Harvard Law School Scholar Set To Lead Tibet

Harvard Law School Senior Fellow Dr. Lobsang Sangay may soon be adding a new title to his resume: Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile.

Last week, the scholar came in first place in the preliminary elections for the title of Kalon Tripa, or prime minister, topping the second-place finisher by nearly a 2-1 margin.

Should he prevail in the general election in March, he would become the government’s second prime minister since the Dalai Lama called for a directly-elected leader of the exiles in 2001.

The territory of Tibet is currently under the rule of China, which the government in exile considers an illegitimate military occupation.

The government in exile is headquartered in Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama has been based since a failed uprising in 1959 against the People’s Republic of China [PRC].


Sangay described his decision to run for office as an “evolutionary process,” after his name came out on top of various straw polls and online conversations relating to the Tibetan elections.

In April, the National Democratic Party of Tibet formally asked him to run, and in June, Sangay visited India three times to conduct workshops in India, where he said his candidacy was well-received by people living in Tibetan settlements.

Sangay, who was born in Darjeeling, came to Harvard in 1995 as a Fulbright scholar obtaining his LLM in 1996 and JD from the Law School in 2004. He is the first individual of Tibetan origin to receive this distinction.

“Who I am now, as a scholar and an activist and a diplomat, is mainly because of Harvard,” Sangay said. “It seems that one of the main attractions of my candidacy is because of my Harvard credentials and credibility...It adds weight to my candidacy.”

Sangay said many of his colleagues encouraged his candidacy.

“He’s a very impressive person,” said William P. Alford, Director of East Asian Legal Studies at the Harvard Law School. “[He] has worked hard to foster dialogue with PRC officials and scholars.”

Sangay has described the primary responsibility of the Kalon Tripa as resolving the Chinese occupation, and gaining support from the international community and raising the profile of the Tibetan government around the world.

If elected, Sangay will leave Harvard for Dharamshala, where he will oversee an administration of seven ministries and approximately 1,400 bureaucrats.

“Public service is very important,” Sangay said. “If you can make a difference in your own community and your country you can make this world a better place for your country and your generation. I hope to make my small contribution towards that goal.”


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