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VOA Presents Exclusive Tibetan Election Debate

(L to R) Candidates Penpa Tsering and Lobsang Sangay with moderators Tenzin Sangmo and Namgyal Shastri.
(L to R) Candidates Penpa Tsering and Lobsang Sangay with moderators Tenzin Sangmo and Namgyal Shastri.

The top candidates for the position of Tibet’s political leader in exile (Sikyong, or prime minister) faced off this week in an exclusive prime time internet, radio, and television broadcast to Tibet, aired and hosted by the Voice of America. VOA is the leading international broadcaster serving China-controlled Tibet, where local media are censored.

The debate was held in Dharamsala, India, where Tibet’s Central Administration in exile is based. Lobsang Sangay, the incumbent Sikyong, and Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the exile Tibetan Parliament, participated.

“Our facilitating and broadcasting the 2016 exiled Tibetan government's election debate served two purposes,” said Losang Gyatso, Chief of VOA Tibetan Service. “For our audiences inside China-controlled Tibet, it's an opportunity to see exiled Tibetans selecting their leadership through a democratic system. For the diaspora Tibetans who vote in the election, it is a rare opportunity to see candidates debate topics important to resolving the Tibet issue.”

The election is scheduled for March 20. VOA Tibetan Service broadcaster Namgyal Shastri and Tenzin Sangmo, VOA Tibetan’s reporter in Dharamsala, moderated the debate, which is the only one scheduled between the two candidates.

“With the Dalai Lama entering his ninth decade, this election comes at a critical time,” said VOA’s East Asia and Pacific Division Director William Baum. “Our Tibetan Service is committed to providing accurate, uncensored coverage of this important election.”

Tibetans inside China-controlled Tibet are prohibited from voting, so the more than 150,000 Diaspora Tibetans living in Nepal, India, Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world will elect the new Tibetan leader.

Kelu Chao, acting Director of VOA, praised the Tibetan Service for its initiative. “We appreciated the candidates’ willingness to participate in the debate, and were pleased Voice of America could present it for the people of Tibet,” she said.

VOA Tibetan reaches its audience through television, radio and the Internet with uncensored news that is unavailable to Tibetans inside China through state-controlled Chinese media. VOA offers critical discussions on important issues and provides valuable information and expertise that help support the development of Tibetan civil society. VOA Tibetan audiences are located in Tibet; in the ethnic Tibetan regions of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan; and in Bhutan, Nepal, and India—where Tibetan speakers live.