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Exiled Tibet chief calls for support against Beijing

Exiled PM calls on international community to stand up for human rights in his homeland


The prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile yesterday called on the international community to resist growing pressure from China and stand up for human rights in his homeland.

Lobsang Sangay, who last year took over political duties from revered Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said that a spate of self-immolation protests were proof of severe Chinese repression in Tibet.

"Now I have more responsibilities, the Chinese government is raising pressure on the West," Sangay said during a meeting in Dharamshala. "We have to re-establish our strong contacts with these countries."

The Dalai Lama, 77, is a totemic figure for the Tibetan cause and has kept the Tibetan movement high on the global agenda, but he has now handed over all political duties to Sangay, a Harvard-educated scholar who lacks the same high profile.

Sangay said Tibetan exiles, who have been based in Dharamshala since the Dalai Lama fled after a failed uprising in 1959, were determined to highlight that authoritarian Chinese rule was triggering the scores of fatal protests.

"We send a strong message to China that we will not tolerate these repressive policies," he told 400 delegates from around the world who gathered for a meeting.

"We seek and need support from the international community to push China to stop oppression in Tibet," he said.

Sangay, 44, who was born in India and has never visited Tibet, won elections last year and has since faced intense frustration from Tibetans distraught over the unprecedented self-immolations.

Since 2009, 51 people have set themselves on fire across Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, with 41 dying from their burns.

Tibetan leaders are keen to show they are addressing the protests, but the four-day meeting struggled to get around the exiles' lack of influence inside Tibet and the absence of new ideas in how to deal with China.

"The discussions have been too narrow. We missed the bigger picture," said Tenzin Tsundue, a writer and activist who attended the conclave.

"The organisers have kept the debate to just responding to self-immolations when we need a complete review of our approach to end the repression."

Both the Dalai Lama and the prime minister have appealed to Tibetans not to resort to self-immolation.

Sangay's increased responsibilities are seen as a long-term plan to prevent the Tibetan cause from breaking up after the Dalai Lama's death.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Tibet chief seeks world support against Beijing