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Lobsang Sangay interview with Radio Netherlands

posted Sep 3, 2011, 11:45 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Sep 8, 2011, 7:17 AM ]
Tibet v. China - A Middle Way
Radio Netherlands

Tibet’s new political leader says he hopes the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will recognise that Tibet is occupied by China.


By Aletta Andre

The right of self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle in international law, as embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.
Self-determination means the right for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development and has been defined by the ICJ (in the Western Sahara case) as: “The need to pay regard to the freely expressed will of peoples.”


China opposes

However, China opposes Tibet’s claim to self-determination, which it regards as a claim to independence or secession. But as there is a growing international campaign to promote Tibet’s claim, it is likely that the case could be brought before the ICJ in the near future.

“Many people are interested in Tibet, but are not aware of the details, of the tragic reality in Tibet.” Lobsang Sangay says he is planning to further ‘internationalise’ the Tibet issue, in his new role as Kalon Tripa – or Prime Minister - of the Central Tibetan Administration.

“The political repression, the cultural assimilation and environmental destruction,” he says. “I will speak frankly and forthrightly about it, inside and outside of India.”

Changing tradition
Sangay’s rule is a notable step away from the leadership of the Dalai Lama, who ran the government in exile since leading the Tibetans into exile in 1959.

The change marks the beginning of democratic leadership for exiled Tibetans. Sangay says it also reflects the sustainability of the Tibetan movement beyond the lifetime of the current Dalai Lama.

“The Chinese government’s calculation so far has been that, with the passing away of the elder generation, the Tibetan movement will disappear. This is not going to happen,” says Sangay. “Our main objectives remain to restore freedom in Tibet, and return of his Holiness the Dalai Lama [to Lhasa, Tibet]. While I will try to do this in five years time, I will also lay a strong foundation to sustain the Tibetan movement for another 50 years, if need be. ”

Middle way
Sangay says that Tibet is occupied by China, but in negotiations with that superpower he advocates for the so-called middle way.

It aims for true Tibetan autonomy within China, and was also the policy of the administration under the Dalai Lama’s leadership.

China says that Tibet is already autonomous, but Sangay disagrees. “Tibet autonomous region is not complete Tibet, nor is it autonomous,” he says. “Even to have a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will land you in prison. You might get tortured and sometimes you might even disappear.” As he talks, he glances occasionally at the Dalai Lama’s portrait on his wall.

It remains to be seen whether the middle way will lead to an autonomous Tibet or a complaint before the World Court in The Hague.


Tibet's new elected leader looks ahead

Radio Netherlands
Published on : 31 August 2011 - 2:07pm | By Aletta André

“Many people are interested in Tibet, but are not aware of the details, of the tragic reality in Tibet.” Lobsang Sangay says he is planning to further ‘internationalise’ the Tibet issue, in his new role as Kalon Tripa – or Prime Minister - of the Central Tibetan Administration. “The political repression, the cultural assimilation and environmental destruction,” he says. “I will speak frankly and forthrightly about it, inside and outside of India.”

Sangay was sworn in as Kalon Tripa on August 8. He traded a Harvard University fellowship in the United States for a new office in Dharamsala, India and a salary of about 18,000 Rs (275 Euros) a month. But the windows of his new office frame green mountains covered with hundreds of colourful Buddhist prayer flags. The secretariat of the administration - also called the Tibetan government in exile – is next door, but out of sight. Dwarfed by a life-sized portrait of the Dalai Lama on the wall, a photo of Sangay’s daughter is propped on his desk. She and Sangay’s wife still live in the United States. 

The 43-year-old law scholar was elected in April. He won 55 percent of the votes from exiled Tibetans, 49,184 of whom voted. Although Sangay is not the first elected Kalon Tripa for Tibet, he is the first since the Dalai Lama fully ceded his political power earlier this year. “I am the only one in the Tibetan world who has the democratic mandate, and the only one with legitimacy, with the blessings and extended legitimacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Sangay says. “The Communist Party in Tibet does not have democratic mandate.”

Changing tradition

Sangay’s rule is a notable step away from the leadership of the Dalai Lama, who ran the government in exile since leading the Tibetans into exile in 1959. The change marks the beginning of democratic leadership for exiled Tibetans. Sangay says it also reflects the sustainability of the Tibetan movement beyond the lifetime of the current Dalai Lama. 

With his election, leadership has been given to a new generation, many of whom have never lived in Tibet. Sangay was born in exile, in Darjeeling. He beat out two former cabinet members for the Kalon Tripa post. Four ministers of his seven-member cabinet will also be from the younger generation. 

“The Chinese government’s calculation so far has been that, with the passing away of the elder generation, the Tibetan movement will disappear. This is not going to happen,” says Sangay. “Our main objectives remain to restore freedom in Tibet, and return of his Holiness the Dalai Lama [to Lhasa, Tibet]. While I will try to do this in five years time, I will also lay a strong foundation to sustain the Tibetan movement for another 50 years, if need be. So that means I will give priority to education. With highly educated Tibetan professionals in the next 10 to 20 years, we will have strong, able leaders.”

Middle way

Sangay says that Tibet is occupied by China, but in negotiations with that superpower he advocates for the so-called middle way. It aims for true Tibetan autonomy within China, and was also the policy of the administration under the Dalai Lama’s leadership. China says that Tibet is already autonomous, but Sangay disagrees. “Tibet autonomous region is not complete Tibet, nor is it autonomous,” he says. “Even to have a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will land you in prison. You might get tortured and sometimes you might even disappear.” As he talks, he glances occasionally at the Dalai Lama’s portrait on his wall.

Sangay promoted total independence for Tibet when he was a leader of Tibetan Youth Congress in the 1990s. The congress is the largest organisation of Tibetans in exile, but Sangay says despite more extreme views, the congress is non-violent. “It’s human tendency when you are young to be strong headed, and that’s good,” he says. “I keep the unity by respecting all views. We have freedom of speech, so as long as we maintain the discourse non-violently, peacefully and respectful of each other, then I think that those advocating independence and middle way are part of the same family.”

Sangay will have to manage divergent views within his constituency and lack of recognition by some in the global community. Perhaps most critical is the Chinese government’s refusal to recognise the office of the Kalon Tripa. Currently Beijing will only negotiate with the Dalai Lama or one of his representatives. “If they seriously want to resolve the issue of Tibet, it is fine with us if they only want to talk directly with a representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Sangay says. “I will appoint a representative, borrow the name from His Holiness and send him or her to Beijing. For us the result is more important.”

Perspective

“I have a difficult job,” Sangay sighs, when talking about China’s position as rising world power. Still, he is optimistic about the future of Tibet. “Because I have to, to keep our movement alive. Plus, our identity is based on Buddhist philosophy, which is 2500 years old. Communism is only 100-plus years old. So philosophically speaking, there is no competition.”


 


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