Lobsang Sangay could be the new leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

I’m not a hippie, but I have attended a Free Tibet rally (it was college, I was experimenting). I support a free Tibet, in that American way of admonishing China while in no way depriving myself of any Chinese products or consumer markets. My dog is a Tibetan breed (Lhasa Apso). I spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to add a Tibetan motif to her playthings, until I realized I was engaged in the dumbest anthropomorphism of all time. I think it’s cool when the Dalai Lama makes cameo appearances, like in the movie 2012.

All of this is by way of saying that the ongoing Tibetan occupation and oppression seems bad but doesn’t really make the list of top ten unacceptable world situations that somehow are allowed to continue.

And if I may be so bold, I think some of that has to do with the Dalai Lama himself. He seems nice, thoughtful, and at peace. The very picture of a 20th-century saint. But maybe it’s time to turn up the volume? More rending of garments and fiery speeches?

The Dalai Lama wants to step down and relinquish his political leadership to focus on his spiritual mission. And right now the front-runner to replace him is currently a fellow at Harvard Law School.

Surely an HLS man will be more skilled at the bitching and moaning I’m looking for from 21st century exiles…

I’m going to guess that I’m like 99% of you and know nothing about Lobsang Sangay. Here’s what the Boston Globe reports:

Lobsang Sangay grew up in a Tibetan refugee settlement in Darjeeling, India. His parents sold one of the family’s three cows to pay for his school fees. He went on to university and then law school in Delhi, before winning a Fulbright scholarship that brought him to Harvard.

Today, Sangay is a research fellow at Harvard Law School and lives with his wife and daughter in Medford. He drives a Honda and loves the Patriots and Red Sox. And now, he is poised to become the most powerful elected leader in the history of the Tibetan government in exile.

Sweet, that’s what this movement needs, a Masshole.

In a telephone interview yesterday from Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, Sangay said that if he wins, his top priorities will be “to make efforts to restore freedom in Tibet; to alleviate the suffering of the Tibetan people in Tibet; to end political repression and economic marginalization, cultural assimilation, and the environmental destruction taking place in Tibet.’…

He said that, if elected, he would continue to support policies articulated by the Dalai Lama, who led his people into exile in 1959 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 30 years later. Sangay criticized what he called the Chinese government’s hard-line policies toward Tibet, which, he said, “make a breakthrough very difficult.’’

But, he said, “I believe in nonviolence. I do believe nonviolence should be the way to move forward.’’

Yeah, well, we are all wise to take a “non-violent” approach to dealing with freaking China. Land wars + Asia = Epic Fail. But there seems to be reason to believe that Sangay’s approach will be quite aggressive:

Tenzin Wangyal, a member of the editorial board of the Tibetan Political Review, said Sangay campaigned early and aggressively, visiting refugee settlements in India, as well as in the United States and Europe.

“It’s the Tibetan nature to not be very assertive and to see any efforts to gain political power . . . [as] somebody trying to do something for personal gain,’’ Wangyal said. But Sangay, he said, deserves praise for his outreach, which put pressure on the other candidates “to step up or be left behind.’’

And there’s nothing like getting a little bit of Harvard in you:

Sangay is also extremely well connected through Harvard, by giving lectures around the world, and through his work with Tibetan officials in India and New York, said Phunkhang, who spent a year working with Sangay and other organizers to prepare for the Dalai Lama’s 2009 visit to Massachusetts…

In the interview, Sangay described himself as a onetime hard-core activist who preferred “banging on tables’’ to diplomacy. But, he said, his time at Harvard helped him become a more sophisticated thinker with the skills to engineer a series of conferences between Chinese and Tibetan officials.

“Coming to Harvard made me more rational,’’ he said. “Eventually you learn . . . to get to know the person from another perspective. You exchange views more freely and more forthrightly.’’

I’m a fan. Maybe I’ll even go to another rally, it’s been a while since I’ve been around some really good mushrooms.

Harvard Law fellow set to lead Tibetans [Boston Globe]
Harvard Law Fellow Is Likely Winner of Election to Lead Tibetan Exile Government [ABA Journal]


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