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Editorial: Sangay: Reaching out to China, via Harvard

March 27, 2011

Boston Globe
March 23, 2011

Medford and Harvard Law School have a right to be proud of Lobsang Sangay, the scholar-activist who is a strong favorite to emerge from Sunday’s balloting in Tibetan expatriate communities as the next prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is working to help Tibet obtain greater autonomy from China.

From his modest apartment in Medford and his perch as a research fellow at Harvard Law, the 43-year-old devotee of Buddhist non-violence has brought academics from China together with their Tibetan counterparts. At conferences he organized at Harvard, Chinese and Tibetan participants were able to hear each other out with courtesy and respect. If leaders in Beijing ever decide to grant true autonomy to Tibet, the seeds will have been planted in those classrooms where Sangay’s belief in the value of dialogue was put to the test.

In one of the most unlikely of historical events, Sangay arranged in 2009 for Chinese students and professors to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, in a conference room at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Some Chinese students spoke of their surprise at the disparity between what they had heard about the Dalai Lama from their government and what they heard from him.

Now the Dalai Lama is giving up his position as a political leader, and Lobsang Sangay will inherit the task of persuading Beijing to let Tibet have genuine autonomy within China. Nobody could be better prepared for that challenge.

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