And the winner was Sonam Choedon, a shy 18-year-old with shiny waist-length black hair and high cheekbones. At 16, she fled her homeland on the Tibetan plateau to Dharmsala, headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile.
“We can’t feel too much happiness with what was going on in Tibet,” Choedon said. “But winning Miss Tibet means I can contribute to the Tibetan cause. It gives me a platform to talk about Tibet.”
And that infuriates China, which annexed Tibet nearly 60 years ago. In the long-standing conflict between the world’s most populous country and a tiny community of Buddhists seeking a return to their homeland, the Miss Tibet pageant is a symbol of defiance against Chinese rule. China has successfully pressured organizers of international beauty pageants to bar entrants from Tibet who refuse to wear a sash that reads, “Miss Tibet-China.”