Lobsang Sangay was sworn in today as head of Tibet’s democratic exile government in Dharamsala, India. He succeeds Samdhong Rinpoche, the first directly elected Kalon Tripa, or chief of cabinet, who served two terms.

In his inaugural address, Sangay committed himself to work on behalf of the Tibetan cause until freedom, and the Dalai Lama, are returned to Tibet. He pulled no punches, speaking of the “political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalization and environmental destruction” brought about by the Chinese occupation.

Despite this, Sangay insisted that the Tibetan struggle “is not against the Chinese people, nor is it against China as a country.” Instead, he identified the problem as one of “moral deficiency” on the part of China’s Communist regime, asserting that “as long as Tibetans are repressed, there will be resistance, and waning respect for China.”

Recently, the Dalai Lama, whom Tibetans revere as the 14th incarnation of theBoddhisattvaof compassion, completed the process of separating church and state, ratifying amendments to Tibet’s exile charter to devolve his powers to the elected government.

“It is important to remember,” Sangay told the audience at his inauguration, “that the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s political power is not at all solely to me as the Kalon Tripa, but to all Tibetans. His Holiness’ trust and belief in the people and our 50 years of consolidation of democratic institutions now will be challenged to survive and thrive independently, without his political involvement…”

Addressing young Tibetans, Sangay, 43, said: “Let us never forget: during our lifetime, our freedom struggle will meet the fate of justice or defeat. Tibet will either appear or disappear from the map of the world. Tibetans, as a people, will be alive or become a museum piece.”

That message applies equally to non-Tibetans the world over.

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