The new leader of Tibet's government-in-exile has condemned Chinese rule over his homeland, striking a defiant tone as he assumed the political role recently ceded by the Dalai Lama.
In a strongly worded inaugural address, Lobsang Sangay vowed to fight Chinese colonialism.
Speaking at the Indian hill station of Dharamsala, seat of Tibet’s exiled government, Mr Sangay stirred hopes among his supporters that he will be more assertive towards China than the Dalai Lama, who retains his role as Tibet’s spiritual leader.
“There is no socialism in Tibet. There is colonialism,” the prime minister, or Kalon Tripa, said.
“Chinese rule in Tibet is clearly unjust and untenable.”
He added that his electoral victory in April had sent “a clear message to the [Chinese] hardliners ... that Tibetan leadership is far from fizzling out”, but he also signalled his willingness “to negotiate with the Chinese government anytime, anywhere”.
In a ceremony led by the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, Mr Sangay promised a “new chapter” in Tibetan history and a more effective exile movement.
In September he plans to announce a new cabinet, which will be dominated by younger leaders and will also include women.
The Dalai Lama signalled his intention to relinquish political power in March, potentially confounding the Chinese government’s efforts to control the succession process after his death.
While popular with young Tibetans, the 43-year-old Kalon Tripa has yet to overcome suspicions among older members of the Dalai Lama’s coterie about his rapid rise within the movement.
Some fear an “Americanisation” of the Tibetan cause as it promotes modern, democratic ambitions over its spiritual heritage in a deliberate effort to contrast itself with authoritarian China.
Mr Sangay has said he wants to advance a vision of Tibet as “a secular democratic society” in an effort to garner greater international support.
He has resided in the US for the past 15 years and has never visited Tibet.
A member of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration, who asked not to be identified, said Mr Sangay had attracted resentment by running a cash-fuelled, “all-Americanstyle election campaign” to win office.
Another senior monk added: “The enigma of the Dalai Lama is irreplaceable.”
Chính's news: Tibetan leader vows to fight Chinese colonialism