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09thaugust2011kalontripapressDharamshala: Following his swearing-in ceremony in Dharamshala Monday, August 8, new Tibetan political leader Dr. Lobsang Sangay spoke with the press about his new role as the leader of the Tibetan people, future relations with China, and the policies he plans to implement.

On political leadership

Acknowledging that it is a big change to go from working in the United States at Harvard University to taking over the former political role of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one reporter asked Sangay how he felt about his new role.

In reply, Sangay said that he does not intend to fill in the shoes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, nor does he think that it is possible.

"My responsibility, rather, is to fulfill his vision in establishing a secular, democratic society and live up to his expectation that Tibetan people stand on their own feet...so that we can strengthen and sustain our movement over a long period of time until His Holiness returns to Tibet and our freedom is restored for the Tibetan people," he said.

Sangay said that while he is excited about his new post, he knows there will be challenges ahead. It sobers him, he said, to realize that he will receive news every day about arrest, torture, and murder.

"It's a struggle. It's a difficult one. It's about people without their own homeland and people back home in Tibet, brave men and women on a daily basis. They are struggling and trying to resist a very powerful system that's very oppressive."

Drawing on his own family's experiences, he said the Tibetan story has been a painful one. Several of his family members died on the journey to India, and others were killed or wounded fighting the Chinese army.

"This story is the story of all the Tibetans. They have lost so much. They have sacrificed so much with the hope that one day, we will return to our homeland with freedom," he said.

While exercising the "daunting task" of providing leadership to this suffering people, he said, he will remain ever cognizant of not only his own family's legacy, but the legacies of the families of the 6 million Tibetans.

On relations with China

On dialogue with China, Sangay said that if the Chinese government is willing to find a peaceful solution to the Tibetan issue, he is willing to take any measure to talk with them. If they want to speak directly with a representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example, Sangay will arrange for that.

"If they are interested in moving forward, we have extended our hand all along. We'll extend our hand even now, any time, anywhere, to resolve the issue of Tibet."

Sangay said he that whether the Chinese government is willing to deal directly with the Tibetan Administration or with him is irrelevant; in his view, what matters are the results.

The Tibetan Administration is interested in finding a substantive, peaceful solution to the suffering inside Tibet, and Sangay recognizes that they need to address the Chinese government's mindset.

When the Chinese first came to Tibet, he said, they promised the Tibetan people a socialist paradise.

"It's not a paradise. It's a tragedy," Sangay asserted.

On policy

In formulating Tibetan policy, Sangay spoke about the importance of thinking critically and analytically. He plans to use scholars to do research on issues affecting Tibetans, formulating policies, programs, and actions that will impact the Tibetan community in five to 50 years.

As part of this initiative, the administration will invite scholars from all over the world to Dharamshala for lectures, conferences and panel discussions.

Focusing on education will be his first priority as the Tibetan political leader. "I am who I am because of education. I come from a very humble background," he said. "If you give proper education to any individual, you can not only change that person's life but also help his or her family and community."

Through education, he hopes to help create as many Tibetan professionals as possible so that the Tibetan people can become effective leaders.

Regarding the environment, Sangay said that Tibet is the source of 10 major rivers in Asia, and that Tibetans have historically always been willing to share, or "let the natural course of the river flow to the population."

Now, however, due to the damming of the rivers by the Chinese government, the natural flow is being disrupted, affecting not just Tibet and China but Asia as a whole. The Mekong River, for example, flows all the way to Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

He plans to raise this issue with the people of Asia and the international community and to point out ways the Chinese government is harming the environment and exploiting resources.

On his predecessor

Sangay's predecessor Samdhong Rinpoche has told Sangay that he supports fully any changes he makes in the programs and policies of the Tibetan Administration.

Sangay is thankful to have this blessing when formulating new projects and policies, and he also said that he will seek the advice of Samdhong Rinpoche from time to time.

Without understanding past administrations and why they took the actions they did, one cannot move ahead and make major changes, Sangay said. In his opinion it will be practical to seek the advice of his predecessor.

"I think we are together in moving forward and making necessary changes to make our administration more effective and make our movement stronger and more sustainable," Sangay said.

On returning to Tibet

Sangay says that one of his lifelong aspirations is to return to his homeland, a place he has never been. He left America and his job at Harvard University to provide leadership for the Tibetan people because he wants to see this dream fulfilled for himself and other Tibetans in exile.

"For all my life, I've heard only voices of my relatives in Tibet. Who does not want to reunite with their family members back home? That is the dream. That is the desire. That's why I'm here."

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