Tibet’s Kalon Tripa Speaks at WestConn

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by Peter Parisi
from The Echo

Dr. Lobsang Sangay lectured on Tibet’s political and social state to provide context for the Dalai Lama’s visit this October. (Photo by Matt Ramey)

WHEN THE DALAI LAMA announced he was relinquishing all political control of Tibet in the spring of 2011, just weeks before the final election for the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) was to occur, one of the three remaining candidates for succession, Dr. Lobsong Sangay, was shocked.

During his lecture given at Western Connecticut State University on Feb. 21, Dr. Sangay educated a large audience about the extensive struggles Tibet is experiencing in attaining freedom from China.

by Peter Parisi
from The Echo

 


 

WHEN THE DALAI LAMA announced he was relinquishing all political control of Tibet in the spring of 2011, just weeks before the final election for the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) was to occur, one of the three remaining candidates for succession, Dr. Lobsong Sangay, was shocked.

During his lecture given at Western Connecticut State University (WestConn) on Feb. 21, Dr. Sangay educated a large audience about the extensive struggles Tibet is experiencing in attaining freedom from China.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay lectured on Tibet’s political and social state to provide context for the Dalai Lama’s visit this October. (Photo by Matt Ramey)Sangay won the majority of votes in preliminary elections and in running for office he had assumed he would be serving under the Dalai Lama if he were to win. If a decision were to be made, he would receive the endorsement of His Holiness with the support of the Tibetan people, but now all responsibility would be on his shoulders. By the time the announcement was made, it was too late for Sangay to consider pulling out of the election. Then he won.

Sangay grew up as a Tibetan refugee in a small village in India. Through his studies he eventually made it to Harvard where he spent sixteen years, first as a student then on staff.

“His story is fascinating,” said WestConn student Caitlin Olsen. “The way he started out in a small village, in the middle of nowhere, and rose to be Prime Minister is inspirational.”

As WestConn President, James W. Schmotter put it, “True leaders are genuine in their persons.  That is certainly the case for LobsangSangay.  The mixture of intelligence, insight, humor and humility that he demonstrated in his talk were evident from the moment I shook his hand.”

Despite being elected political leader of a government, Sangay remains humble.

“I’m just an ordinary guy who’s given this extraordinary opportunity,” he said.

Fulfilling the Dalai Lama’s vision of “a secular democratic Tibetan society” is a goal of Sangay’s that will help move Tibet in the right direction towards autonomy. Tibet’s fight is not for complete independence from China but to be autonomous within the country. The freedom Tibetans want is to “preserve our identity, culture and dignity,” Sangay said.

The present occupation by China makes it impossible for Tibetans to live free lives.


China may be extremely reluctant to grant autonomy to Tibet because of all Tibet’s natural resources including gold, copper, uranium, borax, petroleum, and most importantly, water. The Chinese word for Tibet means “western treasure” and although it probably refers to all Tibet’s resources, a strong connection can be drawn to the water supply.

 

 

“Tibetan language is forbidden as a means of education at all grade levels,” Sangay said.

Pictures of the Dalai Lama have also been banned.

“If you are caught with one you might go to prison and be tortured,” he said. “Monks and nuns are made to denounce His Holiness, and demonize His Holiness by spitting at his picture and trampling on it. When they refuse, they are beaten.”

Brian Donahue was one of the several hundreds of people in the audience, at the lecture.

“The situation in Tibet sounds like hell. Life without freedoms that are human rights, like religion, isn’t worth living,” he said.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay spoke to WestConn on Tuesday, Feb. 21; “I’m just an ordinary guy who’s given this extraordinary opportunity,” Sangay said. (Photo by Peggy Stewart)Some Tibetans commit the act of self-immolation [lighting one's self on fire] because they say it’s better to die than live under the present occupation. This year alone eleven Tibetans have burned themselves to death as acts of protest.

“Human beings, given the choice, would live rather than die,” Sangay said. “Anyone would choose happiness over suffering, life over death. But why would someone choose to die? That is the question.”

China may be extremely reluctant to grant autonomy to Tibet because of all Tibet’s natural resources including gold, copper, uranium, borax, petroleum, and most importantly, water. The Chinese word for Tibet means “western treasure” and although it probably refers to all Tibet’s resources, a strong connection can be drawn to the water supply.

 

“At any level the issue is raised about Tibet support goes a long way. You never know how the littlest bit of support here at WestConn or in Connecticut can affect the situation.”

 

 

It is sometimes called the “third pole” because of its enormous amount of ice.

When Tibet’s ice melts “it is the main source for ten rivers throughout Asia,” Sangay said. “The water supply provides drinking water for over two billion people.”

Traditionally the Tibetan people have been guardians of the water supply and shared it for free with their neighbors. Presently China has taken control, and each river has been set up with twenty or more dams, which they use to produce electricity and sell for profit. The benefits from the sales of the electricity do not go towards local communities at all.

What can individuals in Connecticut do to help?

“Every voice of support Tibetans get, even thanking the Senator for meeting me, goes a long way, it sends a message: I should meet more people,” Sangay said. “At any level the issue is raised about Tibet support goes a long way. You never know how the littlest bit of support here at WestConn or in Connecticut can affect the situation.”

The lecture by Dr. Sangay gave the audience an understanding, on a personal level, of what is taking place between China and Tibet.

“I believe that Dr. Sangay’s talk will prove a great preparation for those students who attend the Dalai Lama’s presentation,” Schmotter said. “His Holiness will not be talking about politics, but it is important to understand the context in which his ideas have been developed and his life lived.  Dr. Sangay provided that.”

 

The Echo is the student-run publication of Western Connecticut State University whose aim is to inform and enlighten the university community. The Echo’s goal is to establish and maintain an atmosphere of free and responsible journalism in an engaging and entertaining format. Anything published in The Echo in no way represents the opinion of the university or it’s faculty and administration.

 


 

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