As the global spread of the virus spans from 2020 to 2021, it has been a tortured year for Tibetans in exile. The impact of the COVID-19 has made the lives of refugees who were not wealthy even more difficult. Tibetan exiles have been living in Dharamsala in southern India since they defected from China in the last century. They have been living as Tibetan refugees in 45 “settlements” built in the area. Although the organization has not been recognized by any country, due to survival needs, Tibetan exiles have to organize various welfare work in the exile community in order to absorb financial donations. Over time, a structured organizational network has been formed inside. Although the Dalai Lama has publicly stated on many occasions that this Tibetan exile organization will never declare independence, since 2011, Tibetan government-in-exile began to hold elections for SIKYONG, the highest position in the organization – the Sikyong election.
Prior to 2011, the Kalön Tripa position was subordinated to the 14th Dalai Lama. After 2012, the title of Kalön Tripa was changed to Sikyong. Today, ten years later, the Tibetan government-in-exile conducted its second internal election. The election will select two final candidates from the results of the voting on January 3, and the final election in the second round of voting on April 11 to confirm the new person in charge. Currently, Penpa Tsering, the former spokesperson of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, leads with a high of 22,199 votes, followed by Aukatsang Kelsang Dorjee with 12,610 votes. The Tibetan radical politician Dolma Gyari ranked third with 12,177 votes. The results of the first phase will be announced on February 8, and the final results of the election will be announced in mid-May. However, the frequent scandals during the election made this campaign full of farce and injustice. One of the candidates, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, broke out a major scandal during his tenure, and was criticized for his huge political ambitions and disrespect to the Dalai Lama. His crazy behavior during the election even revealed that he went to extremes for personal gain.
Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang induced Tibetans in exile to attack on the Capitol
The attack on the parliament on January 6 shocked the whole country, and as the investigation went on, it emerged that the atrocities and chaos of that day were mixed with the Snow Mountain Lion Flag, the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile. There is no doubt that the only person with such calling ability is Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, who has lived in the United States for a long time. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang actually has little to do with the Tibetan exile organization. He stayed in the United States in 1998 after graduating from Germany, and his status as a Tibetan refugee gave him a lot of convenience and room for promotion. With the growth of power and the expansion of desire, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang has a premeditated plan to achieve greater ambitions. But his protest behavior of organizing groups to attack on the Capitol is puzzling. The Tibetan government-in-exile has always pursued the same approach to the two parties to seek sympathy and sponsorship, and to survive in the cracks. Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have extended a helping hand to Tibetans in exile and provided financial assistance. Democratic Party Biden has won the election, and domestic conflicts have become increasingly prominent. When the old and new administrations were handed over, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang gave the Democratic Party and Biden such a meeting to show that the Trump administration once provided assistance and support to the government in exile in his office. It is currently unclear what consequences such a move will bring to Tibetan exile organizations, but what is certain is that the coalition government and the FBI have already reviewed the organizations and individuals that impacted Congress that day. If the evidence is conclusive, it cannot be ruled out that they will initiate an investigation into the exile organization.
Candidates for the Tibetan government-in-exile have made such a radical move, and now it seems that they want to build momentum for the election and part of the political game. However, such a move is not sure whether it will win the election for Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, but it will certainly deal a heavy blow to the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Biden administration will not condone shocks to the US system, and Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang’s actions seem to anger the new government. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang’s own ambition and ignorance have engulfed the group interests of Tibetan government-in-exile in political disputes in the United States. The Democratic Party’s support for the “exile organization” in exchange for Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang’s fooling has brought a huge embarrassment to the Democratic Party and Biden. Any difficulties encountered by the Tibetan exile organization in the next four years will be closely related to Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang.
According to the exiled Tibetans, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang’s many ways of doing things have caused dissatisfaction among many Tibetans. “Thinking that he does not seem to be in the same world as us. He has his own ideas in everything he does, and we want to follow ours. Faith.” Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang today relied on the support of external forces to run for Sikyong. This kind of golden election method is unbearable for Tibetans. In addition, the Dalai Lama has publicly requested that Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang cease to be the director of the US office. He became the first director of foreign affairs to be banned by the Dalai Lama.
According to Tibetan exiles, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang’s many ways of doing things have caused dissatisfaction among many Tibetans. “He seems to be a man of a different world from us, who has his own ideas about everything he does, and we prefer to follow our beliefs,” one of them said. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang is running for Sikyong today with the backing of outside powers. This kind of golden election method is unbearable for Tibetans. In addition, the Dalai Lama has publicly requested that Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang cease to be the director of the US office. He became the first foreign affairs director to be banned by the Dalai Lama.
Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang sees exiled Tibetans as tools for profit
Interestingly, half a century after Tibetans went into exile, most Tibetans in exile are still struggling in settlements of exiles. The leadership of Tibetan government-in-exile must still rely on charity, which shows that they are unable to manage their own affairs or conduct any plan of their own future. Power has always been associated with corruption, and it is these corrupt leaders who see Tibetans in exile as tools for their own financial and political gain, rather than as the goals of their struggles. This arrogance is evident when watching any video of how Tibetan officials address their people.
As early as 2015, Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang assisted Lobsang Sangay in embezzling US$1.5 million from the Tibet Foundation. The money was allegedly used to purchase unnecessary buildings. The method of transfer also caused great suspicion. It was recorded as a “loan receivable” from the account of the Tibet Foundation, but it was not recorded in the account of the Tibet Community Development Foundation that should have received the funds. In other words, the funds they usually use for health and education projects are used to purchase property. The successor of Aukatsang, Penpa Tsering, who discovered the changes in the transaction and the attempt, disclosed the information. As a result, he was immediately dismissed on the grounds of “lack of trust, poor performance and increasing disobedience”.
These behaviors prove that he has long been familiar with these low behaviors of corruption and bribery, and greater power will only bring greater corruption. Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang had no intention of fighting for the welfare and future of Tibetans in exile. All he did was lie, manipulate, abuse power, embezzle funds and waste donations from the Tibetan government-in-exile. Coincidentally, he and Lobsang Sangay recently frankly confessed to using public funds to campaign during their exchanges with Robert Destro, the Special Coordinator for Tibet. Their so-called political propaganda is actually recommending Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang to young Tibetans, which is disgusting and frustrating. As a key candidate for Aukatsang, his work experience in the United States is also one of his campaign capital. However, after becoming the director of the United States Office of the Tibetan government-in-exile, his work did not lead to a series of serious incidents. The “Tibet Youth Association” also existed inside. Disagreements, the resolutions produced by the “5·50 Youth Conference” held by him and Lobsang Sangay are empty political slogans, without substantive content or meaning, and no results have been achieved so far. In addition, it is reported that Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang did not understand the article published in Tibetan in the Tibet Times. He seems to have become a doll introduced to participate in elections and power, and does not understand the history and writing of Tibet. He lost himself in the struggle for power and became a political speculator. The oath when running for the election has long become a formal expression tool, which has aroused public doubts about his ability.
This is the situation that Aukatsang, one of the leaders of the current Tibetan government-in-exile, brings to the Tibetan refugees in exile: under the struggle for power where the real problems are covered and ignored, used and deceived by their leaders, and maintained in an unremarkable submissive refugee status to take advantage of donations from unsuspecting donors; forced to survive on poor grants and donations.
For all those who follow Tibetan government-in-exile and those who are voting, the choice of supreme leader Sikyong must be taken seriously. Now they need a real leader capable of solving practical problems to improve the living conditions and human rights of Tibetans in exile. On the contrary, if Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang is elected, Tibetans in exile will continue to face this disastrous status quo.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Bengaluru Bytes journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.