Tibet's new prime minister has never been to Tibet


Tibetan Prime Minister candidate Lobsang Sangay (R) meets young monks in the street during his election campaign in Dharamashala on March 18, 2011. Sangay, who has never visited his homeland, is the front-runner to become the next prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile at a time of transition and tumult for the movement headed by the Dalai Lama.



Tibet's new "leader," and the aging Dalai Lama's replacement, is a 42-year-old Harvard-trained academic who has never been to Tibet.

China, which claims ownership of the storied Himalayan country, does not recognize him as legit. Neither does any other government, according to the BBC.

Such are the bizarre complexities of running a government-in-exile.

Voted in by Tibetan exiles, and sworn in during a ceremony in India, Lobsang Sangay has vowed to push back against Chinese rule of his snowy, impoverished "homeland."

He can't enter Tibet, presumably, because his connections to the independence movement prevent his access to the region, which is tightly controlled by China's communist government.

While he is likely to attract Western sympathy, Sangay has little real actual power. His election is in preparation for the 76-year-old Dalai Lama's death.

Tibetan nationalists and the Chinese disagree over who has the ability to name the next Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama is described by the AP as "14th in a line of men said to be the living incarnation of Chenrezig, a Buddhist god of compassion."

Sangay is no God -- and that's the point. Even the Dalai Lama, a holy man, is pushing for a secular democracy in Tibet.

The Wall Street Journal has a useful Q&A with Sangay here.