ISSN 2330-717X

Central Tibetan Administration’s New PM: Implications For Sino-Tibet Relations – Analysis


By Chok Tsering

It was a historic moment on 8 August 2011 when the newly elected Lobsang Sangay was sworn in at Tsuglagkhang as the third directly elected Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) and the first elected political leader of the community. The Dalai Lama described the day as “one of the most special days in Tibet’s 2000 years of history”. He called for greater responsibility on part of the Kalon Tripa as well as the younger generations. The Chinese government took a different angle to this development in the exiled community and called the appointment of Lobsang Sangay as just another political gimmick by the Dalai Lama, further labeling the Dalai Lama’s resignation as “a trick” to play another game of politics – “it’s all just a separatist political clique that betrays the motherland”. This reaction from China is bound to complicate the relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Central Tibetan Administration in the post Dalai Lama scenario.


The devolution of political power brings both advantages and disadvantages to the CTA and its elected Prime Minister. The major setback of it has been the end of the 370 years of “choe si nyi dren” (religious governance, where the ruler was the lama) during which Tibet enjoyed considerable freedom. Moreover, the dialogues between China and Tibet have come to a standstill because the talk, as seen by the Chinese was in between the Chinese government (the United Front Work Department) and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. Thus, during that time there was no legitimacy given to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), located in Dharamsala. Since political responsibility has come on the elected Prime Minister and the CTA, which has emerged as the de-facto government based in exile, matters have become complicated. The new dialogue between the CTA and PRC will give a big blow to the position of China towards Tibet. The PRC will strategically never accept the legitimacy of the CTA.

Tibetans back in Tibet hope and aspire for a stronger role of the CTA and the Kalon Tripa evident in the congratulatory messages during the oath taking ceremony of Dr. Sangay, intensifying the stand- off in between China and Tibet which has further problematized the Tibetan question. Another disadvantage to Lobsang Sangay was described by the Tibetans as in-experience in the administration work although a highly qualified scholar and a great orator.

Although the Dalai Lama has resigned from the political leadership and a structural change has occurred in the CTA, people still repose their faith in him as the constant figure of Tibet to represent the Tibetan voice in the world. For instance recently on 15 August 2011, one of the monks, Tsewang Norbu from Nyitso monastery in Tawu, Sichuan province, committed self-immolation as an act of protest against China’s rule in the region and also demanded for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

With the ascendance of new leaders in China in 2012 and the intensification of the Tibetan movement in some of the Tibetan regions outside TAR, the Chinese have taken greater measures to suppress. For instance, the recent visit of Vice-President Xi Jinping in the Tibetan region as well as the imprisonment of a great Tibetan poet, Shogdrung clearly indicates the significance of Tibet issue. Moreover, the Tibet issue which has been conspicuous on the high tables of international conferences like European Union’s Commission of Human Rights is however silenced by the economic might of China. The Chinese have confined the issue of Tibet to that of the Dalai Lama, which has completely overshadowed the fate and future of the Tibetans in Tibet as well as outside.The succession of the Dalai Lama becomes an important issue after the Dalai Lama’s political resignation.

China hopes that after the death of Dalai Lama, Tibetans will be deprived of an internationally known figure like him and thus give up the freedom struggle. But with the passing of political power to the elected leader, the Dalai Lama has tried to move the spotlight back to the issue of Tibet; hence it has become easier for the Tibetans to continue their struggle even after the absence of Dalai Lama. It is obvious that there will be two Dalai Lamas like Panchen Lama if the Dalai Lama institution continues: one recognized by the Chinese and another by the Tibetans but the present situation has made easier for the Tibetans to run the government continuously even in the absence of Dalai Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will always remain as the spokesperson for Tibet and Tibetans. However, the Tibetan issue stands where it is right now, as a matter of fact it has become murkier and there is no speedy solution to the Tibetan imbroglio.

Chok Tsering
Research Assistant, Vivekananda International Foundation
email: [email protected]

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IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies) conducts independent research on conventional and non-conventional security issues in the region and shares its findings with policy makers and the public. It provides a forum for discussion with the strategic community on strategic issues and strives to explore alternatives. Moreover, it works towards building capacity among young scholars for greater refinement of their analyses of South Asian security.

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