South Africa will be relieved to know that we are not the only nation to have snubbed His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Amid complaints from Dalai Lama representatives in Australasia that Australian PM Julia Gillard and the Christchurch city council both turned their noses up at the visiting monk, the Dalai Lama has overseen the assumption of office of his political successor. The political appointment comes as a relief to Tibetans who fear the movement may die with the ageing monk. Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard scholar, took office on Monday as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile assuming the political leadership role vacated by the 76-year-old Dalai Lama in May this year when he announced that he was giving up his political role to focus on spiritual duties.
Significantly, Sangay’s appointment to the Dalai Lama’s highest political office signals a historic shift from the dominance of Tibetan politics by religious figures and a transformation of the Tibetan government towards a democracy. Sangay won the first prime ministerial election in May after it had taken place in Tibetan settlements across 30 countries in March this year. The new Kalon Tripa (prime minister) has however never actually set foot in Tibet but has vowed to free his homeland from Chinese “colonialism” all the same. China, of course refuses to recognise Sangay’s authority.
The Dalai Lama, meanwhile, is back to his globetrotting ways as he travels to Europe to regale Europeans with the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhism. Although it is unclear whether His Holiness will meet the leaders of the European countries he is set to visit, his tête-à-tête with US President Barack Obama’s last month infuriated China who insisted continued dalliances with the Tibetan monk would lead to a review of Sino-US relations. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement the meeting, “severely interferes in China’s internal affairs, hurts the Chinese people’s feelings and harms China-US relations.” DM
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Photo: Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures while addressing a gathering at the fourth annual lecture, organised by the National Commission for Minorities, in New Delhi August 10, 2011. REUTERS/B Mathur
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Tigers cannot purr.