2017: Sacking of Penpa Tsering exposes more corruption and abuses by Tibetan leadership

Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has been accused of Machiavellian tactics to dispatch his political rival Penpa Tsering. The Kashag (Tibetan Cabinet-in-Exile) issued a statement to clarify Penpa Tsering’s sudden dismissal but it has only raised more questions.

The opinion piece below was sent to dorjeshugden.com for publication. We accept submissions from the public, please send in your articles to [email protected].



By: Shashi Kei

The saga following the sudden sacking of Penpa Tsering as the Dalai Lama’s North American representative is far from over. Tibetan supporters of Penpa Tsering have been demanding valid explanations for his unceremonious dismissal by the Kashag (Cabinet), which is controlled by Sikyong Lobsang Sangay. Lobsang Sangay, who heads the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA; Tibetan leadership) is well known to view Penpa Tsering as his most dangerous political rival.

In an attempt to allay rising discontentment over the heavy-handed treatment of Penpa Tsering, on 18th November 2017, the Kashag offered additional information to support his dismissal. It is a move they claim to be motivated by “transparency and accountability purposes”.

However, it has taken serious threats by the people to protest against the CTA, and to boycott events related to the Sikyong, before the Kashag decided to be transparent. The fact is, left on its own, neither the CTA nor the Kashag, and certainly not Lobsang Sangay, has ever operated with transparency. But pressure from the Tibetan people is something they fear and will respond to.

The Kashag’s explanation reveals a number of disturbing facts:

  • That power-grabbing and political rivalry overrides everything else in Lobsang Sangay’s government. It is a growing culture that has impacted negatively on the Tibetan people’s collective objectives. The Kashag’s statement in fact confirms that there is still considerable animosity between Lobsang Sangay and Penpa Tsering even after the 2016 Sikyong elections. Neither is willing to put aside personal feelings for the collective good of the nation and people of Tibet.
  • Penpa Tsering does not view Lobsang Sangay to be a competent and trustworthy leader. It is the reason why Penpa Tsering asked so many questions of Lobsang Sangay’s intentions and his actions, and cast so much doubt. As their own statement says, there is a “trust deficit”.
  • If the Kashag’s justification is to be believed at all, Lobsang Sangay is willing to gamble with the Tibetan people’s future. According to the Kashag’s statement, Penpa Tsering was incapable in his post. However, it was the Kashag who appointed him to the post so in essence, they sent an incapable representative to a crucial post. North America is the CTA’s biggest supporter and closest ally (or rather, they used to be), and yet Lobsang Sangay was willing to compromise that relationship because it got Penpa Tsering out of his way in Dharamsala, so that his hold of power in the CTA would remain unchallenged.

As the Tibetan people’s attention is increasingly trained on Lobsang Sangay, many are now beginning to doubt his integrity.

  • Questions are raised about his sincerity and commitment to the Tibetan cause, which the ordinary Tibetans have staked their lives and future too. Why for instance does Sangay have an American passport and does not hold only the same Yellow Passport as all other ordinary Tibetans?
  • Why does he not subject himself to the same limitations as his own people, and gives himself special exemption to hold another citizenship? This is a pertinent question especially when Sangay’s government is asking ordinary Tibetans to reject Indian passports, which many are lawfully entitled to.
  • Having an Indian passport would no doubt improve the Tibetan refugee’s life. Yet, they are asked to forgo this and their efforts to get such a passport are even sabotaged by the Tibetan leadership. Meanwhile, the Sikyong and his cronies are already in possession of various foreign passports and citizenships. Why do Sangay and his cronies practice such double standards instead of leading by example?

Another one of the Kashag’s reasons for firing Penpa Tsering was his failure to take steps to protect the Dalai Lama from Dorje Shugden (Dolgyal) ‘threats’ during the Dalai Lama’s planned visit to the USA in June 2017. This is unsurprising for the CTA to cast blame away from itself; anyone can see how irrelevant the Shugden issue is in the Sangay-Penpa quarrel. In addition:

  • The Kashag is implying that the USA with its very competent intelligence force such as the CIA, the FBI and Secret Service cannot capably protect the Dalai Lama whereas the CTA can. It is a rather ridiculous proposition especially given the USA’s heightened security awareness after the 9/11 incident.
  • The only explanation for the Kashag to bring up the ‘Dogyal’ issue is to imply that Penpa Tsering is sympathetic to a group that Sangay has repeatedly framed as the enemy of the Tibetan people and the source of all their problems. To put it plainly, it is to make him an easier target for Tibetans to attack.
  • In any case, the Kashag’s statement admits that it has a standing order for all CTA officials and related bodies to constantly victimise a segment of the Tibetan people because of their religious belief. Why is the CTA monitoring the activities of private citizens? And why is the CTA expending resources to monitor Dorje Shugden practitioners when there is no ban on the practice, as they claim?

The Kashag further accused Penpa Tsering for failing to secure meetings and appointments for Lobsang Sangay during his May 2017 visit to the USA. But we have to ask:

  • What does Lobsang Sangay hope to achieve by meeting with American politicians and government officials? The USA has long subscribed to the One China policy, which essentially places Tibet under China’s sovereignty. No amount of talks with any American President, Congressman, Senator or bureaucrat can change this simple fact and the Kashag knows that.
  • Therefore such meetings have only one objective – for the Sikyong to ask for more money, aid and financial assistance, which make up almost 100% of the CTA’s revenue. It is all about money, money and more money.
  • The Kashag’s statement readily admits to money being the sole motivating factor, since all of their justifications for Penpa Tsering’s dismissal center on the fact he failed to secure meetings which will help them to secure money, and he asked questions about the funding too. And in this, the Kashag’s statement betrays its own incompetency to the point that it admits that even after 60 years of countless assistance, it is still relying purely on handouts.

Sikyong Lobsang Sangay (center) with Lodi Gyari (left). Lobsang Sangay dismissed Penpa Tsering from his role after too many questions were asked about financial irregularities that Sangay is involved with. Interesting, Lodi Gyari himself was recently embroiled in a money laundering scandal that saw his son-in-law’s bank accounts being frozen by Nepali authorities. They were alleged to have raised funds for Nepal earthquake victims, but these funds never actually reached the intended recipients.

Inadvertently, the Kashag’s explanation reveals that more scandals are brewing for the CTA’s Office of Tibet in the USA.

  • Over the years, we have seen news about misappropriation of funds. These were committed by different Tibetan NGOs that operate under the CTA, helmed by cronies of various Tibetan leaders. Now we are hearing that the five bank accounts of the Office of Tibet, which essentially represents the Dalai Lama, were at risk of being frozen and closed by the bank. Everyone knows that this only happens when there is malpractice and financial irregularities.
  • Questions must now be raised about the Office of Tibet’s financial conduct. And perhaps that was precisely what Penpa Tsering was attempting to do but in so doing, he raised issues that Sikyong Lobsang Sangay prefers to remain buried because the financial trail leads too closely to him.
  • For example, Penpa Tsering raised a question about a US$1.5 million loan which has been given by the Tibet Fund to quarters associated with Lobsang Sangay. In essence, the Sikyong was caught to be using funds meant for the welfare of Tibetan refugees as his own political war chest, to boost his election campaign and performance. Penpa Tsering also refused to back down when Lobsang Sangay attempted to reassign the loan as a gift or contribution within the audited accounts of the Tibet Fund. Penpa Tsering’s poking into this irregularity meant he had to go.

There is nothing in the Kashag’s explanation that has real substance. Instead we see very embarrassing and petty bickering about ‘who said what to whom’ about a female kalon. This is not professional conduct for a government that is asking the world to support its bid to have six million Tibetan lives in its hands when it is proven to be incapable of handling a single CTA outpost. The Penpa Tsering debacle exposes the CTA to be a crude, unprofessional, narrow-minded and a nickel-and-dime outfit of self-serving politicians.

Nothing in all these proceedings benefit the Tibetan people one bit. In any progressive government, the dismissal of a civil servant, such as that of Penpa Tsering, is a common thing. But when it comes to the CTA, such a simple procedure can threaten to dismantle the CTA and fracture the community even further. This is the system of government that has developed under Lobsang Sangay’s leadership and this is his legacy. It is a legacy of excuses and alibis instead of results; it is a legacy of disunity instead of harmony, of corruption instead of integrity, and of scapegoating instead of taking responsibility for lives that depend on the role of the Sikyong.

And this debacle only goes to show one thing – that when you ask the wrong questions of the CTA, when you try to hold them accountable, you will face swift and total retribution. In the CTA, when you threaten someone’s access to money, and their position and power, well, democracy be damned. No matter who you are, no matter how high you have risen, and no matter who you are friends with, you will be gone because only one thing matters – money. It is a lesson Penpa Tsering has learned the hard way, and it is a lesson that will resonate throughout the Tibetan community for a long, long time to come.


TIBET SUN: Kashag’s clarification on decision to replace North America Representative


TIBET SUN: Sikyong Lobsang Sangay! Where are Office of Tibet loan records?


TIBET.NET: Kashag’s clarification on decision to replace North America Representative

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  1. Throw any stone, into the midst CTA politicians, you will find someone who is unscrupulous and bent on milking Tibetans in exile.

    Gosh CTA is really a circus without the ring master. Mud slinging played out at the expense of Dorje Shugden and tibetans in exile, such are the lengths CTA officials are willing to go to just to make a quick one.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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