Even after 70 years of Tibet’s occupation by China, ethnic Tibetans across the globe, who mostly follow Lamaism, are determined to maintain their independence.
Based in neighboring India, the Tibetan government in exile has started the election process for its new Tibetan parliament-in-exile, called the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) scheduled to be sworn in on May 30.
The first round of elections, in which Tibetans across the world participated, ended on Jan. 3 and the results are expected on Feb. 8. According to the election commission, the final list of candidates is expected on March 21 and the general elections are scheduled for April 11.
Braving the pandemic, thousands of diaspora Tibetans took part in the ongoing polls to elect the next Sikyong (president) and new members of parliament.
Tibetans in countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain also cast their votes on Jan. 3. According to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) election commission, of the total 80,000 voters, 56,000 reside in India, Nepal and Bhutan, while 24,000 live in other countries.
Eight candidates are in fray for Sikyong, including representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi and former CTA home minister Kasur Dongchung Ngodup, former representative of Dalai Lama to North America Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, former speaker of the Parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering and incumbent deputy speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntosok.
Incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay was the first elected political leader of exiled Tibetans. An individual can serve only two terms as a Sikyong.
Around 150 candidates are vying for 45 seats of members of parliament—10 representatives from each of the traditional provinces of Tibet – U-Tsang, Dhotoe and Dhomey; two from each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.
Tibet, called “the roof of the world” occupies a vast area of plateaus and mountains in Central Asia, including Mount Everest. Tibet is on a high plateau—the Plateau of Tibet—surrounded by enormous mountain masses. The relatively level northern part of the plateau is called the Qiangtang; it extends more than 800 miles (1,300 km) from west to east at an average elevation of 16,500 feet (5,000 metres) above sea level.
Before the 1950s Tibet was largely isolated from the rest of the world. It constituted a unique cultural and religious community, marked by the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet’s incorporation into the People’s Republic of China began in 1950 and has remained a highly charged and controversial issue, both within Tibet and worldwide. Many Tibetans (especially those outside China) consider China’s action to be an invasion of a sovereign country, and the continued Chinese presence in Tibet is deemed an occupation by a foreign power.