Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Accidental Prime Minister of Tibet

How a Buddhist mindset, the "Middle Way," and a Harvard education keep Lobsang Sangay, the country's Sikyong, afloat. Oh, and no attachments, please.  


Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (right) and Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, at a news conference in Vienna on May 25, 2012. (Reuters).
OSLO, Norway -- In a way, Lobsang Sangay ended up overseeing of one of the world's longest-running political conflicts largely by accident. A Tibetan legal expert born to refugee parents in India, he was working at Harvard University when, on a lark, he ran for Tibet's top government job as sikyong, or prime minister, in 2011. 

Sangay never actually lived in Tibet, but his connection to the region's decades-long struggle for autonomy is generations deep. His father was a monk who fled Tibet in 1959, the same year as the Dalai Lama. His uncle was shot dead. His aunt, unable to tolerate the daily injustices of her life, committed suicide by jumping in a river while pregnant. Sangay was born in a refugee camp, attended the University of Delhi, and became the first Tibetan to receive a degree from Harvard Law School. He stayed on as an academic, organizing conferences between Chinese and Tibetan scholars throughout the early 2000s.

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