Today, on the 52nd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama announced that he was formally relinquishing his role as political leader of the Tibetan exile government. The announcement, delivered in Dharamshala, India, has been understood as a move to strengthen the democratic structure of the Tibetan political movement as a new generation of Tibetan leaders emerges. From The New York Times:

For years, the Tibetan spiritual leader has spoken of his desire to cede political authority, or “retire” as he sometimes put it. But in Thursday’s speech, the Dalai Lama made it official, announcing that he would propose the change during the session of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile that begins next week in Dharamsala, India.

“My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility,” he said, according to a prepared text of his speech. “It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run.”

Analysts who study Tibet said the announcement does not mean the Dalai Lama would cease to be recognized as the overall leader of the Tibetan cause. He is regarded as the lone figure capable of uniting and mobilizing Tibetans inside and outside of China. But the analysts said that by formally giving up political power, the Dalai Lama, who is 75, is trying to deepen the authority and credibility of the Tibetan movement’s democratic government, which is based in Dharamsala. Later this month, Tibetan exiles are expected to elect a new prime minister.

In his remarks the Dalai Lama noted that he has long stressed the necessity of a freely elected Tibetan leader and thanked all of his longtime supporters. From today’s speech:

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

 

Since I made my intention clear I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and outside, to continue to provide political leadership. My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened. Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet. I trust that gradually people will come to understand my intention, will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to remember the kindness of the leaders of various nations that cherish justice, members of parliaments, intellectuals and Tibet Support Groups, who have been steadfast in their support for the Tibetan people. In particular, we will always remember the kindness and consistent support of the people and Government of India and State Governments for generously helping Tibetans preserve and promote their religion and culture and ensuring the welfare of Tibetans in exile. To all of them I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

Read the whole announcement here.

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