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U.S. Senator calls election of Tibetan exile leader a milestone for democracy that will strengthen Tibetan cause

September 20, 2011

14 September 2011

A statement by Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), a senior Senator and Co-chair of the US-China Working Group, carried in the Congressional Record on September 7, 2011 welcomes the inauguration of Lobsang Sangay as Kalon Tripa and calls for enhanced engagement with the Central Tibetan Administration. It joins similar statements made by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), former Polish President Lech Walesa and UK Member of Parliament Fabian Hamilton. All statements can be found on the ICT website here.

“These statements by Members of Congress and other international figures demonstrate the high level of interest in Lobsang Sangay and his new administration in Dharamsala,” said Todd Stein, Director for Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet. “The new Kalon Tripa will have a lot to say on the Tibetan government’s domestics and foreign policies. We are encouraged that doors will be open to him around the world.”

Dr. Sangay’s “election marks a significant milestone in the advancement of Tibetan democracy," Lieberman said. "At a time when dictators in many parts of the world have proven themselves willing to slaughter their own people rather than cede an iota of power, the decision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to surrender his political authority in favor of democracy is both inspiring and significant. It was also a wise decision that will strengthen the legitimacy of the Tibetan cause among the international community and sustain it for decades to come.”

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sen. Lieberman is the also co-chair of the Senate’s U.S.-China Working Group, along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). He was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 2000.

Sen. Lieberman also said that “[a]s the United States continues its outreach to civil society and nongovernmental groups, and its promotion of democracy around the world, I hope we should enhance our engagement with the Central Tibetan Administration and Dr. Sangay. Moreover, when Lobsang Sangay returns to Washington this fall, I hope many doors will be open to him. What the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetan refugees have accomplished is worthy and deserving of our attention and respect.”

In her statement, Senator Boxer applauded the successful democratic transition, noting that “nearly 50,000 Tibetans around the world cast their votes in a groundbreaking election for the next Kalon Tripa. This election took place in the wake of the Dalai Lama's announcement that he would be devolving his authority as Tibet's political leader to the Tibetan exile government that the Dalai Lama had worked toward for decades…  Dr. Sangay's inauguration marks an important step for all Tibetan people, including those living in Tibet where their basic rights and freedoms have for too long been curtailed.”

Rep. McGovern echoed this theme, noting that “the development of democratic institutions in the Tibetan exile community...stands in stark contrast to the reality that neither Tibetans in Tibet, nor anyone in China, are allowed fundamental democratic freedoms or free elections. What the Tibetans have accomplished is worthy of our attention and respect.”

Lech Walesa applauded the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and credited the Tibetan with creating “basic institutions characteristic to a system of a free state, which at its core has independence of the legislative, executive and judiciary powers. This is all the more admirable because Tibetans have been deprived of statehood during the bloody pacification committed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in 1959 and thus they were forced to build from the basics new state structures in exile.” MP Fabian Hamilton welcomed “the first elected secular Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan government in exile” and offered to do “as much as we can to help you bring about constructive progress towards freedom for the Tibetan people.”

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