Lobsang Sangay, the newly elected prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, met May 12 with three Tibetan activists on indefinite hunger strike in New Delhi to protest against a Chinese crackdown at the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province. The activists are members of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which says the aim of the hunger strike—now in its 18th day—is to press for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese security forces from the monastery and the unconditional release of all Tibetan political prisoners, including those recently arrested in Sichuan’s Ngaba county. They are also demanding that a TYC delegation be granted access to Tibet to assess the situation of political prisoners there. Sangay, who is due to take office in August, was a leading member of the TYC during his college years in New Delhi.
“I am here to show my solidarity and say thank you on behalf of the Tibetan people and also to tell them that we are with them,” Sangay told reporters after meeting the three men in their encampment at the Jantar Mantar monument in New Delhi. The TYC—which Chinese authorities call “a terrorist organization in nature”—says the Kirti monastery has remained under military occupation since the self-immolation death of a 24-year old monk on March 16. According to human rights groups, the young monk—rendered Phuntsok or Phuntsog in media reports—was protesting against Chinese rule in Tibet, and timed his self-immolation to coincide with the third anniversary of the 2008 Tibetan uprising. Some 300 monks at the Kirti monastery have been detained since then.
Beijing harshly criticized the Dalai Lama’s recent announcement that he was retiring from politics, which was followed by the Harvard-trained Sangay’s election as prime minister or kalon tripa of the India-based exile government last month. “His holiness made the magnanimous decision to devolve his political power to elected leaders,” Sangay said. “It is not a question of replacing him, he’s irreplaceable, he’s led us brilliantly for the last 50 years and he will be a great source of inspiration for all of us.”
Despite such sentiments, the Tibetan Youth Congress represents a new generation of activists less willing than the Dalai Lama to compromise on the issue of Tibetan sovereignty. Sangay says his government is ready to negotiate with Beijing “anytime, anywhere” on the question of Tibet’s future—provided the core demand of genuine autonomy is addressed. (WSJ’s China Real Time Report, ANI, May 12; SaveTibet.org, May 9; WSJ, April 28; People’s Daily Online, March 22)