In a recent “Last Week Tonight” segment on the Washington, D.C. statehood issue, host John Oliver mentioned a quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to illustrate the lack of voting rights for residents of the nation’s capital:
… he wondered why a “small pocket” of people living in the world’s “champion of democracy…” lacked full voting rights…
Oliver went on to state how even His Holiness described the current system as “quite strange,” to audible laughs from the show’s audience members. Making a humorous reference to actor Richard Gere, Chairman of the DC-based Tibet lobbying group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), Oliver remarked:
And it is not good when a guy from Tibet says, “Wow, this situation is really undemocratic… someone should do something about it — Does Richard Gere know about this? Someone should tell him!”
Emphasizing his point by citing D.C.’s license plate — which reads, “taxation without representation” — and omission of the District from songs about the 50 states, John Oliver noted that the U.S. is the only democracy in the world that denies representation to the residents of their capital, despite paying federal taxes and comprising a larger population than some states.
The state of Tibetan democracy is particularly relevant now with the upcoming exile elections, including the 2016 re-election of the Tibetan political leader (སྲིད་སྐྱོང༌ “Sikyong”) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). His Holiness — who devolved his political power to the elected position of Sikyong in 2011 — presently remains in exile in Dharamsala, India where Tibet’s exiled government has been headquartered since his escape from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 1959.
As one article put it, “the Dalai Lama has some knowledge of governments encroaching on democratic autonomy.”