Penpa Tsering Officially Named Tibet’s Next Exile Leader

Tibet's new Sikyong calls for unity among Tibetans and vows to work hard for the Tibetan cause.
2021-05-14
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Penpa Tsering Officially Named Tibet’s Next Exile Leader Penpa Tsering, newly elected Sikyong, Tibetan political leader in exile, is shown in a file photo.
Photo: RFA

Penpa Tsering, former speaker of Tibet’s exile parliament, was officially named by the Tibetan Election Commission on Friday as Sikyong, or political leader, of the India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.

Winning 34,324 votes in a closely fought April 11 election held in Tibetan communities worldwide, Tsering had moved decisively ahead of the 28,907 votes secured by rival Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, who congratulated Tsering on his win.

With a voter turnout of 63,991 out of 83,080 registered voters, the turnout was the highest in the history of Tibetan elections held in exile, the Election Commission said.

Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service after his win was declared, Tsering pledged to work hard “for the Tibetan cause and for the welfare of Tibetan society,” adding, “We must stand united now and understand who our real enemy is,” referring to China, which invaded and occupied the formerly independent Tibet 70 years ago.

“Tibetans in Tibet have kept the Tibetan cause alive with great determination under China’s oppressive rule for all these years, with many even sacrificing their lives for the cause,” Tsering added in an official statement following the announcement of his win.

“We have to make sure their lives were not sacrificed in vain,” Tsering said.

The Tibetan diaspora is estimated to include about 150,000 people living in 40 countries, mainly India, Nepal, North America, and in Europe.

Tsering now replaces Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-trained scholar of law, who had served two consecutive five-year terms as Sikyong, an office in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala filled by candidates elected since 2011 by popular vote.

Sangay on Friday issued a video message congratulating Tsering on his win on behalf of the exile cabinet, or Kashag, adding that Tsering will most likely take his oath of office on May 26 after new Tibetan justice commissioners and a new speaker of parliament are seated.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers later fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed 1959 national uprising against China’s rule.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported and translated by Tenzin Phakdon for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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