponement of 2016 Kalachakra is not true and that there is some hidden agenda behind. If elected for Sikyong, Penpa Tsering could disastrously repeat same mistakes to the peril of us all, especially with regard to the sensitive issue of CTA’s foreign policy etc. Therefore, with respect, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit for Sikyong.

9. Penpa Tsering in his empty thought and words will say thousand times that he is capable and ready to become our Sikyong. However, in realistic and personal terms, it is a fact that he lacks confidence, credibility and even a basic plan for himself. When he, as the Speaker, cannot even galvanize a tiny funds to pay staff salary at the Research unit of the Parliament, how can we trust him that he will be a capable leader to oversee the effective administration of the entire Tibetan diaspora and lead the movement forward? This is predictably not possible, therefore, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit for Sikyong.

10. Apart from the tiny world of exile Tibetan community, Penpa Tsering is almost an unknown figure for Tibetans inside Tibet, within India and in other foreign countries. Therefore, the stewardship of Sikyong by Penpa Tsering will most certainly have a downfall effect on furtherance of Tibet issue internationally. Moreover, Penpa Tsering, lacking leadership charisma, personality and an international stature and image will struggle to be invited by various international bodies, universities, Governments and NGOs to give public speeches on Tibet, thus losing a crucial opportunity to highlight the issue of Tibet or to strengthen the existing support and ties with Tibet supporters. Therefore, Penpa Tsering is unfortunately unfit for Sikyong.

The above mentioned 10 Reasons are not a baseless criticism or personal grudges against Hon. Speaker Penpa Tsering but my personal opinion on the basis and in the context of his overall personal history, educational background, work experience and achievements, contents of his speeches past and recent and conducts in relation to the ongoing Sikyong election campaign.

I could have easily carried on with more than just 10 reasons to write a full and detailed analysis of Hon. Speaker. However the 10 reasons alone should suffice. I hope this helps readers make an informed choice when we elect our Prime Minister, the Sikyong. 


Translated from the Tibetan original, which should be considered final and authoritative. Tibetan Original link:

Translated with Permission from the author Minyak Kunga Tashi.

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