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Expert on new Tibetan PM: ‘Big challenge to prove legitimacy’

Metro spoke with a China affairs expert — Kerry Brown, head of the Asia Programme, Chatham House — about the initial implications for the Tibet-China question.

Tibetan exiles have elected a Harvard law academic as their new political leader to head the government-in-exile’s challenge against China, a task previously held by the Dalai Lama.
The new prime minister, Lobsang Sangay, 43, garnered 55 percent of the votes cast by Tibetans around the world.

Metro spoke with a China affairs expert — Kerry Brown, head of the Asia Programme, Chatham House — about the initial implications for the Tibet-China question:

Why has there been an election to replace the Dalai Lama as a political leader?

The Dalai Lama's decision to renounce his political role and this subsequent election of a new leader is an attempt to ‘de-politicize’ the Buddhist leader's public persona. But this will prove to be a massive challenge as the Dalai Lama has been the face of Tibetan politics since the 1950s. Also, given the age of the Dalai Lama (75), it is a politically astute and stabilizing move to have a youthful replacement in Lobsang Sangay.

Should power not remain with the next Dalai Lama, transferred when the current one dies?

There is the central and very unique aspect in Buddhist faith of searching for the reincarnation, which could take some years to materialize. Also there is a move to institutionalize the political system of leadership through the ballot box.

Is Lobsang Sangay up for the job at hand?

Reports say the Dalai Lama is very happy with the election result. After nine rounds of formal talks with the Chinese, the Dalai Lama himself got very limited returns. So he wanted someone who is moderate, who can build a consensus. The big task over the coming months is to give legitimacy and traction to this new leader.

 
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