Lobsang Sangay is sworn in as new prime minister of Tibetan exiles
Harvard-trained academic Lobsang Sangay vows to fight Chinese 'colonialism' at his swearing-in as the new political head of Tibetan exiles. But will he have clout?
The Harvard University-trained law fellow is the first secular man to hold a higher political authority than the Dalai Lama, and his inauguration highlights what the Dalai Lama has indicated he hopes will represent the new democratic face of the Tibetan exiles.
For years the Dalai Lama has indicated he wanted Tibetans to elect a political leader and to reduce his role to merely that of a religious head, but it wasn't until March that elections were held.
“The vision of passing on my political power onto the democratically elected prime minister has been fulfilled. I feel that the devolution of power onto Lobsang Sangay is appropriate, and I have full confidence he will carry out the responsibilities and continue to uphold strong democratic ideas,” the Dalai Lama said of the new appointment.
Though much of the exile community also appears confident Dr. Sangay can fill the big political boots of the Dalai Lama, he still faces a host of challenges.
“This new man could make a significant difference if he is able to improve the education system in exile and rejuvenate the administration there,” says Robert Barnett, director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University. He adds that though Sangay’s skills for this position are a bit up in the air, they may emerge.
Sangay, who beat out two rival candidates with about 59 percent of the vote, won the March election among 89,000 eligible Tibetan exiles.
Observers say Sangay, who has lived in the United States for the past 15 years, likely won’t shy away from raising the issues of human rights, identity, religion, and the usage of natural resources inside Tibet.
“There is no ‘socialism’ in Tibet. There is colonialism. Chinese rule in Tibet is clearly unjust and untenable,” Sangay said, pledging to fulfill the Dalai Lama’s vision to create a secular democratic society in his inauguration speech.
Sangay calls himself an activist scholar. While on a Fulbright scholarship to Harvard, he met thousands of Chinese students and organized round table meetings for the Dalai Lama with the Chinese scholars. In 2007 he was named one of the Asia Society’s 24 Young Leaders of Asia.