China Fumes As Tibetan Parliament-In-Exile Holds Preliminary Phase Of Elections

In a show of democracy, thousands of Tibetans around the world voted in the election of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile (TPiE), called the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). While China has been pushing against the “illegal” government, the CTA recently won Washington’s support.

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The Tibetan parliament-in-exile held the first phase of the two-phased elections on January 3 to elect the next Sikyong (President). Beating the cold weather and the ongoing pandemic, thousands of Tibetans voted in large numbers. 

TPiE began to pass laws for the Tibetans in exile and the Charter for Tibetans in Exile is one of the first important legal documents passed by the Parliament and approved by the Dalai Lama in 1991. Tibetans in India, Nepal, and Bhutan elect their MPs on the basis of three traditional regions of Tibet and the five Religious Traditions. Of the total 80,000 voters, 56,000 live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan while 24,000 are in other countries, as per the CTA election commission.

As of October 30, the total number of registered voters stood at 79,697 including 55,683 from India and 24,014 abroad. However, the registration deadline was extended until December 28.

Tibetans in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Spain also exercised their franchise on January 3. There are eight candidates in the race to become the next Sikyong and about 150 candidates for 44-seat parliament — 10 members from each of the traditional provinces of Tibet – Amdo, Kham, and U-Tsang and two from each of the five religious traditions.

Two members each from North American and European Tibetan communities as outside India, North America, and Europe have the largest number of Tibetans.

Following the first phase of voting, the two candidates for the post of President and 90 for parliamentary seats will be shortlisted. The second phase of voting will take place in April that will decide the president and 44 elected members of the parliament.

“The Tibetan democracy-in-exile reflects the true aspirations of our brothers and sisters inside Tibet,” said the incumbent Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay. “By this, we are sending a clear message to Beijing that Tibet is under occupation but Tibetans in exile are free. And given a chance, an opportunity, we prefer democracy.”

Sangay will conclude his second term in May and will be replaced by a new leader. He recently achieved a milestone in his tenure by winning Washington’s support through the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 (TPSA).  

The act calls for building a US Consulate in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, and makes it US policy that decisions regarding the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama are exclusively within the authority of the current Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leaders, and the Tibetan people.

It further provides that the Chinese government’s interference in the process will invite serious sanctions and visa restrictions.

Following the Galwan valley clash between Indian and Chinese troops in June, New Delhi has stepped up its ante and has increasingly aligned itself with the US in a bid to contain the Chinese threat. As many as 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the incident while the Chinese side did not reveal their casualty figures. 

China Laments

After the failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India. A Tibetan government-in-exile was set up in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.

However, in 2003, India recognized Tibet as a part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China. Tibetans have been resisting the Chinese occupation for decades.

Beijing doesn’t recognize the CTA and the Chinese observers noted that the election won’t affect Beijing’s policies in Tibet, Chinese state media quoted. Xiao Jie, deputy director at the Institute for Contemporary Tibetan Studies under the China Tibetology Research Center told the Global Times that the Sikyong is similar to “a general manager of the exiled organization who deals with Western governments, asks for money and does some administration work.”

Citing a Beijing expert, the tabloid said that the election is a competition of power among the new generation of local Tibetans.

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