Top image caption: US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has grown to become an outspoken critic of the Central Tibetan Administration

The recent elections for positions within the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) have been marred by controversy, corruption and outright greed. This has not gone unnoticed by the Tibetan refugee populace, neither in fact by the State Protectors, who were so exasperated at the behaviour of the Tibetan politicians, they publicly and somewhat wrathfully chastised them, in a move which has embarrassed the entire CTA.

The corruption became strikingly evident when measures were taken by the incumbent Sikyong (Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay and the Kashag (CTA Cabinet) to prevent independent candidates from receiving or spending funds for campaign activities after the primary ballots. This severely affected non-incumbent candidates, who as a result of this electoral procedure, were left with no choice but to withdraw their candidacy. For example, Lukar Jam, a well-liked candidate who promotes Tibetan independence and politics that support a united Tibetan people, even among currently ostracised Dorje Shugden practitioners, was forced to unceremoniously bow out of the prime-ministerial race.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Tibet Caucus

This has not gone unnoticed on the international stage either. US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher currently serving as the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats as part of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as the Co-Chairman for the Congressional Tibet Caucus, issued a letter on 1st February 2016 raising his serious concerns. Addressed to both the Honorable John F. Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and the Honorable Gayle E. Smith, Administrator for the US Agency for International Development, he mentions the current situation within the Tibetan electoral process and highlights its unfair and highly undemocratic nature. In the letter he calls for both agencies to monitor the Tibetan leadership closely to ensure they are indeed conforming to accepted democratic standards.

This isn’t the first time that Congressman Rohrabacher has highlighted the dubious actions of the CTA. In 2012, he investigated a highly worrying fact that those who had differing views from the Tibetan Leadership were facing intense consequences, such as the firing of Jigme Ngapo from his position of Tibet Service Director at Radio Free Asia. In a separate letter dated the same year, the Congressman states that the CTA’s American sponsors are receiving reports of the mismanagement of funds and corruption at the highest level of the CTA.

A point of note within the more recent letter regards the huge amount of international aid bestowed upon the CTA by various world powers. For example in 2014 $19 million was spent by the US government on various projects related to the Tibetan people, and there was a sum of at least $6 million earmarked for Tibetan use in 2016. As the letter states the US government also grants the CTA its assistance to alleviate poverty within the Tibetan refugee populace and for the promotion of democratic ideals and governance. The current political climate within Tibetan Leadership goes against the purpose of the aid they receive, which is highlighted by the Congressman.

Given the USA’s status as the CTA and Tibetan people’s biggest international sponsor, shouldn’t the CTA be worried that they are being criticised? This letter serves as a testament to the corruption and undemocratic nature of Tibetan politics as it exists, despite the claim to be fair and just. The fact is, the CTA and Tibetan Leadership have been receiving money from other governments. From their actions it is clear they don’t care about democracy, simply their own greed and selfish agenda.

It is also very hypocritical to accuse others of receiving money from governments, such as the often used claim that Dorje Shugden practitioners take money from the Chinese government, when they themselves continue to receive funds from the USA and other world powers. The highlight of this fact by a US Congressman, and given the recent chastisement by the two State Protectors, makes one wonder if Tibetan Leadership will ever be live up to the supposedly democratic ideals it is supposed to embody, including unity regards of differing political views or even religion.

Letter detailing the current unethical and undemocratic Tibetan electoral process. Page 1.

Letter detailing the current unethical and undemocratic Tibetan electoral process. Page 2.

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  1. Aloysius Bong

    April 13, 2016 at 4:34 am

    The world should now realize that the Tibetan government-in-exile (CTA) is very corrupted and very incapable as a government, they are so bad that even the gods (via Oracle) came to chastise them, see here:

    And the Dalai Lama is so upset with the government that he still refuses to see them and is still not accepting their apology (them referring to the two candidates running for the post of prime minister of Tibetan government-in-exile):

  2. Michaela Smith

    April 13, 2016 at 4:43 am

    Dear Ashok

    Thank you for this insightful article. The recent Tibetan election process was certainly most unfair and now Sikyong Lobsang Sangye and Speaker Penpa Tsering are on fire because of this. Not only they are being reprimanded by the Dalai Lama, and chastised by their own deities, but the influential people in international community also took notice regarding this matter.

    I think the United States assisted CTA because of Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama is a symbol of defiance against China and to show that the US government (although has a large owing to the Chinese government in the form of T-bills) cannot be dictated by China.

    Since CTA is not behaving themselves and show themselves as a capable administration, I believe their faith is doomed. Why give financial assistance to crooks?


  3. Amber Sonam

    April 13, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Alas, at the rate the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) is going, they will soon lose all support from the US and other countries of power who are very kind and generous in supporting the CTA, specifically to form a democratic government and have many programmes related to the Tibetans in exile. These help do not come easily and the sum is huge, yet they are not being used wisely and appropriately by the CTA, thus reflecting the high level of corruptions and greed within the Kanshag. This is very worrying to say the least!

    It is not a good sign that the Congressman now call for a close monitor of the CTA in terms of their capability to comply with the democratic standards which the donation is meant for. It is also not a good sign that the Congress of the United States is unaware of how their donations are being used, and there seems a lack of system in tracking and tracing whether all donations they have made are being utilised as agreed.

    It is understandable that a system like this may tighten the flexibility for sum to be used and certain amount of flexibility is necessary but it is unacceptable if a monitor system is not in place to follow up after so many years. The amount of the sum does matter, but what matter most is the tracking for the use so that none of the tax payers’ money is being wasted unnecessarily. $19 million is a huge sum which could be used to improve the health care system in the United States for example, than to be given to corrupted government who took the donation for their selfish interest.

  4. Ashok Rao

    April 13, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Thanks Michaela and Amber,

    This whole issue surrounding the Tibetan elections shows what a farce Tibetan politics has turned into. In fact, if you look at the history of the secular government within Tibetan history they have always had very corrupt individuals who just want money and power. They simply don’t care about harmony within the Tibetan community who have so many problems as it is.

    Within the current system here in India, Tibetans are considered refugees, even though having lived and grown up in the country. Due to the current situation given that the Tibetans have their own system of Administration, many Tibetans face a lot of bureaucracy in having to deal with two administrative processes. In spite of this, their own leaders continue their corrupt behavior.

    Even after being scolded so badly by their own protector deities, the Tibetan leadership continue their inane efforts to promote peace and harmony, when they themselves are the cause of so much pain within the Tibetan community, as seen here:

    From very close and personal experience, there is a strong Tibetan presence in Mumbai who face so many difficulties. And i know that many are Dorje Shugden practitioners, but hide their religious heritage and practice in fear of their own government. This adds to the already incredibly difficult situation they face, such as even something as simple as opening a bank account. The Tibetans are really in limbo, and yet the leadership keeps talking big and pocketing international funds meant to aid the Tibetans. It’s a very sorry state that my Tibetan friends have found themselves in.

  5. Olivia

    April 13, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Finally, someone from the US side has decided to speak up about the unjustness operation of the Tibetan Administration. It is indeed a shame on the leadership for having someone to tell them how to run a democratic country or watch them to make sure they are ‘doing the right thing’.

    The donors from the States should be informed about the truths, why keep funding them when all they are capable of doing is corruption? They use the funds to discriminate their own people and encourage their own people to ostracise Dorje Shugden practitioners.

    Dorje Shugden is a personal religious choice and I don’t understand what is it gonna do with how they run the country. As in them being corrupted is not going to upset His Holiness the Dalai Lama… Moreover, from various sources and debates, Dorje Shugden has been proven to be an enlightened Buddha, a Buddha does not have the intention or karma to hurt others.

    I respect and love His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I believe that His Holiness manifested this for a higher cause. I do not wish Him to be ill, I just pray that may the ban be lifted very soon.

  6. Rinchen

    April 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

    It is just great to finally see someone speaking up from the Western side of the world about how the CTA is running.

    It is just so shameful for the CTA to be having leaders like that. With the recent scolding that these 2 leaders have and not being allowed to receive the Dalai Lama when He came back just shows how bad they are at their positions. It is very sad to see things like that they being the leaders have to be treated like children. With that, how can the Tibetans trust them in being their leaders to lead them? They themselves cannot even handle their own lives. How are they going to provide for others?

  7. Ashok Rao

    April 13, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Thanks to Olivia and Rinchen for your comments to the article. Its good to know that there are other people who see the truth of the situation. With the truth out there, it should motivate other people to speak up and change this archaic and backward way of leading people. This is the only way that the situation for the average Tibetan will change.

  8. Dharmacrazy

    April 13, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    In recent years, political leaders and governing bodies from USA, UK, Norway just ot name a few have been dodging the Dalai Lama as an effort to appease and befriend China.Besides cutting political and social support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan authorities, I would not be surprised that China would want to see the termination of economic support.

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s accusation of CTA’s mismanagement of funds could be the perfect excuse to stop American sponsors from supporting HIs Holiness, the CTA and the free Tibet cause. It could be the accumulation of this CTA’s arrogance to be above the law, their recklessness to be blatantly corrupt and unethical that forced Nechung and Tseringma to chastise Penpa Tsering and Sikoyong Lobsang Sangya. It is highly possible that this shameful failure of the CTA is killing the holy works of the Dalai Lama by contaminating the reputation of this icon of peace and compassion with fund “mismanagement” – a type of stigma that no one wants to be associated with.

    The saddest part of all this is that it is completely the doing of the tibetan leadership.

    if America stops of funds to the Tibetans in exile, there is no telling which other government will use this opportunity to also use this reason as an excuse to do the same.

  9. Pema

    April 13, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    It is relieving that the corruption in the Central Tibetan Administration gets known.
    Dana Rohrabacher states his concern about the CTA but I hope his warning will be heard this time.

    The CTA does not care about their people and democracy. The amount received by the CTA for various projects with 19 million US Dollars in 2014 alone, must be used for the whole of the Tibetan people. So much is possible when the money is used wisely and towards long term benefit of all the Tibetans.

    Sadly, so much wonderful effort goes obviously into the wrong hands.

    May the ban on Dorje Shugden come down swiftly. It is time for the truth to shine forth.

  10. Lovett

    April 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    It is nice to see this letter and people are noticing that there is misappropriation of funds going on here. It is obvious and although this is commonplace in Tibetan society of old but this is not accepted in modern western society. There must be some sort of accountability with all the money being pumped into CTA. What are the measurables and what are the money really spent on? Nobody will keep pumping money into what looks like a personal enterprise masquerading as refugee government. Come on Lobsang Sangay and Penpa Tsering! It is time to own up to the issues and look for real medium to long term solutions.

  11. Sengey

    April 13, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    I’m so glad that someone finally sees the unethical, corrupt CTA and spoke up! Thank you Dana Rohrabacher for sending this letter and I hope more would so that we do not allow the future of exile Tibetans to fall into the hands of the wrong kind of people who will not only mismanage us but also lead us to further failure. We already lost so much, our country, our dignity, our beliefs, and now looks like we’re losing good people to manage the exile community.

    Millions are being donated to the Tibetans in exile but how it is spent is another question and who is accountable for all this? I think it is high time these so called leaders be transparent on how they spend the millions they receive. If they are honest, then there is nothing to hide and the books will be clean. If they are unwilling, then we know.

    CTA is definitely not a democratic administration although they claim to be one and that is why one by one more and more of CTA’s officers will resign, more and more will speak up. Why because if we don’t, we are allowing ourselves to be doomed by the current corrupted leaders who only care about filling their own pockets… even the Gods are unhappy. Leaders lead their people to peace, harmony, prosperity, not further confusion, segregation, disunity and poverty and bullied into doing what the CTA wants to suit them. Tibetan should never be separated because of their spiritual differences, we’ve had that for centuries, that is why we have 4 different schools or 4 different sects.

    I call for a re-election! Lobasang Sangay and Penpa is not for the people, but more for themselves. Time to wake up Tibetans!

  12. Lukas Leibowitz

    April 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    HELL YEAH!! Nice to see someone in our government hasn’t been sucked in by that Shangri-la image the CTA’s PR machine has successfully crafted for Tibetan head honchos over the last 60 years. I’m tired of my taxes being used to prop up some failing democracy. We’ve had Iraq and Afghanistan and we’re always talking about pulling out of those conflicts. What’d we get out of those places? Oil, frickin’ oil. So why haven’t we pulled out of Dharamsala after 60 years when we have NOTHING to show for all of our investments? Our government’s still signing contracts with China, kissing their ass. Using the Dalai Lama as a trump card and negotiating tool? HA. Fat chance of that happening. First they ship our jobs to China then they tell us they have China by the balls using the Dalai Lama’s name. Yeah right. Like they would give up billions of dollars of trade for THE DALAI LAMA.

    The American government has a duty first and foremost to their citizens. GET OUT OF DHARAMSALA.

  13. Pema CY

    April 13, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    The leadership should take seriously Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’ letter and the open letter from the 27 long-time Tibet Supporters as they are not happy with the“undemocratic practices” of the present EC and warning that continuing support of Tibet supporters and Support Groups “…should not be wholly taken for granted”.

    That was not all, perhaps not known to non-Tibetans, there were also other open letters from Tibetans, such as the open letter to the Election Commission of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile by 52 individual Tibetans living in various countries, including US, Switzerland, France, Nepal, Belgium and India, which contains Seven Notes and Eighteen Questions the EC on issues arising from a set of new rules. There was a letter to from the Tibetan National Congress (TNC), a Tibetan political party was sent to the Chief EC about how they were met with a “locked door” despite their best effort to get their party recognised.

    The irony of the failure and Tibetan Election Commission in Dharamshala is that they are based on Indian soil, where the Indian EC is universally regarded as the effective and incorruptible guardian of free and fair elections throughout India. The corruption and unfair elimination of Lukar Jam may be an issue for public outcry, rubbing salt in the wound was how Penpa Tsering attacked Lobsang Sangay for failing to uphold his administrative duties while Lobsang Sangay embarked on a similar tour to defend himself. That reflects the quality of the Sikyong candidates. How would that make any positive impact on Tibetan freedom struggle?

    When a 19-year old Tashi Shitsetsang openly published and pointed out her disappointments with EC’s wrongdoings, you know the administration has really failed the people, big time. Echoing what she said, as an exiled community, CTA has to strive for the best democracy possible and send a strong message to China that, unlike them, CTA has a functional democracy in exile. However, what happened was the total opposite. Perhaps the CTA will only wake up when the plug for international financial support is pulled.

  14. Dev

    April 13, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this objective. Tibetan government is one the most corrupted. They use religion and poor me story take money from the west. It is so easy to see.. the article has shown perfect evidence. .thank you guys for the telling the truth..

  15. Gilded Cage Articles

    April 16, 2016 at 10:26 am

    For good, balanced overview of the whole dilemma facing the exile Tibetan community, including a summary of how the letter fits into the wider story, please read our Fraudulent Elections page.

  16. Eli Buchen

    June 2, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    We are indebted to Congressman Rohrabacher, for his continued and willingness to challenge the status quo. May Tibetan politicians have long enough benefited and are a parasitic organism to US and many governments kindness.

    Hence as CTA have received kindness from various NGO and countries it is high time they show their gratitude and genuinely benefit their own people and many others.

  17. Camilia

    June 8, 2016 at 1:25 am

    It is about time for the international watchdog to notice the rampant controversy, corruption and outright greed that is happening in CTA. US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is right to point out that the current situation within the Tibetan electoral process is unfair and highly undemocratic. There are also multiple reports of mismanagement of funds and corruption at the highest level within CTA. The huge amount of international aid bestowed upon the CTA are from various world powers, including, USD19 million by the US government in 2014, and USD$6 million in 2016, plus other forms of aid granted solely to alleviate poverty within the Tibetan refugee populace and for the promotion of democratic ideals and governance. The current political climate within Tibetan Leadership goes against the purpose of the aid they receive.

    Since the CTA and Tibetan people are surviving on largely international fund sponsored by the West, where USA is one of the largest sponsor; it is deplorable for CTA and to simply misuse the funds to satisfy their own greed and selfish agenda. And conveniently and very hypocritically accusing others of receiving money from governments, such as the often used claim that Dorje Shugden practitioners take money from the Chinese government. Based on observation on behavior of the CTA, it is unlikely they will enshrine the supposedly democratic ideals it is supposed to embody, including unity among Tibetan people of differing political views and religion practice.

    Shame on CTA.

  18. Samten

    January 28, 2018 at 1:09 am

    Although the Dalai Lama’s secretary had previously denied that the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million to speak for Raniere, a trace has been found that the Dalai Lama’s trust has received US$ 2 million in donation ten days after the event. Raniere is the leader of a cult called NXIVM which brands women on their pubic region with his initials and requires them to give him nude photos of themselves and other damaging material in case they reveal the secrets of his cult.

    Although the Dalai Lama office continues to deny that the donation was related to the speaking engagement, one can’t help but wonder whether His Holiness would have received such donation if he did not come to Albany to speak in the first place?

    Dalai Lama Secretary denies $1 million paid to speak for Raniere; Yet Dalai Lama Trust founded 10 days after Albany speech with $2 million in donations
    January 27, 2018 | By Frank Parlato
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary has denied the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million by Clare and Sara Bronfman to endorse cult leader Keith Raniere. That may be true. He might have got $2 million.
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary, Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, wrote:
    Clarification in Response to the Daily Mail Story of 24 January 2018
    The 24 January 2018 Daily Mail article by Ryan Parry regarding an appearance by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at an event held in Albany, New York in 2009 contains incorrect statements and untrue allegations. We wish to categorically state that His Holiness the Dalai Lama never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort, nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organizations, as a condition of his making a personal appearance. Therefore, the reported allegation has no basis. Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor the Dalai Lama Foundation ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with His Holiness’s appearance in Albany. As reported in the Daily Mail, during His Holiness’s talk in Albany in 2009, he called on the media to investigate the allegations made about the NXIVM organization and its founder, and was quite clear that the truth should be exposed.

    It is true, the Dalai Lama asked the media to investigate Keith Raniere. But whether he received money or not is another issue. Let’s parse the above statement a little:
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary said the Dalai Lama “never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort”.
    A donation is not a fee or an honorarium.
    The secretary said: “nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organizations, as a condition of his making a personal appearance.”
    Again, the secretary says a payment was not required. But he does not say a donation was not made by Clare and Sara Bronfman.
    The Dalai Lama appeared in Albany on May 6, 2009 and he gave Raniere a white scarf onstage. He allowed the Bronfman sisters to sit onstage with him. [For readers unaware, Keith Raniere heads a cult called NXIVM which brands women on their pubic region with his initials and requires them to give him nude photos of themselves and other damaging material in case they reveal the secrets of his cult.]
    The Dalai Lama may have received a donation that was understood to be an ‘unconditional donation” not connected to his speaking engagement in Albany.
    He may have agreed to speak in Albany, and they may have agreed the donation was unconnected to his speaking so, therefore, it not ‘connected’ to his appearance.
    The Dalai Lama’s secretary does not deny that the Bronfmans donated money.  The Secretary said, “Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor the Dalai Lama Foundation ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with His Holiness’s appearance in Albany.” [emphasis mine].
    I get it: He did not receive the $1 million ‘in connection with His Holiness’s appearance’ but, again, the secretary does not say the Dalai Lama did not get $1 million [or possibly more] from the Bronfmans.
    He only states the Dalai Lama did not get $1 million ‘in connection with his appearance’.
    It may have been what is called an ‘unconditional donation.’
    Now let us look at some coincidences:
    The Dalai Lama spoke in Albany on May 6, 2009.
    The Dalai Lama Trust was founded May 16, 2009. [10 days later].
    See the Dalai Lama trust’s IRS return for 2009.
    See also: Dalai Lama Trust certificate of incorporation.
    The IRS return shows $2.2 million in unconditional donations and royalties for 2009.
    It could be a coincidence, but it is peculiar that the Dalai Lama appears in Albany on May 6, 2009 and 10 days later the Dalai Lama trust is formed in the USA which gets $2 million plus in donations etc.
    When I worked for NXIVM/Bronfmans, I was told by a high ranking NXIVM official that, prior to the Dalai Lama’s coming to speak [before he canceled the first time] the Bronfman sisters pledged to donate $1 million to him.
    When he canceled, the sisters, plus Keith Raniere and Lama Tenzin, rushed to India to get the Dalai Lama to change his mind. I was no longer working for NXIVM. But I heard they offered the Dalai Lama another million [making it $2 million]. I never confirmed the second million, and I never saw the checks.
    It may be true the Bronfmans did not donate anything. But it seems far fetched that the Dalai Lama came at his own expense to Albany and got nothing in return. And then a trust suddenly opens in the US just 10 days after his appearance?

  19. Anonymous

    January 30, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    ‘Tibetans are surviving on donations and supports from the Tibet supporters, and taking advantage by collecting huge sums as salary is unthinkable and unethical. Every time “they are in the public, they show the best of their face, while they collect unreasonable salaries which could be used to pay off the salary in CTA for long period of time.’Not only does it seem to be a high salary for someone employed by a charity, and in comparison to others, but it was also a 30% rise on the year before. ‘Looking at the tax filings for 2012 and 2013, his salary increased from $64k to $82k. That’s an increase in salary by about 30%. That’s a huge pay increase. Who decides those pay increases? and on what basis?’”

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