The Dalai Lama has formally relinquished his political powers to Prime Minister in Exile Lobsang Sangay, but will remain the symbol of Tibetan unity.
The Dalai Lama has formally relinquished his political powers “in a historic move” but will remain the symbol of Tibetan unity, a spokesperson for the spiritual leader said on Monday.
Tibetan exiles elected a Harvard scholar, Lobsang Sangay, 43, in April as their new prime minister to assume the political duties of the globe-trotting spiritual icon.
“It is a very historic moment. He will still be the religious leader and the symbol of Tibetan unity, but he has formally devolved his political role,” said the Buddhist monk’s spokesperson, Tempa Tsering.
The Dalai Lama, 75, said in March he would give up his role as the Tibetan movement’s political leader, transferring powers to a newly-elected head of the government-in-exile based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala.
Although the Dalai Lama will retain the more significant role of spiritual leader and will still be influential when it comes to major policy-making decisions, the transition will make Sangay a far more prominent figure than his predecessor as prime minister.
The Dalai signed amendments to the constitution of the Tibetan government-in-exile at the weekend to formally cede his political role, Tsering said.
“It was his last political act,” he said.
The political powers he held now rest with the Tibetan government-in-exile and its democratic leadership, Tsering said.
“The Dalai Lama will only remain the spiritual head,” he said.
He will now spend his time “working more to promote human values and work for better inter-religious understanding”, Tsering added.
The Dalai Lama’s political successor represents a major shift from the historic dominance of Tibetan politics by older religious figures.
The spiritual leader’s move is part of an effort to strengthen the Tibetan movement’s democratic structure so it can guide the movement following his death.
Sangay has publicly backed the Dalai Lama’s policy of seeking “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet under Chinese rule.
But his former membership of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress has fuelled speculation he may take a more radical stance and embolden the political strategy of Tibetan exiles toward China.
Beijing considers the Dalai Lama as a separatist bent on fomenting unrest in his homeland.
The Dalai Lama escaped to India after an unsuccessful uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule and established his exiled government in India.—AFP.