Is Tibet's new leadership a ray of hope for the country?

Politics May 25, 2021

On May 14, Penpa Tsering became the official newly elected Sikyong (president) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), beating his counterpart Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang by 5,417 votes. More than 80,000 people all over the world possessing the Green Book (unofficial Tibetian passport) were waiting for the result. The previous Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay will complete his second five-year term on the 26th of this month, and the 16th Parliament ends on the 31st of May.

53 year old Tsering, an experienced administrator, had earlier also served as the North America Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, their Spiritual Leader, in 2016 for a year. Meanwhile, Aukatsang had the responsibility of being a special adviser to Sangay and the Dalai Lama's representative to North America.

Dr. Sangay had won against Tsering back in 2016. He claims to have congratulated Penpa Tsering on the election victory and offered his full cooperation to ensure a smooth transition of power. The newly elected 45 members of the 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile have an equal number of old and new faces in the House.

Tibet is considered a land of bubbly traditionalists and serene monks*. It was annexed by China in the 1950s when the People's Liberation Army marched in unannounced, forcing the Dalai Lama and most others to flee their motherland. Since then, Tibetans all over the world have been governed by a government in exile which was led by the Dalai Lama himself till 2011. All Tibetans have been fighting for their freedom in various ways leading to certain divisions within the community. Tsering’s views would influence them to a great extent. According to a senior Tibetan official the new Sikyong has worked at the grassroots and advocates a logical and a middle path to attain Tibetan autonomy. He had also proposed to carry out realistic and result-oriented policies encouraging cooperation while addressing different needs and vowed to uphold the wisdom of Tibetan Spiritual Leader, the Dalai Lama intending to oppose any unfounded criticism against him.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price congratulated Penpa Tsering on the behalf of the United States in a tweet. He also mentioned that they would be looking forward to working with him and the CTA in supporting the global Tibetan diaspora.

China has increased its hostility in response. The Indian government has not yet given any official response, but the elections, as well as the results, were declared in Dharamshala- the residence of the Dalai Lama in India. The elections were held in 25 countries which include  Australia, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, Russia, Poland, Ireland, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Taiwan, and India. The voter turnout was around 77%, the highest till now.

With both the USA and India being at odds with China, it might be a good chance for Tsering. Therefore, what needs to be seen is how the new Sikyong will handle his new responsibilities including the Sino-Tibetan relations, Indian-Tibetan relations, USA-Tibet relations, and the Covid-19 situation.

This article has been written by Ruchi Thakur for The Paradigm

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