Interview: Miss Tibet shares thoughts on sports and pageants

Standing in front of an oversized picture of the Dalai Lama, the 23-year-old Tibetan beauty queen from India clasped her palms together and bowed her head before pulling up a chair.

"I respect His Holiness and I follow his teachings," she said, saying the phrase "role model" was grossly insufficient to describe the impact that the Tibetan spiritual leader has had on her and on the world, "because he is everything."

Tsering Chungtak, a sociology major from the University of New Delhi, made headlines last December when she was expelled from the 2007 Miss Tourism competition in Malaysia for standing up against the Chinese government and refusing to wear a sash that read "Miss Tibet-China."

It had been reported that the Chinese government pressured the organizers to bar Chungtak from participating in the event unless she took off the "Miss Tibet" sash.

"I refused to wear the sash because the title [Miss Tibet-China] is unacceptable to me and it will remain unacceptable until the Tibet issue is resolved," she said.

In an interview with the BBC, Chungtak said she was shocked when she was asked to leave for her refusal to wear the sash because "this is a beauty pageant, it's not at all related to politics."

"I did not call my parents when it happened. I made the decision myself on the spot," she said.

The aspiring actress and singer who repeatedly referred to herself as a "simple, humble" person, was crowned Miss Tibet in 2006 in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamsala, home of the Tibetan government-in-exile and residence of 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate the Dalai Lama.

This marked the second time that a Tibetan beauty pageant entrant has claimed Chinese influence on the competition.

In 2005, Tashi Yangchen also left the contest after the Chinese authorities said she would have to enter as Miss Tibet-China.

In spite of China's human-rights abuses in Tibet, Chungtak told the Taipei Times in an exclusive interview that she believes Beijing should still host the upcoming Olympic Games.

"I think Beijing should get the opportunity to host the Olympics because the games celebrate the spirit of sports. Moreover, it gives Beijing a chance to prove its claims about the human rights conditions in Tibet and China," she said, adding the international event will also give the world the opportunity to judge the truthfulness of Beijing's claims.

Chungtak arrived in Taiwan last Tuesday at the invitation of the Miss Taiwan organizers. She also took part in the 2008 Tibetan Olympic Torch relay, which made its stop in Taiwan yesterday.

"As a Tibetan, I cannot speak for Taiwan. But I believe the future of Taiwan is in the hands of the Taiwanese people and no one else should be allowed to make any decisions regarding Taiwan," she said.

When asked about her experience over the last five days, Chungtak said Taiwan was a beautiful country. However she declined to comment further on Taiwan's democracy, saying she did not wish to say anything that could be construed as influencing mext month's presidential race.

Copyright © 2008 Taipei Times

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Taipei Times – /2008/02/25/2003402746