The Tibetan community in exile has re-elected a respected 47-year-old legal scholar as its Sikyong or Prime Minister.
Lobsang Sangay received 57% of the votes, Reuters reports, and has pledged to renew calls for Tibetan autonomy and revive the international community’s interest in Tibet’s plight.
Sangay told the news agency that China’s leaders had “become politically and diplomatically more powerful” in the wake of the country’s economic growth and were able to strongly influence global discourse on the Tibetan issue. In recent years, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has found it difficult if not impossible to have audiences with heads of state.
The newly elected Sikyong said that in the West, “human rights are secondary to investment.”
More than 135 Tibetans have burned themselves since 2009, protesting against the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, whose soldiers marched into Tibet in 1950. Many of the self-immolators have used their dying words to call for the return of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a dangerous separatist. (The Dalai Lama has repeatedly asserted publicly that he is calling for meaningful autonomy, not independence, for Tibet.)
Tibetans also say their culture is being rapidly eroded by the presence of large numbers of Han Chinese migrants in their country.