8 Aug 2011

Dalai Lama's political successor sworn in

10:24 pm on 8 August 2011

A Harvard scholar has been sworn in as head of the Tibetan government in exile, replacing the Dalai Lama as the Tibetan movement's political leader.

Lobsang Sangay, 43, who has never been to Tibet, took the oath of office at a ceremony in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala, where the exiled government is based.

The Dalai Lama presided over the ceremony. The 76-year-old relinquished his responsibilities in May this year, but will remain the region's spiritual leader.

In his inauguration speech, Mr Sangay sought to dismiss concerns that the Dalai Lama's advancing years and eventual death would mark the demise of the movement that the Nobel peace laureate has led since fleeing his homeland in 1959, AFP reports.

Mr Sangay said his election in April had sent "a clear message to the hardliners in the Chinese government that Tibetan leadership is far from fizzling out."

He pledged to sustain the movement "until freedom is restored to Tibet," stressing that the fight was "not against the Chinese people or China as a country.

"Our struggle is against the hardline policies of the Chinese regime in Tibet... against those who would deny freedom, justice, dignity and the very identity of the Tibetan people."

The government-in-exile is not recognised by any foreign states, China refuses to acknowledge it, and its legitimacy in the eyes of Tibetans in Tibet might be questioned without the Dalai Lama's patronage.