Author Topic: Tibetan Leader, a Red Sox Fan, Knows the Value of Taking the Long View  (Read 3274 times)


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DHARAMSALA, India — From his office in the hill station of Dharamsala, where Tibetan exiles have spent the past half-century waiting for the seismic changes that could restore Tibet’s independence, Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay was reminiscing, a bit wistfully, about a world he had left behind.

Specifically, he was reminiscing about the Boston Red Sox. These were not the vague remarks of someone faking expertise for diplomatic purposes. Rather, he was recalling the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when the Red Sox manager took a disastrous gamble by allowing the team’s star pitcher, Pedro Martinez, to remain on the mound late in a deciding game against the New York Yankees.

Behind his desk, a magnificent life-size, silk-draped photograph of the Dalai Lama hangs from the wall, and outside his window, the Himalayas rise like a great wall into the mist.

Mr. Sangay, 46, recalled the agitation as he watched Boston’s lead slip away, perhaps the most calamitous in a history of heartbreaks for those who persisted in believing in the Red Sox. The suffering would all be washed away by the next season, but in 2003 no one knew that. “Normally, I am quite a patient guy,” Mr. Sangay said. “But he brought him back after 118 pitches.”

Mr. Sangay likes sports. He can explain why: You win, or you lose. Then you close the book on that episode and start over. This could not be more different from the mission that he took on in 2011, when he left a comfortable life at Harvard to begin a five-year term as sikyong, the leader of the Tibetans’ exile administration. This coincided with a momentous decision by the Dalai Lama, the exiles’ head of state since 1959, to devolve his political power to the new prime minister.

Since Mr. Sangay took over, it has been difficult to close the book on anything. China, which once gave lip service to negotiations on Tibet’s status, has refused to meet with him or his representatives. Western countries are increasingly squeamish about getting involved. With the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday a year away and no clear plan for succession, anxiety has settled like a pall over Dharamsala. Some activists criticize Mr. Sangay for being too rigid with China, others for watering down Tibetan demands in an attempt to bring Beijing to the table. Meanwhile, it is his job to inspire confidence when there is little sign of progress.

Considering all this, Mr. Sangay is surprisingly even-keeled. Asked why, he says he falls back on the Buddhist notion of impermanence. He also uses what he learned as a fan of the Red Sox, during the long years before the team’s luck turned.

“There is this unfulfilled desire, unfulfilled aspiration,” he said. “That keeps you going.”

TALL and imposing like many men from eastern Tibet, Mr. Sangay grew up in a refugee camp near Darjeeling, in eastern India, poor enough to wear sandals through the bitter winter.

He comes from a long line of fighters. His father was in charge of arms and ammunition for the Chushi Gangdruk militia, formed in the late 1950s to defend Tibet. One particular story accompanied Mr. Sangay’s birth: His mother suspected he was the reincarnation of her brother, who had been trained by the Central Intelligence Agency and airdropped at the Tibetan border, in one of the most secret programs of the Cold War. He never returned.

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“When I was born in 1968, my mother, because of her closeness to her brother, she said, ‘Hey, maybe he is my brother, the freedom fighter,' ” Mr. Sangay said. A sense of expectation developed, he added. “You parents say that, your relatives say that, your teacher says that: ‘Hey, Lobsang, you’re going to be someone special, you are going to be a great freedom fighter.’ ”

By the time he ran for the highest office in the exile government, known as the Central Tibetan Administration, Mr. Sangay had a smoother image, one that developed over 16 years at Harvard, first as a Fulbright scholar and later as a research fellow at Harvard Law School, his salary provided in large part by a private foundation. In a suit and tie, he could easily be mistaken for an investment banker, and he has an American politician’s knack for campaigning that, coupled with the reverence accorded to Harvard, has helped him leapfrog older and more established Dharamsala-based candidates.

The biggest change was that he dropped his insistence that Tibet gain independence, instead embracing the Dalai Lama’s so-called Middle Way. Introduced in 1987, the policy is intended to draw China into dialogue by softening Tibetan demands, calling for self-governance and “genuine autonomy” within China. Last year, Mr. Sangay told the Council on Foreign Relations that the goal was to see ethnic Tibetans installed as party secretary and in other important posts in the Tibetan autonomous region.

“We don’t question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party,” he said.

Some activists denounce Mr. Sangay for scaling back the movement’s demands. Jamyang Norbu, a prominent writer who recalled Mr. Sangay as a natural politician and a “good wheeler-dealer” when they became friends in the 1990s, dismissed the current policy as “a fruitless exercise.” He blamed the influence of Harvard, saying young Tibetans who spend time in the United States often develop an unrealistic reliance on “the old, old European tradition of diplomacy and negotiation.”

“The problem is that they see China through the eyes of the West,” said Mr. Norbu, who now lives in Tennessee. “The sheep doesn’t see things from the point of view of the wolf that is gobbling her.” With his bodyguards in dark suits and sunglasses, he said, Mr. Sangay is focused on burnishing his image at a moment when Tibetans are desperate for a way forward.

“We just can’t afford it; we are getting to the end of our tether,” he said. “The whole Tibetan world is falling apart so fast.”

IN Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s word remains sacrosanct, and Mr. Sangay seems untroubled by the criticism. In a recent interview, he was cheerful for another reason: His wife and 7-year-old daughter, who remained behind in Medford, Mass., when he began his term, were finally preparing to move to Dharamsala. He was buying his daughter a puppy.

As the leader of an unrecognized government, he earns 26,000 rupees a month, or about $430. He makes exhausting whistle-stop tours of exile communities, listening to petitions and complaints. Last week he paid a condolence visit to a Tibetan family that had lost a brother to a stampeding elephant. During trips outside India, he holds secretive meetings with government officials, often in hotel rooms or cafeterias to avoid attracting the attention of the Chinese.

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In the presence of the Dalai Lama, his status seems to melt away. Addressing a crowd last year, the Dalai Lama affectionately mocked Mr. Sangay’s spoken Tibetan, saying it is “like a schoolboy talking,” and then laughed heartily. The prime minister, in the background, bowed his head. Asked about it, he smiled a little ruefully.

“It was a privilege,” he said. “It means he really knows me well. For him to say such a thing is obviously a bit embarrassing, but mainly, what a privilege, because he was saying, ‘I know this guy well.' ” He added, “I worked very hard on my Tibetan.”

But the subtext is that it will not always be this way. The Dalai Lama has been evasive about how his spiritual successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, will be chosen, saying only that he will reveal his intentions in 2025, when he turns 90. The political transition, however, is in place. Asked what would happen if the Dalai Lama died unexpectedly, Mr. Sangay said, “The plan is the devolution of political authority.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Sangay offers evidence that Tibetans are opening their hearts to him. In his office hangs a thangka — a traditional painting that usually features Buddhist deities — that has been custom-made by an admirer in China to include his face. He sends out links to worshipful songs that have been written in his honor and posted on YouTube. Asked where he falls in the hierarchy of leaders, he described himself as “a secondary voice,” but added a postscript.

“I am a secondary voice,” he said, “who will someday be a primary voice.”

Lobsang Sangay father was part of  Chushi Gangdruk. And anyone worth their salt would know that Chushi Gangdruk was founded under the guidance of Dorje Shugden. Now Lobsang Sangay is responsible for continuing the ban first started by the Dalai Lama.

Chushi Gangdruk were the ones responsible for saving the Dalai Lama from Tibet under the guidance of Dorje Shugden and for Lobsang Sangay to maintain the ban, it seems like he has betrayed his roots because he betrayed his  father's ideals who served as part of the Chushi Gangdruk. Without Chushi Gangdruk under the guidance of
Dorje Shugden, the Dalai Lama would not have escaped to India and the world would not have known about the 14th Dalai Lama. People who do not have gratitude will not go far and Lobsang Sangay certainly fits this bill. 


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Bite the hand that fed. Bite the hand that feeds. Without Dorje Shugden there would have been no today for HH the 14th Dalai Lama and retinue.

That is a very ambitious young man in sheep's clothing - 'secondary voice will be primary voice one day'?  His face on the thangka? Worshipful songs written and sung in his honor and posted on youtube?


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Yeah, well, his face on the thanka is about as useful as Mao's face on the thanka.


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Though he is the Prime Minister of the Tibetans in Exile, Mr Lobsang Sangay lacks the political power to champion the cause for Tibet's independence or autonomy. What milestones has Mr Lobsang Sangay and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) achieved todate? It is apparent that His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama is very much in control despite His Holiness' retirement from Tibetan politics!  We know His Holiness Dalai Lama is revered by all Tibetans as the spiritual leader whose authority could not be defied by anyone including Mr. Lobsang Sangay and CTA! What this means is that Mr Lobsang Sangay and CTA are merely a political tool or puppet used by His Holiness Dalai Lama to further His Holiness' own interests or motivations. 

It is sad that Mr Lobsang Sangay is placed in such a difficult position where he could not put his educational skills to good use.  Take for instance the ban on Dorje Shugden.  Mr Lobsang Sangay's father was a member of the elite Chushi Gangdruk Militia.  Surely, Mr Lobsang Sangay must have direct knowledge from his father on how Dorje Shugden is instrumental in the safe and successful escape of His Holiness Dalai Lama out of Tibet!  For one who has the experience of over 16 years at Harvard, first as a Fulbright scholar and later as a research fellow at Harvard Law School, Mr Longsang Sangay is very well educated in the Western thinking.  With his family background and his intelligence, how could Mr Lobsang Sangay not realise the truths about Dorje Shugden?  How could he accept the basis of the ban imposed by His Holiness Dalai Lama?

The political future of the Tibetans in Exile is uncertain as long as His Holiness Dalai Lama is still in power.  There is not much headways made as the Chinese Government won't be meeting the CTA at all.  So it is clearly a 'checkmate'!  There is nothing tibetans can do now or in the near future.

In the meanwhile, Mr Lobsang Sangay can continue to dream about being the primary voice!

Kim Hyun Jae

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I have a curious question here. It is obvious HH the Dalai Lama knows who Mr Lobsang Sangay's father was, an elite trained fighter who protected the Dalai Lama's escape from Tibet and is an obvious Shugden practitioner.

Why was Mr Lobsang Sangay chosen as the Prime Minister whose father practices DS, to be kept near the Dalai Lama for his elected 5 years? Like what Dondrup said, ultimately it was HH the Dalai Lama who remains as the Tibetan religious leader and someone "pulling the strings from behind the curtain" Tibetan ruler.


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Ah, well, I have something in common with the CTA leader, for a change.  We are both Red Sox Fans.
  That is a good place to begin, so I hope that he, as person who understands some things about American culture, will also understand that people who show up to protests, regardless of their nationality actually have a protected right to freedom of speech on U.S. soil, and he needs to not try to make hit lists.  He needs to embrace free speech and democracy, as well as freedom of religion.  Baseball is very American, so is the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


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As they say. Strong leaders especially the long serving dictators, tend to choose weak successors. The weaker the better. The previous leader wants the new leader to be a puppet of his and to carry on his unfinished business or policies.
Mr Lobsang Sangay certainly fits the bill. What is the sign of weak leaders? Usually, they are not men of principle and can easily compromise the good of many for their position and just carry on the wrong policies. They do not dare to change. Status quo is the safest for them even if it means the suffering of many. These weak leaders are puppets of others and have not mind of their own. Mr Sangay fits the bill!