Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamsala, India, is the seat of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the headquarters for the eight Tibetan exile settlements throughout India. To establish their refugee status in India, each of the 180,000 Tibetans is given a personal audience with the Dalai Lama.
During the past decades, many young Tibetans, starved of their culture and facing repression by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have trekked across the Himalayas to India. This process was anecdotally recorded in the moving documentary The Cry of the Snow Lion.
There in the Himalayas, the mountaineers witnessed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army intercept and murder a 17-year-old Tibetan woman in one of the groups that was fleeing across the snow from Tibet. This tragic process of defection was also illustrated to a delegation of Australians who recently met the Dalai Lama, by the 2,800 children living in boarding schools at Dharmasala’s Tibetan Children Village. Generations of Tibetan children, mainly aged six to 10, have been cared for and educated in the village. They are sent by their parents to India, often without the hope of seeing each other again.
Tibetans around the world have been agitated about the recent crackdown at the Kriti Monastery in Tibet, where Chinese authorities have enforced a “patriotic re-education campaign” and imposed an indefinite ban on religious activities. Three hundred monks have also been “removed.” On April 21, a large group of Tibetans stood guard at the monastery to prevent the Chinese forces from removing monks — the crowd was dispersed by the police, who used indiscriminate force. Two elderly Tibetans were beaten to death.
At Dharamsala, the Central Tibetan Administration attempts to replicate all the functions of a state. These functions include the Kashang (Tibetans’ elected parliament), a Tibetan education system, state archives, medical institutes and the Norblinka Institute of Art, where 400 sponsored artists maintain the traditions of their ancient culture.
As the Dalai Lama withdraws from front-line leadership (he is 75), Tibetans have a plan to ensure their immediate political future.
Regarding the election of a new Tibetan prime minister, the British newspaper the Guardian recently wrote: “Tibetans around the world have voted a Harvard law professor as their political leader, in the first election since the Dalai Lama, who is 75, announced that he would give up the political leadership of the Tibetan community in exile. The new prime minister, the 42-year old Lobsang Sangay, polled 27,051 votes, 55 percent of the total electorate, to beat two other secular candidates.”
Sangay was declared the third kalon tripa (prime minister). This is part of the wider Tibetan community’s plan to survive outside of Tibet when the Dali Lama dies.
The new kalon tripa has previously hinted he could move beyond the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” policy of negotiating with China for autonomy in Tibet.
As a student in New Delhi, he was a leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which champions complete Tibetan independence.
The Dalai Lama acknowledged to our delegation that his moderate “third way,” which sought Tibetan authority within a Chinese federation, had not been successful, but that the uprising in March 2008 showed the Chinese had to deal with “the issue.”