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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

A Review of Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s Published Scholarly Works

January 10, 2011

By the Editorial Board of The Tibetan Political Review

Dr. Lobsang Sangayrecently stated to the Harvard student newspaperthat
“Who I am now, as a scholar and an activist and a diplomat, is mainly
because of Harvard. It seems that one of the main attractions of my
[Kalon Tripa] candidacy is because of my Harvard credentials and
credibility." Setting aside the Harvard label for a moment, Sangay’s
campaign has placed special emphasis on his position as a legal scholar.
It has served as a response to criticism that he lacks experience or
judgment, and in radio interviews and the recent New York debate it has
allowed him to be introduced askhewang(learned one).


Understanding Sangay’s candidacy therefore requires understanding his
position as a scholar/khewang. Unfortunately, there has been little
analysis of his actual scholarship among the Tibetan electorate so far
(in contrast to the other twoKatricandidates, whose past performance is
a matter of public record). Scholarship is measured primarily by
published output. Therefore, in order to help Tibetan voters better
evaluate Sangay’s performance as a scholar, the Editorial Board ofThe
Tibetan Political Reviewsets out a brief review of Sangay’s published
scholarly works.

This review is in two parts: general and specific. We first conduct a
general survey of Sangay’s published scholarly works.Then, we conduct a
specific review of each of the works.To summarize, since Sangay’s
graduation with his S.J.D. degree in 2004, he has published three
scholarly articles, although none in established legal journals.In those
three articles, one finds relatively more historical information and
advocacy, and relatively less legal or scholarly analysis.One also finds
a writer focused on democracy and seeking autonomy for Tibetans within
the People’s Republic of China.


GENERAL: A SURVEY OF SANGAY’S WORKS

We set out to locate all of Sangay’s published scholarly works,
excluding non-scholarly pieces such as newspaper op-eds.Our search was
as comprehensive as possible.


We first consultedWestlaw, the standard legal research tool used by
legal scholars and practicing lawyers, containing40,000
databasescovering legal journals around the world. One would expect to
find in Westlaw all scholarly articles by any legal scholar at an
American university.A Westlaw search for scholarly works published by
Sangay returned zero (0) results.

Next, we broadened our search beyond legal journals by searching
theSocial Science Research Network, a database covering social science
publications. A search for scholarly works published by Sangay returned
zero (0) results.

Then, we searched in Google Scholar, resulting in the following two (2)
articles and one (1) chapter from a book, but all published while he was
a student prior to 2004:

1.Tibet: Exiles’ Journey(2003), inJournal of Democracy. This journal is
not run by a university but rather by the National Endowment for
Democracy, which has given grants to various Tibetan organizations
including NDPT. That may explain why this journal does not show up in an
academic search.??2. One chapter inHuman Rights: Positive Policies in
Asia and the Pacific Rim, by J.D. Montgomery (2001). We have been unable
to obtain a copy of this book.??3.Human Rights and Buddhism: Cultural
Relativism, Individualism & Universalism(1996). It is unclear where, if
anywhere, this article was published.

Lastly, we consulted the autobiographical blurbs contained inSangay's
non-academic articles in Phayul, which led us to three (3) scholarly
works, all written after his graduation in 2004. The articles were not
published in established legal journals, but rather in two student
publications and a South Korean journal begun in 2008:

1.China in Tibet: Forty Years of Occupation or Liberation?(2004)
inHarvard Asia Quarterly.Thisstudent publication is affiliated with the
Harvard Asia Centerand covers diverse topics related to Asia. Articles
have ranged from Islamic education in China togirls’ graffiti culture in
Japan.??2.China’s National Autonomy Law and Tibet: A Paradox Between
Autonomy and Unity(2006), inHarvard South Asian Journal.This journal is
anundergraduate publicationrun by a South Asian student association.
??3.Legal Autonomy of Tibet: A Tibetan Lawyer’s Perspective(2008),
inJournal of East Asian International Law. This journal, begun in 2008,
is run by a South Korean research organization called the YijunInstitute
of International Law.?

By comparison, Sangay’s supervisor at Harvard Law School,Professor
William Alford, has written ten (10) articles or chapters and three (3)
books since 2004, and also teaches classes, directs the East Asian Legal
Studies Program, is vice dean, and chairs a project on disability. This
is not meant as criticism of Sangay, but rather as context. While
publication is the primary measure of an academic, there are other
scholarly pursuits beyond publication (teaching, directing research
centers, administration, speaking, organizing conferences, etc.). Sangay
has certainly spent time speaking and organizing conference; this other
work should be taken into consideration when evaluating his scholarly
output of 3 articles over six years.


SPECIFIC: OUR REVIEW OF SANGAY’S PUBLISHED SCHOLARLY WORKS

1.China’s National Autonomy Law and Tibet: A Paradox Between Autonomy
and Unity(2006)

This article had Sangay’s best legal points.Sangay essentially takes a
close reading of China’s National Regional Autonomy Law of 1984 (NRAL),
and concludes that “when a conflict manifests between the supremacy of
either unity or autonomy? unity trumps autonomy.”What he means is that
Chinese autonomy law favors the requirements of Beijing over the
requirements of “minorities” like Tibetans.

The best example that Sangay gives is that under the NRAL, any
modification of a national law made by an Autonomous Region must be
“reported” to and “approved” by the National People’s Congress (NPC),
whereas a province can make a modification by only “reporting” it to the
NPC.Sangay also spends time looking at ethnicity statistics for
legislators and officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR),
concluding that non-Tibetans are dominant.

There are, however, several areas in which Sangay’s article falls
short.For instance, he bases his legal arguments on reading merely the
text (or English translation) of the NRAL.Sangay could have shown how
laws such as the NRAL are actually enforced, understood, and debated in
China itself (where any implementation necessarily must take
place).Looking at the text is a good first step but not enough.By
analogy, a non-American can read the “free speech” provision of the U.S.
Constitution’s First Amendment, but they would miss the entire body of
First Amendment case-law that deals with subtleties and interpretations
not present in the words on the page.

Moreover, Sangay could have situated his arguments within the debate
taking place in the larger field of Chinese legal studies.This includes
scholars looking at Chinas' "minority" policy generally.In effect,
Sangay’s article stands alone.Good scholarship does not simply make a
point, but adds to an ongoing discourse of knowledge and ideas among
many scholars.

Lastly, we understand that Sangay cannot cover everything in a four page
article, but he should be careful about using the percentage of Tibetan
officials in the TAR as a proxy for genuine Tibetan self-rule.What
matters is how those Tibetans are chosen and how much freedom they have
to design policies to benefit their constituents.A 100% ethnic Tibetan
TAR government full of Chinese collaborators like Ragdi, Legchok, and
Pema Choling is not the goal.Even if the TAR legislature were granted
the power to simply “report” to the NPC, there would be no real change
unless Tibetans can choose their own legislators.

2.China in Tibet: Forty Years of Occupation or Liberation?(2004)

In this article, Sangay presents clearly and concisely many of the
arguments that the Tibetan movement makes about Tibet.While we fully
agree with most of this article, it is basically a clear, well-written
repackaging of what many Tibetans and supporters have already said.

He summarizes his article as follows: “I will focus on ? the Communist
Chinese government’s justification for their occupation of Tibet, and
show how Tibetans view themselves as distinct from Chinese.I will also
show how Tibetans and Chinese hold widely divergent perspectives on the
Chinese government’s claim that they have improved religious,
educational, and economic conditions in Tibet.”

It is not possible to call this article a piece of legal scholarship --
or scholarship more broadly -- since it is basically an advocacy
piece.Advocacy is absolutely valuable.However, advocacy and scholarship
are two different things: one is passionate and opinionated, and one is
dispassionate and objective.

Sangay does make a prominent argument, but it is one that is
questionable.He writes of the Sino-Tibetan “harmony” that reigned during
the marriage of Emperor Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng, which
harmony he says should be “revived” in spirt.He also states that Tibetan
prostration before a statute of Emperor Songtsen Gampo and Princess
Wencheng in the Tsuklhakhang show that “there is no inherent hatred
among Tibetans towards the Chinese per se.”

In our view, it is problematic to portray Princess Wencheng as a symbol
of unfettered harmony.Tang Emperor Taizong reluctantly gave Princess
Wencheng in marriage only because of Emperor Songtsen Gampo’s military
strength, not through feelings of Sino-Tibetan friendship.And “harmony”
between Tibet and Tang China was short-lived, as Songtsen Gampo’s
successors frequently battled Chinese forces.

Nor do we think Sangay’s prostration argument works.Perhaps Sangay aimed
his argument to a Chinese audience, who tend toglorify Wencheng as the
selfless Han princess who “civilized” the “barbaric” Tibetansand brought
them into the “family of the Motherland.”However, we caution Sangay
against using an argument that is based on buying into China’s
barbarian/civilization dichotomy.It may seem clever at first, but any
sophisticated Chinese will see what is going on.It would be better to
argue for a Sino-Tibetan resolution based on a confident assertion of
Tibetan rights and identity.China respects strength and confidence, not
weakness and obsequiousness.


3.Tibet: Exiles’ Journey(2003)

Although this article was published in 2003 while Sangay was still a
student, we include a review of it because Sangay cites it in his
autobiographical blurbs.This piece does not propose new academic ideas
or broader theories of law or democracy generally, as many legal
scholars might do.Rather, Sangay presents observations on the specific
case at hand based on a historical summary.

Sangay’s focus is on the efforts of His Holiness to bring about
democratization, while also touching upon sectarian squabbles and the
so-called “Taiwan affair” (which Sangay blames on the Chitue and Kashag
creating “a factional football”).Sangay describes how, in the aftermath
of such scandals, “the [Dalai] Lama made his most dramatic moves on
behalf of democratization” by dissolving Parliament and calling new
elections in 1990.

Sangay concludes that, while “nothing is a given,” a secular
democratically-elected leader might “help guide Tibetans politically
while the next Dalai Lama fulfills a spiritual role.”This vision of a
role for His Holiness akin to a constitutional monarch, with the Kalon
Tripa acting as the head of government, is a common progressive thought
in Tibetan society, and it is apparent that Sangay shares it.

Sangay also makes some curious statements about the Tibetan aristocracy
and monastic community.For example, he makes the assertion that the
“overwhelming majority of these [Tibetan government] employees are from
?commoner’ backgrounds; only about one out of a hundred has ties to the
traditional hereditary aristocracy.”We are unclear why Sangay felt that
a point about “commoners” versus “aristocracy” needed making.We also
noted Sangay’s question whether “the conservative Buddhist monastic
community will accept secular democracy.”This is a good question, and we
wonder whether thetime Sangay has recently spent in the monasteries of
South Indiahas provided any answers.

Taking a more critical view, we disagree with Sangay’s description of
pre-1959 Tibet as a “feudal realm” that was “shackled to feudalism,”
with “monks and grandees” displaying “reactionary” anti-modern
attitudes.Feudalism is a term specific to the political and social
system in Europe during the Middle Ages. Pre-1959 Tibetan society had
many substantive differences from European feudalism. It is grossly
inaccurate to refer to pre-1959 Tibet as being a “feudal realm.”As
Sangay should know, one does not need to parrot phrases from Chinese
propaganda to show that one is a serious scholar of Tibet.

Lastly, we can only assume that Sangay’s 15 references to “the Lama”
rather than “the Dalai Lama” must have been an editing mistake.


4.Legal Autonomy of Tibet: A Tibetan Lawyer’s Perspective(2008)

Unfortunately there is little that one can tell from three
pages.Clearly, Sangay is arguing for Tibet’s autonomy within the
People’s Republic of China, but unfortunately the details are unavailable.


CONCLUSION

Judging from an output of three articles since his graduation six years
ago, it appears that Sangay’s position as a scholar is not yet firmly
established.Moreover, Sangay has yet to publish the type of lengthy and
rigorous article in an established legal journal, complete with legal
citations, that one would expect of a legal scholar. This is not a
criticism of Sangay’s capabilities, but rather a judgment of his
performance to date.

As to the content of Sangay’s published articles, he generally shows a
concern for democracy and to seeking a resolution to the Sino-Tibetan
conflict that should be applauded.While we see some of his positions as
simplistic or underdeveloped, and while we do not necessarily share his
specific views on autonomy, we also applaud his willingness to set out
his positions on some critical issues facing Tibet.We can only hope that
more Tibetans do so in the future, and that such discussions incorporate
a greater knowledge of international and Chinese law.

These are the opinions of the TPR editors, who are all lawyers (J.D. or
J.D./LL.M.) with some degree of experience in evaluating legal
scholarship.We welcome other perspectives.We also warmly invite Dr.
Sangay to respond if he feels we have made any errors or omissions.
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