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Tibet Society welcomes inauguration of first secular head of Tibetan government in exile PDF Print E-mail
Time for the British government to re-affirm its commitment to finding a resolution for Tibet

[5 August 2011]
On Monday 8 August, Dr Lobsang Sangay will be formally inaugurated as Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) of the Tibetan government in exile. Dr Sangay will become the first secular head directly elected by the Tibetan people.

The appointment of Dr Sangay presages a major change for Tibetans in exile and Tibetans in Tibet. In March, as part of his ongoing desire for the Tibetan government in exile to become fully democratic, the Dalai Lama announced his intention to hand over his political duties to the new Kalon Tripa. Once the ceremonial hand-over of power takes place on Monday, the Tibetan people will have their first elected secular leader.

Philippa Carrick, CEO of Tibet Society, said, On behalf of all members of Tibet Society, I send our congratulations to Dr Lobsang Sangay on his election as Kalon Tripa and his official inauguration to take up his post. Dr Sangay will bring a new dynamism and fresh thinking to Tibetan politics and we are very much looking forward to supporting him in working to bring justice to Tibet. Tibet Society will be pressing the British government to re-affirm its commitment to finding a resolution for Tibet; to this end we will be asking Foreign Secretary William Hague to meet Dr Sangay when he visits the UK and for the Foreign Secretary to publicly assure the Tibetan people that the British government will continue to press China for meaningful dialogue with Dr Lobsang Sangay and other Tibetan representatives that will bring about peace and justice for the Tibetan people inside Tibet.

A further commentary by Dr Fiona McConnell, an academic expert on unrecognised states, highlights recent developments and new approaches to international politics in areas where change has been prompted by the actions of a disenchanted population. In the piece below she posits that world governments should now begin to recognise the legitimacy of bodies other than an official government when they become more representative of a populace struggling for freedom.

Legitimacy and the Tibetan government in exile
The American, British and several dozen other governments recently recognized the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. In the British case in particular, this decision turned on its head the long-standing convention of recognising states and not governments. While the decision has been justified by 'exceptional circumstances, it raises questions about whether governments ought to recognize the legitimacy of other bodies that more rightfully represent peoples struggling for freedom.

None is more deserving than the Tibetan government which, under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, has been operating in exile since 1959. It is the continuation of the Tibetan government that had presided over Tibet under successive Dalai Lamas for three centuries prior to the Chinese invasion in 1949. On 8 August 2011, Harvard-academic Lobsang Sangay - young, Western educated and secular - will be inaugurated as the newly elected Tibetan Prime Minister in exile. His swearing-in comes as the culmination of the Dalai Lama's 50-year effort to democratise the Tibetan government in exile and transfer his authority to elected officials. Most recently, the Dalai Lama handed over all of his political authority to the exile government's elected Prime Minister and elected Assembly. Mondays ceremony in Dharamsala, India, will usher in a new era of Tibetan politics. Lobsang Sangay will lead a government which, although not recognised by any state, features all the attributes of legitimate and democratic governance. It has formal state-citizen relations with the Tibetan exile community, it operates a functioning bureaucracy and a number of foreign missions abroad, and it has established a representative democracy for the first time in Tibets history.

The Tibetan government in exile also claims legitimacy from the wider cause that it represents - that of restoring freedom in Tibet - and from the Tibetan people in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Overwhelming numbers of Tibetans have rejected Chinas claims of legitimate rule in Tibet in recent times, expressing their dissatisfaction and resentment in diverse ways and without the use of guns: from widespread protests across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, to the self-immolation of a young monk at Kirti monastery in eastern Tibet in March 2011, to the emergence of a grassroots movement that re-asserts Tibetan cultural identity. There is also strong evidence that Tibetans inside Tibet continue to express loyalty to the Dalai Lama and look to the exile government as their legitimate representatives. Though unable to participate in the exile elections, Tibetans in Tibet nevertheless celebrated Lobsang Sangays election with firecrackers and messages of support.

Such support for the Tibetan cause and its leadership in exile should be more formally acknowledged - even legitimised - by the international community. Although reluctant to challenge the political and economic might of China, perhaps the Libyan case provides a precedent for opening up discussions about legitimacy? With events inside and outside Tibet bolstering the legitimacy of the exile leadership, the time is opportune for governments to acknowledge that the democratically elected exiled Tibetan leadership makes a more credible case than the Chinese Communist Party for claiming to speak on behalf of the people of occupied Tibet. Certainly, governments can begin the conversation by meeting, face to face, with Lobsang Sangay, Tibet's first elected secular leader.
Dr. Fiona McConnell, University of Cambridge

[ends]

Contacts:

Philippa Carrick 07941 105 485 / 020 727 1414 This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Paul Golding: 020 7272 1414 This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes:
Schedule of Events for the Inauguration of Lobsang Sangay as Kalon Tripa
(Information from Department of Information and International Relations)
Monday 8 August (local Indian times)
7:00 - 8:00am     Visits to local monasteries and temples
8:30am    Assembly of dignitaries, official guests and general public at Tsuglagkhang courtyard.
8:45am    Arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
9:00am    Dr. Lobsang Sangay to take oath of office
9:25am    Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
9:40am    Kalon Tripa to deliver acceptance speech
10:10am    Photo Opportunity with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
10:20am    Kalon Tripa to hold press conference at Kalachakra temple, Tsuglagkhang

Tuesday 9 August
9.00 hrs    Foreign dignitaries, including Members of Parliaments and other friends, including Chinese friends, will felicitate the Kalon Tripa at a public ceremony, Tsuglagkhang courtyard.

Press passes will be issued on 7 August.
Contact: Lobsang Choedak, Press Officer for Department of Information and International Relations
Mobile: + 91 9882 232476, Tel: +91-1892 222510 or 224957.


Further reading
5 August: Letter of congratulations to Lobsang Sangay from Fabian Hamilton MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet. (PDF document)
27 April: Lobsang Sangay announced as new Kalon Tripa (includes links to interviews)


 
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