There are not many Tibetans on Twitter who regularly tweet social and political commentary. Those who are, though, fall primarily in the younger demographic of the exile voting public, and which I shall refer to as #TibetanTwitter hereonout, . As such, they have proven adept at utilizing new/social media tools to engage both Tibetans and non-Tibetans. Among those include a young Tibetan-Canadian, who live-tweeted a campaign event by 2016 Sikyong candidate Penpa Tsering, who is currently Speaker of the Tibetan Exile Parliament:
— Urgyen (@UrgyenB) January 24, 2016
As the event began, many used witticisms to highlight the usual talking points of the Sikyong candidates, including heavy reliance on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s name (who devolved political power in 2011 to the democratically elected post of ‘Sikyong’, which literally translates to ‘political leader’ in Tibetan, which is the post that Tsering and several others are contesting).
We need a #Sikyong2016 drinking game. Chug your chhang every time someone mentions Kundun
— Tenzin (@tenzinster) January 24, 2016
— Tenzin དཔལ་སྐྱིད (@TenzinPelkyi) January 24, 2016
Comments quickly took a critical turn, however, as the talk got underway:
Folks, a new phrase has been coined today: to be ‘stunned tweetless.’ From @GelekB for your citation purposes.
— Carole McGranahan (@CMcGranahan) January 24, 2016
Some contentious parts of the talk included the murder and corruption allegations against the Speaker, which led him to temporarily resign his post in a dramatic speech on the floor of the parliament last year. Tsering also devoted a significant portion of his talk to criticizing Tibetans relying too heavily on non-Tibetans for support, including the group Students For A Free Tibet (SFT), which he asserted should not involve itself in ‘internal’ Tibetan affairs:
2.5 hrs & finally we’ve come to questions of his alleged murders and drinking problem. I’m so zonked I don’t even care anymore. #Sikyong2016
— Gelek Rinpoche (@GelekB) January 24, 2016
During the Q+A session, questions included the controversy over the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest Tibet advocacy NGO, adopting the exile administration’s “Middle Way” policy and disputes among its ranks that recently spilled over at the most recent annual March 10th protests celebrating the 1959 uprising and subsequent resistance movement against the communist-led occupation of Tibet.
Tsering ended the Q+A by promising to speak with Tibetan youth separately, and in English. He asked those interested to speak with the Canadian Tibetan cultural association about organizing such an event. After the talk, a dinner was held at the community center.