By Zhu Shanshan | Global Times
ON THE WEB, 28 April 2011
The Dalai Lama moved one step closer to “retirement” on Wednesday when his self-declared “government-in-exile” picked a new “leader” — a Harvard graduate who has never been to Tibet.
Lobsang Sangay, 43, was named as the “exiled government’s” new “Kalon Tripa (prime minister).” He now has to leave behind his research fellows in Harvard’s East Asian Legal Studies program and move to the north Indian town of Dharamshala, where his new office is located.
Sangay was a leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a hard-line organization under the Dalai Lama clique that openly preaches violence in their search for “Tibetan independence.” The group was the mastermind behind a violent riot on 14 March 2008, which resulted in the deaths of 18 civilians.
Xu Zhitao, an official at the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), told the Global Times that since the “exiled government” is not legitimate and is not recognized by any country in the world, Sangay’s appointment is just another political show by the Dalai Lama.
“This kind of show happens almost every year without any political significance,” Xu said. “The Dalai Lama and his clique lost political power ever since he went to India in 1959. He and his followers cannot represent Tibet.”
Lian Xiangmin, a research fellow at the China Tibetology Research Center, told the Global Times that Sangay’s influence in the clique is no match for that of the Dalai Lama, despite the latter declaring in March that he would resign from his political role.
“Sangay is young and active, but the Dalai Lama is still the mastermind of the group. In recent years, we have seen conflicts increasing among different stakeholders within the clique. With the Dalai Lama holding religious power, Sangay really doesn’t have too many options to ease the discord,” Lian said.
“Any important decisions would still have to be discussed with the Dalai Lama,” Barry Sautman, a Tibet expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told AFP.
“The problem for any ‘prime minister’ is that, compared to the Dalai Lama, he enjoys little name recognition outside specialised Tibetan circles, and that will be a difficult dynamic to shift,” Sautman said.
Born in the tea-growing region of Darjeeling in India in 1968, Sangay has never lived in or visited Tibet. He arrived in the US in 1995 after receiving a Fulbright scholarship to Harvard University, the BBC reported.
According to Reuters, Sangay could be more radical than the Dalai Lama. He earlier hinted that he could move beyond the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” policy of seeking “Tibet independence.” His appointment could also stave off a possible crisis of “leadership” when the Dalai Lama dies.
China has rejected the “middle way” policy as it flies in the face of the country’s constitution and law.
The “election” also reminded people of the Dalai Lama’s past attempts at nominating a successor by himself.
In order to retain the influence of his “exiled government,” despite his intention of leaving his political role, the Dalai Lama once proposed changing the way his reincarnation was chosen, including selecting the figure while he is alive.
Traditionally, the Dalai Lama’s successor has to be a boy containing his “reincarnated soul” born after his death, chosen by a committee of monks through a lot-drawing ceremony. The reincarnation should also be approved by China’s central government.
Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak, a living Buddha for Tibetan Buddhism, said the Dalai Lama’s self-declared retirement was a sheer “self-directed and played out farce.”
“The Shakyamuni Buddha required Buddhists to pursue spiritual improvement, rather than meddle in politics. But the Dalai Lama has long engaged in activities that aim to split China,” Tenzinchodrak told the Xinhua News Agency.
Hu Yan, a professor specializing in Tibet affairs with the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times that Sangay’s appointment might be the result of some groups who were disappointed by the aging Dalai Lama’s failure to meet their political expectations.
“After all, Sangay is a secular figure who is not eligible to become the next Dalai Lama. And if the Dalai Lama chooses a successor by himself, it will be a blow to his credibility among his followers,” Hu said.
“As an educated young scholar, I think Sangay should have his own judgment of Tibet’s history, current situation and future, unless he is happy to be swung by Western distortions on the issue,” Hu added.