Tibetans in northern India go to the polls to elect government-in-exile

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
Tibetans in northern India go to the polls to elect government-in-exile
Copyright  Ashwini Bhatia/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Hundreds of Tibetans in exile have been voting to choose a new political leader.

The election took place in India's northern city of Dharamsala, which is home to Tibet's government-in-exile.

Voters wore masks as a COVID-19 precaution as they cast their ballots during the first round of the election.

One of them was Lobsang Sangay, who is finishing his second and final term as the Tibetan leader.

"Tibet is under occupation, but Tibetans in exile are free, Sangay told reporters. "And given the chance and opportunity, we prefer democracy over an authoritarian system."

This is the first phase of voting to narrow down presidential candidates to two. The second phase will take place in April.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and his followers have been living in Dharamsala since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Beijing, which has ruled the mountainous region since 1951, refuses to recognise it as an independent nation, claiming Tibet has been part of its territory since the 13th century.

But many Tibetans say that they were effectively independent for most of their history and that the Chinese government wants to exploit their resource-rich region while crushing their cultural identity.