Projected Winner in Vote for Tibet’s Exile Leader Vows Hard Work, Asks for Unity

2021-04-19
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Projected Winner in Vote for Tibet’s Exile Leader Vows Hard Work, Asks for Unity Penpa Tsering, projected winner in the 2021 election for Sikyong, Tibet's exile political leader, speaks to RFA in an April 17, 2021 interview.
Photo: RFA

The projected winner in the election for the next leader, or Sikyong, of Tibet’s Dharamsala, India-based exile government is pledging to work hard on behalf of Tibetans living in their China-ruled homeland and in exile, saying he has already received many messages of support.

“I know Tibetans inside Tibet don’t have the right to vote,” Penpa Tsering, former speaker of Tibet’s exile government, said on Saturday in remarks to RFA after final votes showed him the clear winner in this year’s election.

“However, I have been receiving your best wishes by word of mouth, and I would therefore like to thank all Tibetans both inside [Tibet] and living in exile,” Tsering said.

“Resolving the issue of Tibet and taking care of the welfare of Tibetans in exile are now my core responsibilities,” said Tsering, who has previously said he will look for ways to reject what he called China’s “assimilationist policies on Tibet’s language, culture, religion, and environment.”

“The public has sincerely placed their trust in me, and I will not let this be in vain,” Tsering said, adding that he will be guided in his work by the aspirations for the Tibetan people of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“I will work very hard,” Tsering said, calling on Tibetans to “leave behind the animosity [of the campaign] and remain united.”

“Healthy discussions and dialogue will always be a part of enhancing our cause,” he added.

Now ahead in votes

More than 83,000 Tibetans living in 26 countries around the world went to the polls on April 11 to cast their ballots in the third and final round of voting for Sikyong.

Final votes counted in the U.S. on Friday showed a total of 33,924 ballots have now been cast for Tsering, compared with 28,595 cast for rival candidate Aukatsang Kelsang Dorjee, a former representative of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, according to unofficial counting by RFA.

Official results won’t be announced until May 14, but Tsering now leads with a comfortable margin of 5,329.

Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-trained scholar of law, has served two consecutive five-year terms as Sikyong, an office filled by candidates elected since 2011 by popular vote, and will leave that post when his present term expires in May.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world.

Divisions persist in the Tibetan exile community over how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a restoration of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the Dalai Lama have instead adopted a policy approach called the Middle Way, which accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China but urges greater cultural and religious freedom, including strengthened language rights, for Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Both Tsering and Aukatsang support the Middle Way.

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

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