Lobsang Sangay

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Lobsang Sangay
1st Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration
In office
20 September 2012 – 27 May 2021
Succeeded byPenpa Tsering
13th Kalon Tripa
In office
8 August 2011 – 20 September 2012
Preceded byLobsang Tenzin
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Foreign Minister of the Tibetan Administration in Exile
Assumed office
28 February 2016
Preceded byDicki Chhoyang
Personal details
Born (1968-09-05) 5 September 1968 (age 55)
Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
Political partyNational Democratic Party of Tibet
Alma materUniversity of Delhi (BA, LLB)
Harvard University (LLM, SJD)
Lobsang Sangay
Tibetan name
Tibetan བློ་བཟང་སེང་གེ་
Wylieblo-bzang seng-ge
Lhasa IPATibetan pronunciation: [ˈlópsaŋ ˈséŋke]
Chinese name
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinLuòsāng Sēngé

Lobsang Sangay (Tibetan: བློ་བཟང་སེང་གེ་, lit.'kind-hearted lion') is a Tibetan-American politician in exile who was Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan Administration in India from 2011 to 2012, and Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration in India from 2012 to 2021.

The Tibetan Administration was created in 1991 after the 14th Dalai Lama rejected calls for Tibetan independence.[1] The 14th Dalai Lama became permanent head of the Tibetan Administration and the executive functions for Tibetans-in-exile in 1991. In March 2011, at 71 years of age, the 14th Dalai Lama decided not to assume any political and administrative authority. The Charter of Tibetans in Exile was updated immediately in May 2011, and all articles related to political duties and regents of the 14th Dalai Lama were repealed.

Sangay was born in Darjeeling, India, and studied international law and democracy at Harvard University.[2] He holds American citizenship.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Sangay was born in a refugee community in Darjeeling, India, in 1968, with a typical Shichak (settlement) background amidst fields, cows, and chickens, fetching wood in the forest and helping his parents' small business, including selling winter sweaters.[4] In 1995, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Harvard Law School, where he subsequently received his LL.M. degree. Sangay spent 15 years at Harvard University, as a student and then as a senior fellow.

Academic career[edit]

In 2003, Sangay organized five conferences between Chinese and Tibetan scholars, including a meeting between the Dalai Lama and thirty-five Chinese scholars at Harvard University.[5]

In 2004, he became the first Tibetan to earn a S.J.D. degree from Harvard Law School[6] and was a recipient of the 2004 Yong K. Kim' 95 Memorial Prize[6] for excellence for his dissertation, Democracy in Distress: Is Exile Polity a Remedy? A Case Study of Tibet's Government-in-exile.[7] In 2006, Sangay was selected as one of the twenty-four Young Leaders of Asia by the Asia Society, a global organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States. Funded by the Hao Ran Foundation, Sangay was a Senior Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School through 2011. He is an expert in Tibetan law and international human rights law.

Sikyong: 2011–2021[edit]

On 14 March 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama decided not to assume any political and administrative authority. The Charter of Tibetans in Exile was updated immediately and came into force on 29 May 2011. According to Sangay, there was "a high level of anxiety among Tibetans" over the Dalai Lama's decision to relinquish his own political authority.[8]

Lobsang Sangay in Vienna, Austria, in 2012.

On 27 April 2011, Sangay was elected Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan Administration.[9][10][11] Sangay won 55% of the votes, defeating Tenzin Namgyal (37.4%) and Tashi Wangdi (6.4%). 83,400 Tibetans were eligible to vote and 49,000 ballots were cast.[11] On 8 August 2011, Sangay took the oath of office, succeeding Lobsang Tenzin as Sikyong.

In his role as Sikyong, Sangay has emphasized the importance of seeking a peaceful, non-violent resolution of the Tibet issue. He has supported the Dalai Lama's call for a "Middle Way" approach "that would provide for genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of Chinese constitution." Noting that China has established "one country, two systems" mechanisms in Hong Kong and Macau, he has argued that it makes no sense for China to continue to resist a similar solution for Tibet, which, he emphasizes, would be a "win-win" result.[12]

Lobsang Sangay with Indian Minister of State Mahesh Sharma in 2015.

In February 2013, he gave the first annual lecture of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondence. Expressing concern about the possible ripple effects of recent acts of armed rebellion in west Asia, he called for the international community to strengthen its endorsement of non-violent approaches to oppression. "If non-violence is the right thing to do," he emphasized, "we ought to be supported by the international community." Noting the media attention given to armed Syrian "freedom fighters," he said: "Tibetans have been democratic and non-violent for the last so many decades, how come we don't receive similar support and attention?"[13]

Sangay made a statement on 10 March 2013, the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, in which he paid tribute to the "yearning for freedom" that inspired "the epochal events of March 10, 1959," and dedicated the anniversary of those events "to all the self-immolators and those who have died for Tibet." He also restated his dedication to the "Middle Way Approach," expressing hope that a "speedy resolution" by China of the Tibet issue could "serve as a model for other freedom struggles" and "be a catalyst for moderation of China."[14]

In January 2017, outgoing US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, hosted Lobsang Sangay for a dinner along with an Indian minister and Richard Gere, an event that angered China.[15][16]

In 2018, Sangay visited South Africa, although the government cancelled public events related to the visit after protests by South Africans and members of the local Chinese community.[17]: 37 

In November 2020, Sangay became the first leader of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration to visit the White House in 60 years.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Sangay has been married for 23 years to Kesang Yangdon Shakchang, whose parents were from the Lhokha and Phare area. They have a daughter.

His father died in 2004.

Lobsang Sangay holds American citizenship[3] and a United States passport.[19]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sangay was awarded the Presidential Medal award by Salisbury University, Maryland, USA, on 13 October 2015.[20]

He received the Gold Medal of the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse by the Auditor of the Society, Ms Ursula Ni Choill.[21]


  • Tibet: Exiles' Journey, Journal of Democracy – Volume 14, Number 3, July 2003, pp. 119–130 Tibet: Exiles' Journey archived Canada Tibet Committee | Library | WTN | Archive | Old
  • We Sing a Song of Sadness Tibetan Political Prisoners Speak Out, Billy Jackson, Publish America, 2004, ISBN 1-4137-1677-6
  • Lobsang Sangay, China in Tibet: Forty Years of Liberation or Occupation?, Harvard Asia Quarterly, Volume III, No. 3, 1999.
  • Human rights and Buddhism : cultural relativism, individualism & universalism, Thesis (LL. M.), Harvard Law School, 1996, OCLC 43348085
  • Democracy in distress : is exile polity a remedy? : a case study of Tibet's government in exile, Thesis (S.J.D.), Harvard Law School, 2004, OCLC 62578261
  • A constitutional analysis of the secularization of the Tibetan diaspora : the role of the Dalai Lama, in Theology and the soul of the liberal state, ed. Leonard V Kaplan; Charles Lloyd Cohen, Lanham : Lexington Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7391-2617-2
  • The Battle for the Soul of the Dalai Lama, Foreign Affairs, 6 November 2023

See also[edit]

[22]== References ==

  1. ^ "The Dalai Lama Has Been the Face of Buddhism for 60 Years. China Wants to Change That". Time. 2019-03-07. Retrieved 2023-08-11.
  2. ^ Dr Lobsang Sangay Archived 2019-03-17 at the Wayback Machine, National Press Club of Australia website
  3. ^ a b Raphael Ahren, In 1st Israel visit, a Tibetan leader quietly seeks support, hails Jews’ return, The Times of Israel, June 25, 2018: "Sangay, who spent many years in the US and holds American citizenship."
  4. ^ Toomey, Christine Meet the Heir to the Dalai Lama The Globe and Mail, August 12, 2011
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-13. Retrieved 2013-05-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b (last name unknown), Tashi (10 June 2004). "Harvard Honours the First Tibetan With PH.D in Law | Central Tibetan Administration". tibet.net. Archived from the original on 13 February 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-13. Reportedly the first among six million Tibetans to earn a Harvard doctorate in law, Sangay was also one of the only two graduates who received this year's special award for excellence. Sangay has also been offered the prestigious position of research fellow at the university. The citation inscribed on Sangay's special award read: 'The 2004 Young K Kim '95 Memorial Prize is awarded to Lobsang Sangay in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of East Asia at Harvard Law School and the excellence of his dissertation.'
  7. ^ Harvard Law School (27 April 2011). "Lobsang Sangay LL.M. '96 S.J.D. '04 named prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile". News & Events. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  8. ^ "The Interview: Dr. Lobsang Sangay". The Diplomat. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  9. ^ Staff (2009). "Lobsang Sangay - Candidate". Kalon Tripa 2011. Archived from the original on 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  10. ^ Lundsgaard, Cornelius (2011-04-27). "Dr. Lobsang Sangay is the New Political Leader of Tibet". The Tibet Post International. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  11. ^ a b "Lobsang Sangay elected Tibetan exile leader". BBC News. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  12. ^ "Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay: Congress needs to hold China to account on Tibet". The Hill. 6 May 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  13. ^ Arora, Kim. "International community must support non-violent methods: Lobsang Sangay". The Times of India. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  14. ^ "The statement of Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day". International Campaign for Tibet. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  15. ^ "China criticises 'Tibet PM' for India dinner", Asian Age, January 29, 2017, retrieved June 7, 2017
  16. ^ "Rijiju tweets out US envoy's dinner for Tibet", The Hindu, January 28, 2017, retrieved June 7, 2017
  17. ^ Shinn, David H.; Eisenman, Joshua (2023). China's Relations with Africa: a New Era of Strategic Engagement. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-21001-0.
  18. ^ "Tibetan political leader makes visit to White House for first time in six decades". The Hill. 21 November 2020.
  19. ^ "SA's Tibet Problem: An interview with China's public enemy number two, Lobsang Sangay". 7 February 2018. Unfortunate too, perhaps, that Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, who travels on a United States passport, can't be so easily denied
  20. ^ "Salisbury University to Bestow Presidential Medal on Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay". tibetoffice.org. 1 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Kalon Tripa Awarded Gold Medal at Trinity College, Dublin". tibet.net. 2 March 2012.
  22. ^ Rediff.com. PTI https://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-lobsang-sangay-sworn-in-as-tibetan-pm-in-exile/20110808.htm. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration
Preceded by Foreign Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration
28 February 2016–present