Lobsang Sangay La’s Response

A week ago Lobsang Sangay la called me on the telephone and expressed his objection to my piece which in large part dealt with his candidacy. Lobsang la told me that he did not remember making any statement (at the Woodrow Wilson conference) about wanting to be the Obama of China. He told me that he had even called his friend Dr. S.T, who had attended the conference and asked him if he remembered, which he didn’t. Lobsang la said the the proceeding of the conference had been taped and that he would try and obtain a copy, which I agreed would be great and would settle the argument one way or the other. Lobsang la and I had a long discussion and I told him that I would immediately post any rebuttal he had on my blog. I am grateful for his quick response. We did not reach any agreement at the end of our telephone discussion but I did apologize to him, which I want to do again here publicly, for not giving him advance notice of my article. Lobsang la, I am sorry I should have called you first and let you know about my piece.

I have published Lobsang la’s response exactly as he sent it to me, title and all. I will post in a couple of weeks an analysis of the rebuttals and statements he made in his response.

Response by Dr. Lobsang Sangay to Jamyang Norbu’s Piece

It was good to read Jamyang Norbu las article on the Upcoming Kalon Tripa Election and I look forward to reading his commentary on the other candidates. I appreciate his defense of Kalon Tripa candidates honesty and experience against criticism made by a panelist on VOA Kunleng TV. I am also of the view that all the candidates are dedicated and patriotic Tibetans who want to serve the cause. Now let me address some of the issues raised by him about me.

I found Jamyang las analysis to be way off mark. The statement I want to be Obama of China, was a JOKE and not meant to be taken seriously. In October 2008, at the time of the conference, there was an excitement about the real possibility that Obama from a marginalized group might be elected as the President of America. In contrast, it was impossible to imagine a Tibetan becoming the President of PRC. Four other attendees (Dr. Warren Smith, Dr. Sonam Topgyal, Tashi Rabgey, and another American) recalled this joking remark and said they had a good laugh. As Jamyang la was not at the conference, I dont blame him for the out-of-context interpretation. However he should have fact-checked with other attendees instead of relying on a panelist without sense of humor. (1)

Jamyang las interpretation of my views on the Chinese constitution is alarmist to say the least because it makes me sound as though I am a believer in the Chinese constitution. On the contrary, I have strongly criticized the Chinese constitution and particularly the Regional National Autonomy Law. (Please see article published by Harvard South Asian journal) The criticism of the Chinese constitution was acknowledged and quoted by Human Rights Watch report on China and Tibet (2005) and also in an article by Tenzing Sonam (Producer and director of Sun Behind the Clouds).  Jamyang la bases his comments on his recollection of our conversation during his time in Boston, perhaps my paper, published in the Harvard Asia Quarterly in the Summer of 1999, could refresh his memory.

He also claims that I dismiss the debate about Umey Lam and Rangzen which is untrue. My objection is against extreme rhetoric on both sides by Rangzen and Umey Lam supporters, which I find unhealthy and divisive. I do believe that any action has to be based on unity, planning and discipline, three cardinal principles of non-violent movement. For detail on this issue, please go to phayul.com.

1. The panel consisted of Elliot Sperling from Indiana University, Allen Carlson from Cornell University and myself, and the moderator was Mark Mohr, Director of the Asia Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


38 Replies to “Lobsang Sangay La’s Response”

  1. I don’t see anything serious he has done except have a phd degree from Harvard. We had a monk as the head of state for a long time, we don’t want to select a guy who only knows to attend meaningless conferences. It freaks me out !!!!

  2. The time to play “small politics” is over. It’s a high time to see the broader picture i.e. the future of Tibet after H.H. the Dalai Lama.I see Lobsang Sangay is a right candidate for Kalon Tripa’s post. It’s been my own experience that we Tibetans always try to pull the legs of those who surface out and are willing to do something new. Let’s not kill another Gendhun Choephel.
    The old Tibetan saying still holds true ” Tibetans lose by hoping against hope and China by doubt” (GYA DOKPEY PHONG BHOD REWAI PHONG). China shuns to give autonomy thinking that it’s an “independence in disguise” and Tibet seeks autonomy, I don’t know how genuine it is.So now, we have think about other options too.I personally request our scholar Jamyang Norbu La to tell us how can we seek Rangzen.Rangzen itself is a political ideology, we need means and path to Rangzen!

  3. Wooowo Hi Nyima

    What stage hell you are in?

    Harvard Law degree is meaningless?

    I don’t know what do you want to say in your comment. You said you are freak out. Freak out for what? Don’t be childish and be the real man if you are.
    If you are really freak out then you should put some logical reasons why you are freak out?
    It looks like you still wanted to have some old monk in your political stage. Please go to monasteries look for your idol monk and if you need advice ask Samdhoung Lama he is available for Dharamsala.

    What meaningless conference you are talking about? Conferences Dr Lobsang Sangay has been attending were international stages to face China and seeking solution and telling the truth to the world how Tibetans are going through under China’s brutality.
    I myself never get chance to attend any conference with Dr Lobsang la but I have read lot about his works and conferences he attended. I also watched some of video clips that Dr Lobsang was explaining Tibetan situation in front of thousands. I never found those conference are meaningless.
    If you don’t like him then that is total ok and tell him or say I don’t like Harverd Law school degree. You have choice.
    However,don’t say things blindly out of ignorance.

  4. Could Dr.Lobsang Sangay explain his “objection towards the extreme rhetoric on both sides by Rangzen and Umey Lam supporters” which he finds unhealthy and divisive.

    Would I be considered extreme if I believe that:

    A Free Tibet is our only goal.

    And that we could all debate on the road towards a Free Tibet with Umey Lam being a stepping stone?

    As for the joke about being the Obama of China I would like to know if Dr.Lobsang Sangay would find it funny if an educated Palestine activist ‘joked’ that he/she would like to be the David Ben-Gurion of Isreal.

    funny… it’s not!

  5. I second Tsering Topgyal’s objections. The idea that Tibetans who demand independence are labelled as “divisive” is troubling. Does he mean we are ‘divisive’ because we don’t want to become Chinese or does he mean we are ‘divisive’ because we don’t agree with those who want to deny national status for Tibet?
    It is sad state of things when Tibetans start calling other Tibetans by terms the Chinese coin. When did people who want freedom from foreign invaders become “radicals”?

    If a prominent Tibetan scholar says in jest that he wants to become “the obama of Tibet” it sounds funny but “Obama of China? Eeaah. It is either a joke in bad taste or more seriously it questions the speaker’s subconscious.

  6. Dr. Sangye,
    What do you mean by extreme rhetorics of both sides? explain to us. Also Let us Decide what you have said… pls post the videos. I do believ Jamyang la though becuase his glibness was well known.

    Now, please tell me Why did you go CHina? How could you go to CHina on IC if not to Nepal?

    Explain to us.

    Yours Agu.

  7. Living in Dharamsala for many years, I have personally experienced tension brewing beneath the surface of normalcy between Rangzen and Umelam protagonists! There’s division between these two camps, and frustration on both sides!


    I really feel good to hear you guys voice often. non of you are worst, all we need at this time is transparent debate.
    lobsang la half joking statement ‘ Ombama of China”
    meant to say china has potential to respect the minor right. that true if it shifted its truculent communist policy.
    Jamyang Norbu la objection is timely and sounds healthy in democratic society. I always considered him as only Tibetan patriotic writer. his thought and views are awakening in modern world.

  9. “I am very much looking forward to becoming a citizen of the People’s Republic of China. At the moment I am a refugee. But I would like to return to Tibet as a member of China’s Tibetan minority.” Dalai Lama, Sunday Times,May 18, 2008 in an interview with Alexander Norman.

    lobsang sangay’s remark ” i want to be obama of china” resonates exactly with dalai lama’s view of pragmatism, tolerance, and reconcialation.

  10. This all seems to be over nothing.

    My analysis is that Lobsang Sangay jokingly said “I want to be the Obama of China.” It’s a joke, done deal.

    But Jamyang Norbu wants to make a mountain out of a molehill by scrutinizing those bland words.

    I respect Jamyang la’s opinions and the contributions he has made to the Tibetan society, but I start to lose respect when I see such articles with ulterior motives.

    I kindly request you to not post your analysis of Lobsang la’s rebuttal because then it will only escalate to a he said, she said war of words, which is the last thing we need.

  11. lets see Who has more energy stocks

    Degree Expriences scholer works fan

    JN lose win win win

    LS win lose lose win

    Lobsang Senge has got praisworthy degree and jamyang Norbu has nothing, but he well known international writer and his some books were translated into 17 languages. Its amazing, should not we proud as a Tibetan! his writing is wow!
    other lobsang Senge is Ph Degree holder from Harward wow! It makes absolute sense of scholer.
    Now one thing is to wait a while for LS scholer work, so far i did see much compare to jamyang naughty tibetan writer! he wrote more than 10 books and few thousand of article!
    i love to be part of janyang and we need him to satisfy our intellectual needs and tune our political tone.
    But Senge’s touches with tibetan Gov, is respectable.


    First of all, let me clarify…I am the YOUTH that so many seem to want to represent…including LS himself.

    I have been waiting for one of our intellectual to start calling LS out the way he should be…and when someone finally does….the YOUTH (mostly on this forum) go into denial. I would hope those of whom who claim to be JN’s believers that you would give him the benefit of the doubt. I really don’t think he has the time to be calling people out because he felt like wasting our time.

    Graduating from HARVARD is a feat in itself….but lets not forget, just cause one graduated from HARVARD does not guarantee intelligence. Lobsang Sangay is good at what he does…he studied law for gods sake…so godforbid if he was not good at presenting himself and his case for KT. More importantly lets not forget, Harvard has produced scholars, as well as dictators and just plain citizens without any extra ordinary powers.

    And a reminder: In America, after obtaining a law degree one needs to take the BAR EXAM and PASS for one to officially become A LAYWER. many seem to forget this fact. So clarification: LOBSANG SANGAY is not a Lawyer, but has a law degree.

    I am appalled at our youth for being so hungry for a young leader that we have not taken the time to actually check out his credentials, or any of the other candidates for the matter. During a KT debate at Tipa, when asked about his non-professional background as a government employee, he answered “I studied the Tibetan government for [some odd years], I wrote a book on how the government works and know some of the members of the government”. This sentence makes no logical sense what so ever. Had this comment been made by a US candidate, s/he would be laughed out of candidacy if not the country. Such comments seems to suggest; If I were to write a book about how a rocket ship works, it automatically makes me capable of being an astronaut. But we are all content. The audacity of such comments and the willingness on our part to neither question nor think about it at length only baffles me.

    Lets not forget OBAMA was not only a law degree holder but a lawyer, then government employee, then a senator and etc. He did not graduate with a Law Degree from Harvard and became the president of the US. Just like he had to prove himself by urning his strips, let us let LS urn and prove his strips, rather then just take his word for it.

    The man has no experience, it is as pure and as simple as that. A Law degree or Ph.D. means nothing compared to actual experience. I would not trust someone who wrote a book on rockets to actually drive a space ship out to space and know where to go and what else to do…as much as I would not trust a man with no experience on how government actually works, no matter how many books he wrote on the subject.

    I made the mistake of thinking the older generation was not ready for the Democracy we’ve been given since it is at a young stage. But it seems, the YOUTH too, seem to be just as not ready, in not knowing how to take advantage of true democracy.

  13. YOUTH!

    You are speechless but you kept on ranting!

    The experiences you are referring to is in many ways moving more on a narrow bridge of an EXPERIENCE we need in our leadership. It is not the administrative or managerial experiences that we are looking into in our leadership role. If that would be the case, I would be the perfect candidate for the Katri position myself given my managerial experiences in fortune 500 organization. We need a dynamic leader that was never before defined by the Management guru in the West.

    You do not represent the YOUTH in my category of youth who are in between 20-30 years old. The YOUTH you think you are representing are far better educated and have broader and humble approach towards the reality. They don’t beat around the bush like our Oldie’s do and they are more compassionate in action unlike carrying the usual compassion by speech.

  14. excuse you. I am 25. And I don’t get carried away with the name Harvard. Calling LS Dynamic is laughable. I think you need to actually read his writings instead of internalize his talks and unabashed self-promotion.

  15. @DEVENO

    excuse you. I am 25. And I don’t get carried away with the name Harvard. Calling LS Dynamic is laughable. I think you need to actually read his writings instead of internalize his talks and unabashed self-promotion.

  16. YOUTH LA,

    You made a typo with ’25’ , should have been ’45’ in your case.

    And please don’t be my CLONE here, i am not that handsome that you should attempt for plastic surgery.

  17. @Devano

    You seem to be forgetting what you are actually saying and doing here. You keep calling others that they are ranting and seems to be in a state of amnesia that you are ranting more than others. Your statement, “They don’t beat around the bush like our Oldie’s do” clearly shows your complete and irreversible lack of respect and admiration for our older generation Tibetans (including your parents, if you are not a chinese spy) who toiled day and night for us. I would say, if LS has a couple more supporters with your mentality, he is in no need of enemy. You guys will be enough to bring him down if not his own real life naivety and political inexperience.
    BTW, I like the 25 year old youth’s extent of maturity and nationalism.

  18. I have cried many times since I start reading articles & comments about Kalon Tripa on Mr. Jamyang la’s blog a week ago. The tears are both of joy and sadness. It’s joy to witness the Tibetans in exiles are engaging in this important event with such sense of responsibility and enthusiasm. The sadness comes when thinking of the Tibetans inside Tibet who are living without voice under Chinese. Regardless how different everyone’s view is here in exiles it’s everyone’s responsibility to put Tibetans inside Tibet’s wellbeing first. They’re the ones who’s going through much suffering and emotional & physical torture.

  19. Tibet@heart,

    Forgive me if my observation does not hold true in your world,but having lived 20 some years in refugee settlement, that statement reflects the irreversible truth of that generation, whether we liked it or not.
    No one but few in this world lives on trust fund, everyone toils you and me, your parent and my parent. I don’t blame for my frustration of hardship to younger generation,be it brothers or sisters.I enjoy the challenge of hardship for there is no one but myself to blame.

  20. hi!This was a really outstanding website!
    I come from milan, I was luck to seek your blog in google
    Also I learn a lot in your Topics really thank your very much i will come every day

  21. I really don`t know if i fully understood the statements made by JN and LS and as well as by the other readers. Anyways it seems to me like we are just hurting the Candidates by looking at the minor mistakes in their statements and forgetting their determinations they have shown by leaving their well paid jobs to serve our government. We are just forgetting that how many of us are struglling hard each day to get into Western Paradise by paying huge payments in debit leaving all our aged old parents and relatives behind who are in need of our help. Why can`t we stay behind in India and candidate for KT. It is easy to criticise other but it pains when our own turn comes. Thank you.

  22. Tibetans go west so they could help their parents in India financially, medication, food, shelter, clothing, pilgrimage, vacation tours,education for brothers and sisters or their children. You can’t do much to them by remaining a pauper yourself in India with an acre of dry land and a couple of cows. Going west and doing odd jobs in this context is a great sacrifice.

  23. i know the objects of Tibetans going to west is to help reduce the fianacial worry of parents. But luckily, under His Holiness`s Guidance, I think none of Tibetans have so far starved to death in Tibetan Settlement in india. These Candidates have also survived with minimum aids from our Government. what I mean to say is that we should be atleast grateful to these individuals for their Sacrifices and the services they have rendered to our Government sincerely for so many years and are going to serve again if elected for KT and not only condemn them.

  24. It seems I have been sucked in to the Tibetan Government in Exile political debate instead of studying (for the law degree I am trying to work on)…yikes!

    First off, thank you Jamyang Norbu la for this fantastic forum to hear from different voices throughout the Tibetan diaspora. However, is it too much to ask that Dr. Lobsang Sangye la, who has obtained his law degree form Harvard (as you all keep repeating), proof-read his response before submitting it? Where is the standard? And to all you impressive young Tibetans (I’m looking at you YOUTH! Tsering Topgyal, Dawa, and Tibetan@heart), get moving. I’ve been perusing these posts for (well, I won’t admit how long, it’s finals time, gotta find some way to procrastinate) long enough to be impressed, sometimes down-right floored by your insight, expressiveness and occasional poetry. Thank you, and I hope you all find the motivation to step up to leadership roles that so desperately need you.


  25. I am here friends. I don’t have anything new to say. Unless Tethong’s supporters come up with a new campaign strategy, it would be difficult to stop the LS jaggaurnaut.

  26. I am here friends. I don’t have anything new to say. Unless Tethong’s supporters come up with a new campaign strategy, it would be difficult to stop LS from becoming the next Katri.

  27. hi nyima lak …. i cant digest what you said. because of a monk as our leader for a long time that we could do nothing regarding sino-tibet relation. i hate monk , i hate our old generation to be our leader again at this critical time. now we need a young and energitic kalon-tripa who possess the the leadership quality.if u want a change vote for a young leader. and you are requested not to pull the feet of those poeple who are wiling to nurse this sicked nation ,if you can’t support them lo.

  28. I thank all the well wishers of KT Candidates. Now His Holiness has given us the full Democratic opportunity and all of us have used this opportunity by raising our voices in different forms whether by criticising or appreciating but, at the end we all need a eligible KT. They are now on their final journey to different places to give Speeches and to gain hopes. I wish them all the best.

  29. nice to hear the voices of our young tibetans who extremely concerned about the future of our tibet. its so wonderful, whatever we wanted to be unity.

  30. @ Tsering Tashi: wat do u mean u hate monks?? Just bcoz u think Samdhong rnpoche couldn’t imporve Sino-Tibetan relation n dat too is your way of thinking( can u foretell that other candidate for KT can improve it?) huh!! Por favor- stop your assumption n genarilising every monk! Remem his holiness dalai lama is a avatar of chenresig in monk’s diguise!

  31. As His Holiness has said with confidence ” I will return to Tibet during my lifetime “. It gives me hope that the current exercise being undertaken to elect a new Kalon Tripa will pave way for a renewed path for a Tibet that will one day be free from the shackles of China’s tyranny.

    It is also heartening to see the debate being generated on the suitability of the various candidates in various forum, but I sincerely hope that we Tibetans don’t lose focus on what is important – Choosing the Right leader who will take forth our struggle to the next level. I think in this regards, it is important we apply Buddhas middle path approach in our scrutiny. So let us not undermine Dr Lobsangs achievement nor get carried away by the “Harvard” tag. Let us not just give him a free ride due to his comparative young age, but understand where he stands on the various issues regarding Tibet.

    In the end “TRUTH” shall prevail and China will one day have to come to the conclusion that if they want the world to respect them as a super power, then they have to start earning it which can only be achieved by allowing not only her people to bask in the rays of freedom but also be a source of comfort and support for other smaller nations.

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