Festive greetings to our readers and subscribers hope you and your families are well and enduring these insane times. It’s been a while since the last item posted, various constraints, resource issues and time all impacted, but we thought to mark the closing of 2020 with an article on a persistent issue afflicting exiled Tibetan concerns. The condition of the democratic process within the Tibetan Diaspora as applying to the election of Sikyong (political leader) currently represented by Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
Campaigning has been going on for a few months now, the election looms on January 3 2021, and across social-media and within exiled Tibetan communities much debate, heat and smoke is generated. As a position we tend not to express favor with any candidate, nor do we usually comment on the process or politics involved. However, having been recently contacted by a senior Indian newspaper and giving thought to the matter we decided to present a number of concerns. We do so because they relate to critical points of importance to the Tibetan cause, which will be ignored by virtually every Tibet related organization and media platform.
First let’s breakdown a little context here. The adoption of western ideological ‘democratic’ process by an exiled/refugee Tibetan community presents a number of interesting challenges. Sure there’s been progress, the establishment of regional and local voting, an election commission and parliamentary assembly. Yet these indicators of democratic accountability and procedure are restrained and influenced by a set of cultural factors and societal norms not always harmonious to the full enjoyment of political expression. Vulnerabilities of course exploited by the Chinese regime, which seeks to sow division and distrust.
At the core of such body politics is an intractable obstacle, which shades any open and diverse exchange. This disabling limitation is forged by an immense sense of respect and devotion towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His position on Tibet’s future status has during the past years promoted a form of autonomy as a solution, an idea which forms the heart of the so-called ‘Middle Way’ approach. Given it’s origin, that it’s the official policy of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) it is a heresy to publicly dissent from this position. The result is conformity, compliance, and sadly in terms of full political and electoral expression, little room for the advocacy of Tibetan independence. In this sense a form of self-applied censorship exists producing a somewhat stunted and slanted election.
This barely concealed fissure is used politically from within the Tibetan Diaspora and also by forces hostile to the notion of a free and independent Tibet. Including a number of western states who pose as friends of Tibet, but in truth offer advice to maintain the status quo of Tibet remaining under the bloody maw of Chinese rule. They do so of course to secure and further their economic and political ties with China. That is why they are so willing to support the fragile and distorted exiled democratic process. Because it more or less guarantees the continuance of a CTA which avoids any mention of Tibetan independence. A silence servicing the foreign policy and commercial relations of countries such as the US and others which does not want the thorny subject of Tibetan national freedom destabilizing relations with the Chinese regime.
The consequence of such suffocating factors is that any candidate seeking to become Sikyong is unlikely to stand on a ticket in favor of Tibet’s independence. While those that espouse Tibetan sovereignty are locked-down, targets of ad hominem and socially marginalized. These circumstances impose a corrosive limitation that undermines democratic diversity or indeed faithful representation. Because the heart-kept political hopes of so many Tibetans, for a free and independent homeland, is not allowed expression.
There are other forces at work which disadvantage exiled Tibetan politics to subvert elections, including of course the role played by the Indian government. They too have their interests and no doubt agenda. Meanwhile the political aspiration which dare not speak its name remains in the dreams of Tibetans who continue to hope and trust.