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Lobsang Sangay Re-elected as Prime Minister by Tibetans in Exile

The Dalai Lama and his followers have been living in exile in Dharmsala since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule

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Lobsang Sangay, the incumbent prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, speaks to media after being re-elected for second term in office in Dharmsala, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

Lobsang Sangay has been re-elected prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in voting held last month, officials announced Wednesday, with Sangay saying the election shows that Tibetans in exile “are practicing democracy, whereas China is not.”

Tibetan election officials announced the result in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the government-in-exile. Sangay, 47, defeated his only rival, Penpa Tsering, receiving about 58 percent of the 58,740 votes cast.

It was the second election since the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of the government-in-exile in 2011 to focus on his role as the Tibetans’ spiritual leader. Tibetans living in exile cast their votes in 40 countries.

China says Tibet has historically been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, and the Communist Party has governed the Himalayan region since 1951. But many Tibetans say that they were effectively independent for most of their history, and that the Chinese government wants to exploit their resource-rich region while crushing their cultural identity.

China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile, and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.

“This election sends a very clear and powerful message to the Chinese government and the country, China,” Sangay told reporters after the result was announced. “It is a clear statement that even exile Tibetans are practicing democracy, whereas China is not.”

Sangay said his government would continue to fight for basic freedoms and genuine autonomy for Tibetans living under Chinese rule in Tibet.

Last month, Sangay called for China to engage in dialogue on autonomy for his people’s homeland. Stressing that a dialogue with China would be his main initiative, he said he hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would look at the Tibetan issue and take the initiative to hold talks with Tibetan exiles.

On Wednesday, Sangay called the results of the election “the consolidation of democracy” and said an increased participation of Tibetans in the voting process reflected their maturity.

“By democratic standards, the exile Tibetan democracy is now a full-fledged, consolidated democracy,” he said.

The international community, he said, should look at his administration as a legitimate democratic identity. He said the exiled government “in many ways” reflected the aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet.

The Dalai Lama and his followers have been living in exile in Dharmsala since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Exiled Tibetan officials say at least 114 monks and laypeople have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule over their homeland in the past five years, with most of them dying. U.S. government-backed Radio Free Asia puts the number of self-immolations at 144 since 2009.

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama and others for inciting the immolations and says it has made vast investments to develop Tibet’s economy and improve quality of life. (VOA)

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Impoverished Tibetan Families Receive Cash Payments in Return to Display Xi Jinping Portraits

"The money will not be given if the families don’t agree to the required condition,” RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region

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xi jinping portrait
China Offers Money to Tibetans to Display Portraits of Xi Jinping. Wikimedia Commons

Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province are offering cash payments to impoverished Tibetan families to display portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping in their homes, in a move aimed at enforcing Tibetan loyalty to Beijing, Tibetan sources say.

The new campaign, now under way in Arte village in the Tsolho  (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Serchen (Gonghe) county, has promised 6,000 yuan (U.S. $869) to more than 30 families to hang the portrait in a prominent place, a source in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“The money will not be given if the families don’t agree to the required condition,” RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region.

“Because of financial constraints and poor livelihood opportunities in the area, the Tibetans have no choice but to take the money and put up Xi’s picture,” the source said, adding that the portrait of China’s president must be placed as high any picture of the Potala Palace, winter home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

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A portrait of Chinese president Xi Jinping is shown hanging on the wall of a Tibetan home in Qinghai. RFA

“The families are choosing to do this because they need the money to survive, but they regret this immensely,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Serchen county lies almost 142 km (88 miles) away from Xining city in Qinghai, a part of northeastern Tibet historically known to Tibetans as Amdo, and Arte village falls with four other villages under the jurisdiction of Arte township in the town of Chabcha.

Dalai Lama photos banned

Authorities in Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces have meanwhile launched a new push against possession of photos of the Dalai Lama, traveling to remote areas that had previously escaped police attention, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

The campaign, which began at the end of April, has targeted Serthar county in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, but is also being enforced in other areas of the eastern Tibetan region historically known as Kham, one source said.

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Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past. Wikimedia Commons

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Chinese officials from government bureaus monitoring religious practice are also visiting Tibetan schools and warning teachers and students not to keep or display the photos, adding that local Tibetans have also been urged to tell high-ranking Chinese visitors of the “big improvements in their living conditions” owing to government subsidies.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 83 on July 6, 2018, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past. (RFA)

Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.