GIM daily proclamations

Historical facts concerning Tibet and China

17th century: brief historical beginning of Tibet in China    17th century

1903 to 1904: invasion and conquest of Lhasa by the British    Period 1903 to 1904

1911 to 1959: Tibet ruled by a few upper class monks and nobles    Period 1911 to 1959

1951 to 1979: China regained power over Tibet and started rebuilding Tibet infrastructure, educational system, land given back to all Tibetans, development projects, etc.    Period 1951 to 1979

1979 to 1982: Beijing embraced a policy that emphasized meeting the ethnic sensibilities of Tibetans while improving their economic situation    Period 1979 to 1982

1982 to 1984: Dalai Lama leadership started on a more agresssive campaign to destabilize China    Period 1982 to 1984

1985 to 1986: Great strides have been made to allow Tibetan culture to flourish    Period 1985 to 1986

1986 to 1987: Dalai Lama launched a new strategic initiative whose aim was to secure increased political support from the U.S. promising he would allow an American military base to be in Tibet    Period 1986 to 1987

1987: October 1, 1987, riot organized by the Dalai Lama    1987

1989: More Chinese projects to improve the standard of living of Tibetans and modernize their society    1989

1994: Beijing continues modernizing the education system of Tibet (non-existent before 1959)    1994

2005: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence.   2005

2008: Buddhist monks under the leadership of the Dalai Lama orchestrated riots in Tibet to try to mar the 2008 Summer Olympics in August 2008 and overthrow the area's Tibetan leaders. They seek U.S.A. military to fight his war, promising again he would allow an American military base to be in Tibet.    2008



17th century (brief historical beginning of Tibet in China)
The gradual merger of the Tubo culture of the Yalong Valley in the middle part of the basin of the Yarlung Zangbo River, and the ancient Shang-Shung culture of the western part of the Qinghai, Tibet Plateau formed the native Tibetan culture.

Buddhism was introduced to the Tubo people from the Central Plain of China, India and Nepal, and gradually developed into Tibetan Buddhism with its distinctive characteristics.

China is a united multi-ethnic country. As a member of the big family of the Chinese nation, the Tibetan people have created and developed their brilliant and distinctive culture during a long history of continuous exchanges and contacts with other ethnic groups, all of whom have assimilated and promoted each other's cultures. Tibetan culture has all along been a dazzling pearl in the treasure-house of Chinese culture as well as that of the world as a whole.

The Indian and Nepalese cultures of South Asia, the Persian and Arabic cultures of West Asia and especially the Han Chinese culture of the Central Plain had considerable influence on the development of Tibetan culture.

Tibet later became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles. This ensured that Tibetan Buddhist culture gained the dominant position in Tibetan culture for a long period of time, until the Democratic Reform was carried out in 1959. Throughout this period, a handful of upper-class lamas and aristocrats monopolized the means of production, culture and education. Dalai Lama and his regents were the predominant political power administering religious and administrative authority over large parts of Tibet from the traditional capital Lhasa. Cultural and artistic pursuits were regarded as their exclusive amusements, while the serfs and slaves, who constituted 96 percent of the Tibetan population, lived in extreme poverty and were not guaranteed even the basic right of subsistence and freedom, let alone the right to enjoy culture and education. The long reign of feudal serfdom under theocracy not only severely fettered the growth of the productive forces in Tibet, but also resulted in a hermetically sealed and moribund traditional Tibetan culture, including cultural relics, historic sites and sites for Buddhist worship. As for modern science, technology, culture and education, they did not get any chance to develop at all.

Tibet proclaimed its independence from China in 1911, right before the fall of the Qing government. However, at no time did any western power come out in favor of its independence or grant it diplomatic recognition. The People's Republic of China (PRC), citing historical records and the Seventeen Point Agreement signed by the Tibetan government in 1951, claims Tibet as a part of China (with a small part, depending on definitions, controlled by India). Currently every country in the world recognizes China's sovereignty over Tibet.

1903 - 1904
The "Tibet Question", the political status of Tibet vis-a-vis China, is an intractable nationalistic conflict that has become a volatile component of Sino-American relations. The roots of the conflict can be traced back hundreds of years, but in modern times the Tibet Question entered the international arena at the turn of the 19th century when British attempts to open relations with Tibet culminated in the 1903-04 invasion and conquest of Lhasa by the British. Lhasa was, and is still today, the governing site of the of Tibet.

"British history" inspired monk Tibitans and warlords (nobles) to declare independence.

The Qing China, which considered Tibet politically subordinate, countered this perceived threat to its hegemony by taking measures to increase its control over Tibet's administration. These actions ended in 1911 when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in China.

This was a great opportunity for monk Tibitans and warlords (nobles) to declare independence. And they did. Monk Tibetans then expelled all Chinese troops and officials and the 13th Dalai Lama triumphantly returned from exile in India, immediately issuing a proclamation that is considered by many Tibetans to be a declaration of independence.

1911 - 1959
From 1911-1959, Tibet functioned as a defacto independent nation, conducting all governmental functions without interference from China or any other country. Nevertheless, its international status was ambivalent since China continued to claim Tibet as part of its state.

The victory of the Chinese Communists over Chiang Kaishek and the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on 1 October 1949 set in motion events which two years later broke the post-1911 Sino-Tibetan deadlock regarding the Tibet Question. Like the Kuomintang (KMT) Government of Chiang Kaishek and the Qing Dynasty, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949 considered Tibet a part of China.

In its early years, the CCP followed the Soviet Union's lead and advocated a model of nationality affiliation wherein ethnic territories would be autonomous republics and would have the right of secession. By the end of World War II, however, its nationality policy had shifted towards political centralism: the new communist nation would be an indivisibly multi-ethnic state with nationality areas considered only autonomous regions. In late 1949, therefore, the new Chinese communist government proclaimed that Tibet, like Hainan Island and Taiwan, was an integral part of China, and set its liberation as a major goal for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950.

When the People's Republic of China (PRC) refers to Tibet, it means the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR): a province-level entity which, according to the territorial claims of the PRC, includes Arunachal Pradesh. The TAR covers the Dalai Lama's former domain, consisting of -Tsang and western Kham, while Amdo and eastern Kham are part of Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, and Sichuan. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Central People's Government attached great importance to the protection and development of the fine aspects of traditional Tibetan culture.

The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 quickly ended Tibet's defacto independence. The Communists, like the Nationalists of Chiang Kaishek, claimed Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, and invaded Tibet's eastern province in October 1950 to force the Tibetan government to commence negotiations to accept such a status. They quickly vanquished the Tibetan forces. The 14th Dalai Lama sent a negotiating team to Beijing.

In May 1951, representatives of the central and local governments signed the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Tibetan Local Government on Measures for Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, widely known as the 17 Point Agreement.

This agreement recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, but also recognized the right of the Dalai Lama's government to continue to administer Tibet, at least until the Tibetan people and leaders wanted reforms.

The central government of China adopted the principle of peaceful liberation of Tibet in light of historic and actual situation in the region after the founding of People's Republic of China in 1949.

In 1954, Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama went to Beijing to attend the first session of the National People's Congress (NPC), at which the Dalai Lama was elected vice chairman of the NPC standing committee, while Panchen was elected a member of the NPC standing committee.

In 1956, the preparatory committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up and the Dalai Lama served as head of the committee.

In March 1959, some officials of the former Tibet local government Kasha and some members in the upper class launched an armed rebellion, which attempted to safeguard the feudal serf system, split the country and oppose democratic reforms in Tibet. Acting on the order of the central government, the Chinese People's Liberation Army stationed in Tibet put it down.

1951 - 1979
Tibet signed an agreement with China on 23 May 1951. It was called the "Seventeen Point Agreement For The Peaceful Liberation of Tibet."

The 17 Point Agreement, however, proved difficult to operationalize, and after an eight year period of coexistence, a Tibetan uprising occurred in Lhasa in 1959. The Dalai Lama then fled to exile at Dharamsala in India, followed by about 80,000 Tibetans. China now set aside the agreement and established a people's government in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, in India, similarly denounced the agreement, claiming Tibet's right to self determination and independence. The political status of Tibet vis-a-vis China reemerged as a contested issue.

The 17 Point Agreement was a new chapter in Sino-Tibetan relations since it officially ended the conflict over the "Tibet Question." China agreed to maintain the Dalai Lama and the traditional politico-economic system intact until such time that Tibetans wanted reforms. China therefore achieved its most fundamental goal: Tibetan acceptance of its sovereignty over Tibet and agreement to Tibet becoming part of China. It achieved this by agreeing to continue the feudal-theocratic government and political economy, at least for the foreseeable future. The agreement also set Tibet apart from other nationality areas of China in that it was only with Tibet that Beijing entered into a written agreement with the traditional government that allowed it to continue to rule.

Two main factions emerged. One advocated denouncing the agreement and fleeing into exile, while the other argued that the Dalai Lama should return to Lhasa and abide by the terms of the accord. The pro-return faction looked to parts of the agreement such as Point 5 which stated that:

The central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The central authorities also will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama. Officials of various ranks shall hold office as usual.

The "rejection" faction, led by lay officials such as the Council Minister Surkhang, believed the Chinese could not be trusted to abide by these terms once they controlled the country. They viewed with apprehension vague sections of the agreement mentioning that reforms could be made if the Tibetan people wanted them. They also did not like the fact that the agreement gave China the right to station troops in Tibet and handle Tibet's defense and foreign affairs. And ultimately, they feared that admitting Chinese sovereignty now would preclude claims to independence later should the situation change.

The 17 Point Agreement established a written set of mutually agreed upon ground rules for Tibet-Chinese interaction and held out the promise that Tibet could function as part of the People's Republic of China without losing its distinctive way of life. This was far less than the autonomy stipulated in Simla, but it was a formula China formally accepted. The Dalai Lama signaled his formal acceptance of it with a telegram to Mao Zedung sent in late October 1951.

Since the signing of the Seventeen Point Agreement in 1951, Tibet has been officially regained by China. According to this Agreement between the Tibetan and Chinese central governments, the Dalai Lama ruled Tibet, an area that was called a highly autonomous area of China. Before 1951, according to anthropologists, a vast majority of the people of Tibet were serfs often bound to land owned by monasteries and aristocrats, and most Tibetans were still serfs in 1951, and have proclaimed that the Tibetan government inhibited the development of Tibet during its self-rule from 1911 to 1959, and opposed modernization efforts by the Chinese government.

This Seventeen Point Agreement in 1951 was initially put into effect in Central Tibet. However, Eastern Kham and Amdo were considered by the Chinese to be outside the administration of the government of Tibet in Lhasa, and were thus treated like any other Chinese province with land redistribution implemented in full. Most lands were taken away from noblemen and monasteries and re-distributed to serfs. As a result, a rebellion led by noblemen and monasteries broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June 1956. The insurrection, supported by the American CIA, eventually spread to Lhasa. It was crushed by 1959. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. The 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India, but isolated resistance continued in Tibet until 1972 when the CIA abruptly withdrew its support. After the Lhasa rebellion in 1959, the Chinese government lowered the level of autonomy of Central Tibet, and implemented full-scale land redistribution in all areas of Tibet.

The "Seventeen-Article Agreement" on measures for the peaceful liberation of Tibet signed by the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet in 1951 clearly stipulates:
"In accordance with the actual conditions of Tibet, the spoken and written Tibetan language and school education will be progressively developed."

In 1959, with the support of the Central Government, Tibet carried out the Democratic Reform to abolish the feudal serf system and liberate the million serfs and slaves, and implemented the ethnic regional autonomy system step by step. This marked the advent of a new era in the social and cultural development of Tibet, and ended the monopoly exercised over Tibetan culture by the few upper class feudal lamas and aristocrats, making it the common legacy for all the people of Tibet to inherit and carry on.

In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Central People's Government and the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have made great efforts in the past 40-plus years to promote the social and economic development of Tibet, to satisfy the Tibetan people's increasing needs for their cultural lives. At the same time, they have devoted large amounts of human, financial and material resources to protecting and carrying forward the fine aspects of traditional Tibetan culture, as well as initiating and developing modern science, culture and education by employing legal, economic and administrative means. As a result, considerable achievements attracting worldwide attention have been attained. All the people in Tibet, as masters of the new era, jointly carry on, develop and enjoy the traditional Tibetan culture, and jointly create modern civilized life and culture, bringing unprecedented prosperity and development to Tibetan culture.

During the period 1911-1959 when Tibet became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper class monks and nobles, the Tibetan Government did nothing to improve the Tibetans' material and political standard of life, and opposed any reforms proposed by the Chinese government. This is the reason for the tension that grew between some central government officials and the local Tibetan government in 1959. The lives of Tibetans have deteriorated during that period of time.

After 1959, China regained power over Tibet. The lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to self rule before 1959. From 1959 to 2008, the Tibetan population in Lhasa administered Tibet has increased from 1.2 million to 3 million. Benefits that are commonly quoted include the GDP of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) today is thirty times that of before 1959, workers in Tibet have the second highest wages in China, the TAR has 22,500 km of highways, as opposed to none in 1959, all secular education in the TAR was created after the revolution, the TAR now has 25 scientific research institutes as opposed to none in 1959, infant mortality has dropped from 43% in 1959 to 0.7% in 2000, life expectancy has risen from 34 years in 1959 to 68 in 2000, the collection and publishing of the traditional Epic of King Gesar, which is the longest epic poem in the world and had only been handed down orally before, allocation of 300 million Renminbi since the 1980s for the maintenance and protection of Tibetan monasteries. The Cultural Revolution and the cultural damage it wrought upon the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe, whose main instigators, in the PRC's view, the Gang of Four, have been brought to justice. The China Western Development plan is a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the wealthier eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards.

The PRC government does not view itself as an occupying power and has vehemently denied allegations of demographic swamping. The PRC also does not recognize Greater Tibet as claimed by the government of Tibet in Exile, saying that the idea was engineered by foreign imperialists as a plot to divide China amongst themselves, (Mongolia being a striking precedent, gaining independence with Soviet backing and subsequently aligning itself with the Soviet Union) and that those areas outside the TAR were not controlled by the Tibetan government before 1959 in the first place, having been administered instead by other surrounding provinces for centuries.

Mao Zedung, contrary to popular belief in the West, pursued a policy of moderation and patience in Tibet, although his ultimate aim was clearly to transform Tibet in accordance with socialist goals. He sought to persuade Tibet's leaders over time to genuinely accept "reintegration" with China and agree to a societal transformation to socialism. His strategy placed great emphasis on creating cordial relations between Han (ethnic Chinese) and Tibetans, and allaying Tibetan fears and anxieties. The PLA troops, for example, worked hard to differentiate themselves from previous Chinese regimes. Calling themselves "New Chinese," the PLA troops in Tibet emphasized they had come to help Tibet develop, not exploit and abuse it. They were careful to show respect for Tibetan culture and religion, giving alms, for example, to all 20,000 of the monks in the Lhasa area. This rhetoric was supported by enforcement of a strict behavioral code that precluded the PLA from taking anything against the will of the people, and that required them to pay for everything in silver coins (dayan) rather than paper money. Moreover, the old feudal and monastic systems were allowed to continue unchanged between 1951-59 there was absolutely no expropriation of the property of aristocratic and religious landlords. At the heart of this strategy was the Dalai Lama. Mao saw him, in particular, as the vehicle by which the feudal and religious elites (and then the masses) would come to accept their place in China's new multi-ethnic communist state.

Mao's policy, however, encountered many problems. Within the communist party one clique argued that the party should back Tibet's second greatest incarnation, the Panchen Lama, since he was politically a "progressive." And many of the PLA's battle-hardened commanders in Tibet found it difficult to show respect for the feudal elites and sit by and leave the old system intact. There was strong feeling among the key Chinese generals in Tibet that allowing serfdom to continue was intolerable and that land reforms should begin. Plans were actually made to begin such reforms in 1956 although they were never implemented due to intervention by Mao Zedung.

Such feelings were particularly strong in "ethnographic Tibet" where they were acted upon in 1955-56 at the time of the "socialist transformation of agriculture" campaign. At the end of 1955, for example, Li Jingquan, the Party Secretary in Sichuan, started reforms in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan. The result of this campaign was disastrous for Tibet since it led to a bloody Tibetan uprising which eventually spilled over into political Tibet and was a major factor precipitating the 1959 uprising in Lhasa.

By the mid 1950s, the situation inside Tibet began to rapidly deteriorate. Chinese hard-liners were pushing to begin implementing "socialist transformation" in Tibet proper, and Tibet hard-liners were organizing an armed rebellion. Moreover, by 1956 the U.S. was encouraging the anti-Chinese faction, and in 1957, actually started to train and arm Tibetan guerrillas. Mao made a last attempt to salvage his gradualist policy in 1957 when he reduced the number of Han cadre and troops in Tibet and promised the Dalai Lama in writing that China would not implement socialist land reforms in Tibet for the next six years. Furthermore, at the end of that period, Mao stated that he would postpone reforms again if conditions were not ripe.

in March 1959, the Dalai Lama lead an uprising that broke out in Lhasa and ended with his flight into exile in India. The Dalai Lama then renounced the 17 Point Agreement and sought support for Tibet's independence and self-determination. The Tibet Question reemerged as an international issue. Mao's "gradualist" policy had failed.

At the same time, the Tibetan rebellion also failed dismally. The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) support for the guerrillas was too little too late, and the Tibetan guerrilla forces were unable to hold any territory within Tibet as a "Free Tibet" base of operations as they initially hoped. The CIA subsequently assisted the guerrillas in establishing a safe-haven base of operations in northern Nepal, but this had no impact on the political situation in Tibet.

In the wake of the Dalai Lama's flight to India, the Chinese government also renounced the 17 Point Agreement and then terminated the traditional government, confiscated the estates of the religious and secular elites, re-distributed the land to the serfs, and closed down most of Tibet's several thousand monasteries. Tibet's special status as a traditional political entity within the communist Chinese state was now ended.

Up to this point in time, China was able to reform land tenure in Tibet to the benefit of many poor peasants.

But the Chinese experience of the 1950s started a serious split within the CCP regarding its Tibet policy. Throughout the 1950s, there were grumblings within the CCP about Mao's moderation policy, particularly what some considered his misguided views about the Dalai Lama who they felt was being duplicitous in giving the impression he was a progressive when in reality he was pursuing "splittist" policies. These elements quietly blamed this policy for the 1959 rebellion and the re-inter-nationalization of the Tibet Question, and today some in China consider this "moderation" policy one of the party's (Mao's) greatest failures.

For the Dalai Lama, the hope that the U.S. would exert leadership in garnering world support for their cause and help them regain their country ended when Kissinger/ Nixon established rapprochement with China in the years after 1969. At this point, the U.S. withdrew its backing for the Nepal-based Tibetan guerrillas and the operation collapsed within a few years. With its China policy focused on improving the accommodation with China, Tibet became an awkward embarrassment for the U.S. The Tibet Question not only was no longer relevant to U.S. national interests, in fact, it was potentially harmful. By the mid 1970s, therefore, shifting world alignments placed the Dalai Lama in a much weakened position.

Consequently, the Dalai Lama' post-1959 efforts had no impact on the situation in Tibet. The CCP restructured farming and pastoral nomadic areas into communes. The people of Tibet got their land back from the monks and nobles.

In September 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region was founded.

Post-Mao Tibet: 1979 to 1982
The death of Mao Zedung in 1976, the subsequent fall of the "Gang of Four," and the rise to power of Deng Xiaoping, produced major changes in China that included a new cultural and economic ideology, normalization of relations with the United States, and new initiatives to reconcile two outstanding conflicts that concerned the unity of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and the Tibet Question. Concerning Tibet, in 1978, China made a number of unilateral gestures such as releasing a group of prisoners, announcing Tibetans will be able to visit relatives abroad, and issuing visas to a group of private Tibetans to visit Tibet. This developed quickly into an "external" strategy for trying to solve the Tibet Question by persuading the Dalai Lama and his followers to return to China. Informal talks took place in Hong Kong in 1978 between representatives of the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama's elder brother (Gyalo Thundrup) at which both sides expressed an interest in reconciling the Tibetan Question. Soon after this, in 1979, Deng Xiaoping invited the Dalai Lama's elder brother to Beijing and told him that apart from the question of total independence all other issues could be discussed and all problems could be resolved. He also said that the Dalai Lama could send fact-finding delegations to Tibet in 1979-1980 to observe conditions in Tibet. Beijing obviously believed that the delegations would be impressed by the progress that had been made in Tibet since 1959 and by the solidarity of the Tibetan people with the nation. China also felt that after twenty years in exile the Dalai Lama would be eager for rapprochement with the new, more "liberal" leaders of China.

Sino-Tibetan relations entered a new phase in 1978 when China embarked on a more liberal trajectory under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing embraced a policy that emphasized meeting the ethnic sensibilities of Tibetans while improving their economic situation. At the same time, Beijing and the Tibetan exiles began secret talks to resolve their dispute.

Beijing's external strategy was paralleled by the development of a new internal strategy that sought to resolve the Tibet Question by improving economic conditions in Tibet in a manner that met the ethnic sensibilities of Tibetans. After considerable preliminary investigation of the situation there, the communist party convened a major Tibet Work Conference in Beijing in early 1980.

In May of 1980, Party Secretary Hu Yaobang and Vice Premier Wan Li made an unprecedented fact-finding visit to Tibet to see conditions for themselves and determine whether the plan of the Tibet Work Conference needed revisions. Hu publicly announced a liberal six-point reform program on Tibet which included among its salient points:

1.     Full play must be given to the right of regional autonomy of minority nationalities under the unified leadership of the party Central Committee.

The right to decide for oneself under unified leadership should not be abolished. It is necessary fully and independently to exercise this right. Anything that is not suited to Tibet's conditions should be rejected or modified, along with anything that is not beneficial to national unity or the development of production. The autonomous region should fully exercise its right to decide for itself under the unified leadership of the party central committee, and it should lay down laws, rules and regulations according to its special characteristics to protect the right of national autonomy and its special national interests.

2.     Compared with other provinces and autonomous regions of the country, it is conspicuous that in Tibet the people's living standards lag far behind. This situation means that the burden of the masses must be considerably lightened. The people in Tibet should be exempt from paying taxes and meeting purchase quotas for the next few years. All kinds of exactions must be abolished. The people should not be assigned any additional work without pay. Peasants' and herdsmen's produce may be purchased at negotiated prices or bartered to supply mutual needs, and they should be exempt from meeting state purchase quotas .

3.     Specific and flexible policies suited to con- ditions in Tibet must be carried out on the whole economic front of the region, including the agricul- tural, animal husbandry, financial and trade, com- mercial, handicraft and communication fronts, with a view of promoting Tibet's economic development more rapidly.

4.     So long as the socialist orientation is upheld, vigorous efforts must be made to revive and develop Tibetan culture, education and science. The Tibetan people have a long history and a rich culture. The world renowned ancient Tibetan culture included Buddhism, graceful music and dance as well as medicine and opera, all of which are worthy of serious study and development. All ideas that ignore and weaken Tibetan culture are wrong. It is necessary to do a good job in inheriting and developing Tibetan culture.

Education has not progressed well in Tibet. Taking Tibet's special characteristics into considration, efforts should be made to set up universities and middle and primary schools in the region. Some cultural relics and Buddhist scriptures in temples have been damaged, and conscientious effort should be made to protect, sort and study them. Cadres of Han nationality working in Tibet should learn the spoken and written Tibetan language. It should be a required subject; otherwise they will be divorced from the masses. Cherishing the people of minority nationalities is not empty talk. The Tibetan people's habits, customs, history and culture must be respected.

5.     The party's policy on minority cadre must be correctly implemented and the unity between Han and Tibetan cadres must be even more closely enhanced .

Full time cadres of Tibetan nationality should account for more than 2/3rds of all government functionaries in Xizang within the next 2-3 years.


The new policy had two main components:
(1)     an ethnic dimension making the Tibet Autonomous Region more Tibetan in overall character by fostering a revitalization of Tibetan culture and religion including more extensive use of Tibetan language, and by withdrawing large numbers of Chinese cadre and replacing them with Tibetans; and

(2)     an economic dimension D rapidly improving the standard of living of individual Tibetans by temporarily eliminating taxes and "below-market" quota sales, and developing infrastructure to allow Tibet to grow economically in the years ahead.


However, unlike the 1950s, Beijing was no longer willing to permit a separate, non-communist "Tibetan" government in Lhasa. Tibet would continue to be ruled by the CCP. This is the "unified leadership" that Hu Yaobang referred to above. While Tibetan culture, language and ethnicity would be enhanced, and Han Chinese working in Tibet would have to learn Tibetan, Tibetans could control their region only through Tibetan communist cadres under the auspices of the CCP. Despite Deng Xiaoping's comment that all issues other than independence could be discussed, this, in fact, was simply a given. Rapprochement from the Chinese perspective meant the Dalai Lama had to return to a Tibet ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

And all this, moreover, was not just propaganda. Although many of the Han and Tibetan officials in Tibet disagreed strongly with this new policy, in the period immediately after 1980, China implemented various aspects of Hu's general program. Individual religious practices reappeared on a massive scale throughout Tibet, monasteries reopened (with certain restrictions) and new child monks poured in to these monasteries to resurrect the old tradition. Signs in Tibetan were mandated on shops and offices, offices serving the public were instructed to use Tibetan language in their dealings with citizens, the number of Tibetan officials was increased, plans were made to improve education in Tibetan language and a number of Chinese cadre left. And not only were exile Tibetans welcomed to return for visits, but Tibetans could travel abroad to visit their relatives.

While this "internal" strategy was emerging, Beijing also pursued its "external" strategy with the Dalai Lama. Informal discussions continued during the 1979-81 period, including the following letter sent by the Dalai Lama to Deng Xiaoping on 23 March 1981:

When the Dalai Lama's brother Gyalo Thundrup secretly met Hu Yaobang in Beijing on 28 July 1981, Hu articulated five points on which rapprochement with the Dalai Lama should be built:

1.     The Dalai Lama should be confident that China has entered a new stage of long-term political stability, steady economic growth and mutual help among all nationalities.

2.     The Dalai Lama and his representatives should be frank and sincere with the central government, not beat around the bush. There should be no more quib- bling over the events in 1959.

3.     The central authorities sincerely welcome the Dalai Lama and his followers to come back to live. This is based on the hope that they will contribute to upholding China's unity and promoting solidarity between the Han and Tibetan nationalities, and among all nationalities, and the modernization program.

4.     The Dalai Lama will enjoy the same political status and living conditions as he had before 1959.

It is suggested that he not go to live in Tibet or hold local posts there. Of course, he may go back to Tibet from time to time. His followers need not worry about their jobs and living conditions. These will only be better than before.

5.     When the Dalai Lama wishes to come back, he can issue a brief statement to the press. It is up to him to decide what he would like to say in the statement.


This position, which at the time was not made public, reflected the Chinese government's preferred view that the Tibet Question was fundamentally a dispute between China and the Dalai Lama rather than between the government of China and the Tibetan "government-in-exile." It also conveyed the Chinese unwillingness to consider a compromise in which Tibet would enjoy a different political system from the rest of China. If the Dalai Lama returned he would "enjoy the same political status and living conditions as he had before 1959," but not live in Tibet or hold positions there, meaning presumably that he would be given a semi-honorary position such as Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress and would be taken care of financially. The political system in Tibet, therefore, would continue to be ruled by the communist party. He and his followers would return as individuals to "live," not as a new government to rule, and they would have to "contribute to upholding China's unity and promoting solidarity between the Han and Tibetan nationalities." Although it was not part of this statement, China's quid pro quo was to permit a distinctly Tibetan ethnic/cultural identity (including Buddhism) in Tibet, and to devote resources so as to improve the standard of living of Tibetans. Beijing, therefore, was clearly interested in inducing the Dalai Lama to return to China. From its vantage point, finalizing the right kind of rapprochement would end its problems in Tibet. The return of the Dalai Lama would relegitimize Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, end the international dialogue over the Tibet Question, and persuade the masses of Tibetans to genuinely accept being part of the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama and his followers refused the five points. They wanted independence, an independent Tibet, noting less.

The Chinese were disappointed by the Dalai Lama's attitude. They had hoped the Dalai Lama would come ready to discuss specifics about his return in a friendly and forthcoming manner, and were frustrated when he persisted in talking about general issues and past history in a way that indicated he was not ready to accept a Tibet that was under the "unified leadership" of the CCP. Beijing wanted rapprochement, but did not want to enter into a genuine give-and-take with the Dalai Lama over the issue of changes in the political control of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In the end, therefore, this historic meeting not only produced no new movement toward solving the Tibet Question, but began to raise serious questions in Beijing about the feasibility of rapprochement with the Dalai Lama.

Dharamsala and the Dalai Lama launched a new political offensive what we can think of as their "international campaign." It sought, on the one hand, to secure new Western political and economic leverage to force Beijing to offer the concessions they wanted, and on the other hand, to give Tibetans in Tibet hope that the Dalai Lama was on the verge of securing U.S. and Western assistance to settle the Tibet Question. The U.S. government was central to this new campaign. The Dalai Lama's new campaign, therefore, sought to regain active U.S. support by working through the soft-underbelly of U.S. foreign policy Congress. The key innovation in this strategy was having the Dalai Lama for the first time carry the political message to the U.S. and Europe, particularly at governmental forums. Prior to this he had traveled and spoken only as a religious leader. With the help of Western supporters/donors and sympathetic U.S. congressmen/ congressional aides, a campaign was launched in the U.S. to gain support for the Dalai Lama's cause, in essence, to re-direct the significance of the Tibet Question from the arena of geo-political national interests to the sphere of core U.S. values to the U.S. ideological commitment to freedom and human rights. The goal was to create momentum for the U.S. supporting Tibet because it was the just and right thing to do as freedom-loving Americans. This new strategy was somewhat ironic.

During the 1911-1959 period, Tibet became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles. This ensured that Tibetan Buddhist culture gained the dominant position in Tibetan culture for a long period of time, until the Democratic Reform was carried out in 1959. Throughout this period, a handful of upper-class lamas and aristocrats monopolized the means of production, culture and education. Dalai Lama and his regents were the predominant political power administering religious and administrative authority over large parts of Tibet from the traditional capital Lhasa. Cultural and artistic pursuits were regarded as their exclusive amusements, while the serfs and slaves, who constituted 96 percent of the Tibetan population, lived in extreme poverty and were not guaranteed even the basic right of subsistence and freedom, let alone the right to enjoy culture and education. The long reign of feudal serfdom under theocracy not only severely fettered the growth of the productive forces in Tibet, but also resulted in a hermetically sealed and moribund traditional Tibetan culture, including cultural relics, historic sites and sites for Buddhist worship. As for modern science, technology, culture and education, they did not get any chance to develop at all.

When China regained control of Tibet, the Central People's Government gave freedom and human rights to Tibetans. There is a similar example of the kind of situation we see in the Dalai Lama and Tibet: the French Revolution. The French Revolution (17891799) was period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of nationalism, citizenship, and inalienable rights.

And now the Dalai Lama was asking for military help from "democracies in the West" so he could regain power in Tibet and re-establish a theocracy that previously enslaved people. Not a democracy! No human rights! Just enslaved people!

What is even more ironic is that America fought against slavery in America for a long time.

1982 - 1984
The Dalai Lama formally sent negotiating delegations to Beijing in 1982 and 1984. These talks, however, proved fruitless. The Dalai Lama was unwilling to accept a solution that addressed only cultural, religious and linguistic issues and did not give him political control over Tibet. Complicating the situation was the Dalai Lama's demand for creation of a "Greater Tibet" that would include not only political Tibet (the Tibet Autonomous Region) but also the ethnic Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

In the aftermath of the 1982 meeting, the Dalai Lama leadership started on a more agresssive campaign to destabilize China. He continued to attack Chinese policies and human rights violations in Tibet, often actually going beyond what the actual situation warranted, e.g. with charges of Chinese genocide. Dharamsala still felt more comfortable pursuing an adversarial model of interaction than one that emphasized friendship and harmony as its goal.

In China, opponents of Hu Yaobang's Tibet "moderation" policy saw the Dalai Lama's unwillingness to get down to substantive issues and his officials' continuation of attacks as a sign of his insincerity. In fact, some explicitly saw this as deja vu, as a replay of what they considered the duplicitous behavior of the Dalai Lama and his government in the 1950s. Beijing, therefore, moved to intensify its "internal" strategy by allocating increased funds for development. This policy was finalized at the Second Tibet Work Conference held in Beijing in 1984. It approved 42 major construction projects in Tibet and extended China's "Open Door" policy to Tibet. Since Beijing could not solve the Tibet Question by inducing the Dalai Lama to return to solidify its control of Tibet, it sought to do so without him by quickly modernizing and developing Tibet while allowing Tibetans the freedom to express their culture and practice their religion.

1985 - 1986
Nevertheless, Beijing was unwilling to cut off discussions with the Dalai Lama, and a second face-to-face meeting between the Dalai Lama representatives and China was held in Beijing in 1984. At this meeting the Dalai Lama representatives came with a developed negotiating position. They stated that the Dalai Lama rejected the Chinese 5-Point proposal and made their own substantive proposal that included creation of a "Greater Tibet" that would be demilitarized and have a political status in excess of the "one country, two systems" proposal for Taiwan. It was, of course, futile from the start. Beijing was not willing to discuss real political autonomy for Tibet. It was looking to enhance its stability and security in Tibet, not lessen it by turning over political control of Tibet to the Dalai Lama, let alone give up control over a "Greater Tibet". The Dalai Lama in Dharamsala has misjudged both his own leverage and Beijing's desire for an agreement, but, in another sense, simply could not bring himself to contemplate accepting anything less. He was angry and frustrated by the Chinese intransigence. In this strained atmosphere, a proposed visit of the Dalai Lama to China/Tibet fell by the wayside.

China continued to implement its internal policy, and by late 1985, early 1986, initiated a second wave of reforms which would fulfill the special autonomous status implied by Hu Yaobang's statements wherein most officials would be ethnic Tibetans and the language of government would be Tibetan. And a new head of the Party in Tibet, Wu Jinghua, was appointed who was himself a minority (from the Yi nationality). He immediately began overt shows of respect for Tibetan culture, wearing Tibetan dress on holidays, and creating an atmosphere of support for development of Tibetan language and culture. Consequently, there was a feeling of possibility in the air in Lhasa, at least among Tibetan intellectuals. Great strides have been made to allow Tibetan culture to flourish. Tibetans in exile were visiting Tibet in increasing numbers despite having to get visas as "overseas Chinese," and most Tibetans in Tibet who went abroad to visit relatives returned.

However, another current was gaining momentum in China as Hu Yaobang's liberalness was coming under attack with regard to China itself as well as to Tibet, where senior, more leftist, Tibetan and Chinese cadre felt the policy of making greater concessions to ethnic sensitivity was flawed and dangerous. These senior officials tried to obstruct Wu Jinghua's program in Tibet and criticized his actions in Beijing through personal lines of communication. But the party's policy in Tibet continued unchanged even after Hu Yaobang was forced to resign in January 1987.

Material life improved tremendously in both Lhasa and in the countryside where communes had been disbanded. At the same time, China's economic power and international prestige were increasing.

1986 - 1987
The Dalai Lama launched a new strategic initiative whose aim was to secure increased political support from the U.S. and Europe in order to exert new and effective leverage on China. A key element in this new strategy was that the Dalai Lama for the first time would make political speeches in the West. In September 1987, he initiated this strategy in Washington, D.C. with a major speech before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The following June, he made a another important address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Several days after the Dalai Lama's speech in Washington, a small group of monks in Lhasa demonstrated in support of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence. They were arrested without incident, but a few days later when more monks demonstrated to demand the release of the first monks, a full-scale riot erupted. During the succeeding two years, three other riots occurred in Lhasa, the last one compelling Beijing to declare martial law in Tibet for one year.

Beijing accelerated a program of rapid economic development that increased Tibet's integration with the rest of China and, over time, it is hoped to help more "modern Tibetans" who will be less influenced by religion and lamas. The economic strategy, however, pulled in large numbers of Chinese entrepreneurs/laborers to Tibet to work, increasing the size of the non-Tibetan population in Tibet.

As a way of comparison, a similar situation has been going on in the State of California, U.S.A., where a large portion of the work force comes from Mexico. Of course that has created social problems. But Mexicans in California have human rights just the same as anyone else.

But in China, Tibet, we have a situation of people from a different cultural background helping in the development of Tibet.

During the 1911-1959 period, Tibet became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles. This ensured that Tibetan Buddhist culture gained the dominant position in Tibetan culture for a long period of time, until the Democratic Reform was carried out in 1959. Throughout this period, a handful of upper-class lamas and aristocrats monopolized the means of production, culture and education. Dalai Lama and his regents were the predominant political power administering religious and administrative authority over large parts of Tibet from the traditional capital Lhasa. Cultural and artistic pursuits were regarded as their exclusive amusements, while the serfs and slaves, who constituted 96 percent of the Tibetan population, lived in extreme poverty and were not guaranteed even the basic right of subsistence and freedom, let alone the right to enjoy culture and education. The long reign of feudal serfdom under theocracy not only severely fettered the growth of the productive forces in Tibet, but also resulted in a hermetically sealed and moribund traditional Tibetan culture, including cultural relics, historic sites and sites for Buddhist worship. As for modern science, technology, culture and education, they did not get any chance to develop at all.

When China regained control of Tibet, the Central People's Government gave freedom and human rights to Tibetans. There is a similar example of the kind of situation we see in the Dalai Lama and Tibet: the French Revolution.

The French Revolution (17891799) was period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of nationalism, citizenship, and inalienable rights.

The Dalai Lama hopes that the flow of history will provide him the victory he desires but cannot attain on his own. Ideally, he hopes that China will soon disintegrate like the Qing Dynasty did in 1911 (and the U.S.S.R. more recently), and that this will afford him the opportunity to regain control over Tibet. Thus, while waiting for history to solve his dilemma in a satisfactory manner, he is trying to induce Western nations to renounce their acceptance of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and to pressure China to make concessions. Such a campaign of violence and terrorism would seek to disrupt and prevent China from improving the lives of Tibetans and modernizing Tibet.

The Dalai Lama and his followers are capable and willing to create serious violence and terrorism to make Tibet a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles, a regressing society. With the coming of the Summer Olympics, China hosting its first Olympics, the Dalai Lama and his followers are planning to launch a new tactic of large scale violence and terrorism that could impact on the internal stability of China itself. It might, for example, precipitate a chain of events that would destabilize China at this very important juncture in its history. Moreover, given that the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala in India, and his supporters in the West and in Tibet see Soviet-like disintegration in China as their greatest hope, they are likely to jump at any sign of major economic or political instability in order to exacerbate and accelerate this instability. This whole scenario has serious impacts globally.

In 1987 several events occurred. The Dalai Lama was invited to speak to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in September, and in June, the House of Representatives adopted a bill that condemned human rights abuses in Tibet, instructed the president to express sympathy for Tibet, and urged China to establish a constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama (this ended up later in the year as an amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill).

The Dalai Lama made his first political speech in America before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus on 21 September 1987. It was a carefully crafted and powerful talk that laid out the argument that Tibet had been independent when China invaded. That invasion began what the Dalai Lama called China's illegal occupation of the country. Specifically, he said, "though Tibetans lost their freedom, under international law Tibet today is still an independent state under illegal occupation." The speech also raised serious human rights charges, referring twice to a Chinese inflicted "holocaust" on the Tibetan people.

The First Riot October 1, 1987
On 27 September, less than a week after the Dalai Lama's first speech in Washington, nationalistic monks from Drepung monastery in Lhasa staged a political demonstration in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama's initiative. They began by walking around the Inner Circle Road (bagor) that is both a main circumambulation route (going around the holy Lhasa Cathedral) and the main Tibetan market area, but, when nothing happened after several circuits, marched down a main road to the offices of the Tibetan Government. There they were arrested.

Four days later, on the morning of October 1st, another group of 20-30 monks demonstrated in Lhasa to show their support for the Dalai Lama and the previous monk demonstrators, and to demand the latter's release from jail. Police arrested them and later, this escalated into a full-scale riot. In the end, the police station and a number of vehicles and shops were burnt down, and 6 Tibetans were killed, including ethnic Tibetans.

The post-riot months in Lhasa saw more demonstrations by monks and nuns, and a steady stream of anti-government posters. Nevertheless, the police were able to arrest them quickly without provoking a riot. A cat and mouse game developed with the nationalistic monks launching demonstrations and the government trying to arrest the demonstrators in a manner that would prevent another riot, for it was clearly the riot that caught world attention, not simply the small demonstrations.

As 1987 drew to a close, attention in Lhasa turned to the coming Tibetan New Year in February 1988 and the accompanying Great Prayer Festival when almost 2,000 monks would come to Lhasa's Central Cathedral for several weeks of joint prayers. The question of the day became whether the Prayer Festival would go on as planned, and if so, would the monks try to use it to launch a major demonstration. The risk of such a demonstration sparking another riot was great since there would be thousands upon thousands of religious Tibetans in Lhasa at this time to witness the event.

In Beijing, the new head of the party, Zhao Ziyang, convened a meeting of the larger Politburo to discuss Tibet. Beijing felt it was important to show the world that its liberal Tibetan religious policy was working, so it pushed ahead with holding the Prayer Festival. Wu Jinghua, the head of the TAR, announced that just as he had come to the Prayer Festival in Tibetan dress in the past, he would do so again this coming year to publicly show his respect for Tibetans' strong feelings about their religion and culture. He also announced that his three main priorities for Tibet were religion, nationality culture, and united front activities, in essence indicating that the core of his program would continue to be to improve relations with Tibetans by paying attention to their ethnic sensitivities rather than to economic development per se.

But the main event in this attempt at reconciliation was a visit to Lhasa in early 1988 by the late Panchen Lama, Tibet's number two lama. He was sent to Tibet with authorization to make concessions to calm the monks and ensure the success of the Prayer Festival. The plan was to offer the monks substantial financial reparations and a loosening of restrictions if they attended the prayer festival and in the future concentrated on religion, not politics. To assist his efforts, and partially meet the monks' demands that all monks be released before the festival, the Tibetan government on 26 January 1988 released about 59 monks as a gesture of goodwill, leaving only about 15 monks in custody. On the following day, at a big meeting at Drepung monastery, the Panchen Lama told the assembled monks at Drepung that the government was willing to give 2 million yuan ($500,000) in reparations to the three Lhasa monasteries.

The Panchen Lama's attempt to defuse the situation, however, was unsuccessful. The anger of most of the monks toward Chinese policies in Tibet was too great to be assuaged by money because they felt that time was on their side since the Dalai Lama was now succeeding in gaining the support of the U.S. Given this atmosphere, many of the older monks advised the government not to hold the Prayer Festival in Lhasa since they could not guarantee what the younger monks would do. They strongly recommended that the 1988 Prayer Festival be conducted at their own monasteries rather than in the Central Cathedral in Lhasa.

But the government now dug it its heels and insisted the Prayer Festival had to go on. Foreign journalists had been invited so the government cajoled, threatened and pleaded with the monks to appear. Although many monks boycotted, most came and all went well until 5 March 1988, the last day. As the monks completed the procession of carrying the statue of Chamba (Maitreya), a monk shouted demands to the ranking officials seated at the ceremony that a monk who remained in custody should be released from prison. A Tibetan official told him to shut up, and he and other monks immediately responded that Tibet is an independent country. Just when everyone thought that the ceremony had passed without a disaster, the situation went out of control and the latent anger exploded into the second terrible riot in Lhasa. Arrests and a clamp-down in Tibet followed that further drew the mass of people to the side of the radical nationalists. It was clear that the demonstration was inspired by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. They actually asked one or more of the Drepung monastery monks to organize a demonstration to show support for the Dalai Lama's new initiative in the U.S. To this day the monks are proud that they risked (and are risking again today) their lives to support the Dalai Lama's efforts in the West on Tibet's behalf.

Many average monk Tibetans in Lhasa believed that the Dalai Lama's speech to Congress was a turning point in Tibetan history, and that the U.S., in their eyes the world's greatest military power, would soon force China to "free" Tibet. Events in the West are well-known and play an important role in determining the attitude of monk Tibetans, particularly monk Lhasans.

1989
The unexpected death of the Panchen Lama produced a new initiative from Beijing. In early 1989, China tried to cut through the impasse by having its Buddhist Association quietly invite the Dalai Lama to participate in the memorial ceremony for the Panchen Lama. This initiative gave the Dalai Lama the opportunity to return for a visit to China without any overt political connotations or preconditions. He would come ostensibly as a religious figure. The rationale behind this approach was the belief by some in China that the negotiations had failed because Beijing had been unable to talk directly with the Dalai Lama whom they felt was more moderate than his ministers. Consequently, getting the Dalai Lama to come to China might provide an opportunity to break the deadlock.

The Dalai Lama and his officials, however, were reluctant to accept the invitation. Since this was not a "government" invitation, there was suspicion that it would yield nothing of value in terms of the Tibet Question. With events in their view going well, the exile leadership took the safe course and the Dalai Lama declined the invitation.

Monk Tibetans in Lhasa continued to mount repeated small nationalistic demonstrations, one of which turned into the fourth Lhasa riot on 5 March 1989. At this juncture, Beijing accepted the fact that the situation in Tibet was out of control and initiated strong measures to quell the unrest it took the drastic step of declaring martial law in Tibet.

A major new effort was made by China to strengthen the leadership of the party in Tibet by sending better educated and more highly skilled personnel who could help to modernize the area and its people. Similarly, greater emphasis was to be placed on educating young Tibetan cadre at higher levels. This reinvigoration of the party structure was to occur at all levels from the top down to the village level.

The cornerstone of the central government's new policy was (and is) economic growth and modernization i.e., accelerating economic development in Tibet by Beijing providing large subsidies for development projects aimed at building infrastructure and productive capacity. This strategy seeks to modernize Tibet's economy and people, increasing their standard of living, and reducing their isolation by inextricably linking Tibet's economy with the rest of China.

The new strategy is premised on the view that the key to winning over Tibetans is to improve their standard of living and modernize their society, and that to do this effectively, Tibet had to be rapidly developed. Beijing's current plan includes 10% economic growth per annum and a doubling of average income by the year 2000. Beijing, therefore, is now trying to solidify its position in Tibet by investing substantial funds into development rather than by making more and more concessions to ethnic sensibilities. Just this year, for example, Beijing committed 2.38 billion yuan [about 270 million dollars] for a new program of 62 construction projects. And China also just announced that it is again considering building a railroad to Tibet at the anticipated cost of 20 billion yuan (2.36 billion USD).

In some ways, the new strategy is doing what Beijing hoped. Tibetans have clearly benefited economically, and others are now turning their attention from politics to capitalizing on new economic opportunities.

A component of the "economic integration" approach is the freedom of non-Tibetans (Han Chinese and Hui Muslims) to do business in Tibet. Tens of thousands of Han and Hui have been drawn to Tibet to participate in construction projects and to open businesses, and these numbers are continuing to increase as Beijing escalates its economic funds and subsidies there. These non-Tibetans are part of the phenomenon called "floating population" in China that is to say, individuals who are permanent residents in one area (usually a village) but who live and work temporarily in another, usually a city. They do not have "citizen" rights in the place where they work so are not "colonists" in the usual sense, but nonetheless live there for all or part of any given year. A similar situation has been going on in the State of California, U.S.A., where a large portion of the work force comes from Mexico. Of course that has created social problems. But Mexicans in California have human rights just the same as anyone else. In China, Tibet, we have a situation of people from a different cultural background helping in the development of Tibet.

1994
Beijing is also upgrading the education system, which was non-existent during the during the 1911-1959 period when Tibet became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles, to create a "modern," better educated Tibetan elite. For example, in addition to the standard school system in Tibet, a program of building special Tibetan lower-middle schools in other parts of China began in 1985 and was expanded substantially after 1987. Today there are roughly 10,000 Tibetan youths attending such schools throughout the rest of China, and more also attend upper middle schools and vocational schools. In 1994, another wave of educational and party reform was begun within Tibet that seeks both to reduce illiteracy and to control more closely the content of education so that Tibetan students will not be exposed to subtle nationalist, separatist ideology.

Beijing is proceeding at full speed with a policy to develop and modernize Tibet rapidly and thoroughly. The Dalai Lama is not particularly favorable for a negotiated resolution. The Dalai Lama and his top officials are anxious to stop the influx of non-Tibetans into Tibet, arguing that Tibetan culture, religion and language cannot flourish if Tibet becomes swamped with non-Tibetans. Consequently, they are encouraging supporters in the West to urge Beijing to resume talks with them and are approaching other "neutral" countries to intercede on their behalf.

2005
In 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence.

2008
Protests against the Chinese powerholders -- initiated by Buddhist monks -- had been growing since March 10, 2008, the anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule. Buddhist monks in Tibet begun a hunger strike. This has led to violent protests in Lhasa as well, with up to 1,000 people participating. Government buildings and fire trucks have also been destroyed, and one source says that some of the power lines had been cut. Han Chinese shops and vehicles have been looted and burned, and Hans Chinese people in the city were being attacked as well. A Han Chinese girl remains in the hospital after being beaten. March 14, 2008 as tear gas filled the streets and gunfire rang out Lhasa. The violent protests in Lhasa against Chinese rule left at as many as 10 people dead.

On March 18, 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama for recent violence in Tibet, and said Chinese forces exercised restraint in confronting unrest there. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 21, 2008 criticized China for its crackdown on anti-government protesters in Tibet and called on "freedom-loving people" worldwide to denounce China. The Communist Party newspapers on March 23, 2008 accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the riots in Tibet to try to mar the 2008 Summer Olympics in August 2008 and overthrow the area's communist leaders. The government disseminated footage of Tibetan protesters attacking Chinese and accusations of biased reporting by Western media via TV, the Internet, e-mail and YouTube, which is blocked in China. A man, thought to be a pro-Tibet protester interrupted the speech of the China organising committee chief during the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece March 24, 2008.

The PRC gives the number of Tibetans in Tibet Autonomous Region as 2.4 million, as opposed to 190,000 non-Tibetans, and the number of Tibetans in all Tibetan autonomous entities combined (slightly smaller than the Greater Tibet claimed by exiled Tibetans) as 5.0 million, as opposed to 2.3 million non-Tibetans. In the TAR itself, much of the Han population is to be found in Lhasa. Population control policies like the one-child policy only apply to Han Chinese, not to minorities such as Tibetans.

Jampa Phuntsok, chairman of the TAR, has also said that the central government has no policy of migration into Tibet due to its harsh high-altitude conditions, that the 6% Han in the TAR is a very fluid group mainly doing business or working, and that there is no immigration problem.

With regards to the historical population of ethnic Tibetans, the Chinese government claims that according to the First National Census conducted in 1954, there were 2,770,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 1,270,000 in the TAR; whereas in the Fourth National Census conducted in 1990, there were 4,590,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 2,090,000 in the TAR. These figures are used to support the claim that the Tibetan population has doubled since 1959.

Such claims are consistent with the general trend of ethnic minorities experiencing significantly higher population growth rates than the majority Han population. Their proportion of the population in China has grown from 6.1% in 1953, to 8.04% in 1990, 8.41% in 2000 and 9.44% in 2005. Recent surveys indicate that the population growth rate for ethnic minorities is about 7 times greater than that for the Han population.

Over the past four decades and more, Tibet has made much headway in carrying forward the fine aspects of its traditional culture, while maintaining Tibetan cultural traits. The main body of Tibetan culture, which was monopolized by a small handful of feudal serf-owners in the past, by monks and nobles who ruled Tibet during the period of 1911 to 1959, has been changed completely, and the entire Tibetan people have become the main body jointly carrying forward and developing Tibetan culture and sharing its fruits. Tibetan culture has undergone deep changes with social progress and development, decadent and backward things inherent in feudal serfdom have been abandoned, the religious beliefs of Tibetan religious followers enjoy full respect and protection, and the fine aspects of traditional Tibetan culture have been carefully preserved and carried forward. Improvement has been steadily made both in its contents and forms, adding some topical contents to reflect the new life of the people and the new needs of social development. A substantive shift has taken place in the development stance of Tibetan culture, from the self-enclosed, stagnating and shrinking situation to a new stance - the stance of opening-up and development oriented to modernization and the outside world. While developing and promoting its traditional culture, Tibet is also developing modern scientific and technological education and news dissemination at an unprecedented rate.

Although Tibetan culture is developing continuously, the Dalai Lama clique is clamoring all over the world that "Tibetan culture has become extinct," and, on this pretext, is whipping up anti-China opinions with the backing of international antagonist forces. From the 40-odd years of history following the Democratic Reform in Tibet it can be clearly perceived that what the Dalai Lama clique is aiming at nothing but hampering the real development of Tibetan culture.

First, as a social ideology, culture varies with the changes in the other parts of the social economic foundation and superstructure. The formation and development of modern Western culture are inseparable from the modern European bourgeois revolution, in which the dictatorial system of feudal serfdom and theocracy in the Middle Ages was eliminated, along with the religious reforms and great changes in the ideological and cultural fields caused by it.

There is a similar example of the kind of situation we see in the Dalai Lama and Tibet: the French Revolution.

The French Revolution (17891799) was period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of nationalism, citizenship, and inalienable rights. These changes were accompanied by violent turmoil, including executions and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. Subsequent events that can be traced to the Revolution include the Napoleonic Wars, the restoration of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern France took shape.

The French Revolution lasted from 1789 (with the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789) to 1799. France was temporarily transformed from an absolute monarchy to a republic of theoretically free and equal citizens. Weaknesses, fiscal mismanagement, and corruption in the French monarchy and the privileged upper classes led to social and political upheaval in the middle and lower classes, inspired in part by Enlightenment ideals. Lous XVI, the king of France, and his wife Marie Antoinette were both guillotined in 1793. The effects of the revolution were widespread, both inside and outside of France. It ranks as one of the most important events in European history. Napoleon came to power as a military dictator of France in 1799 to restore order and claimed to spread the achievements of the Revolution to the rest Europe with the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815).

In 1959, on a smaller scale, Tibet has seen a similar development as the French Revolution.

The development of Tibetan culture in the last four decades has evolved greatly, and more has been achieved in the course of the same great social change marked by the elimination of feudal serfdom under theocracy that was even darker than the European system in the Middle Ages. With the elimination of feudal serfdom, the cultural characteristics under the old system, in which Tibetan culture was monopolized by a few serf-owners, monks and nobles, was bound to become "extinct," and so was the old cultural autocracy marked by theocracy and the domination of the entire spectrum of socio-political life by religion, which was an inevitable outcome of both the historical and cultural development in Tibet.

Because without such "extinction," it would be impossible to emancipate and develop Tibetan society and culture, the ordinary Tibetan people would be unable to obtain the right of mastering and sharing the fruits of Tibet's cultural development, and it would be impossible for them to enjoy real freedom, for their religious beliefs would not be regarded as personal affairs.

However, such "extinction" was fatal to the Dalai Lama clique, the chief representatives of feudal serfdom, for it meant the extinction of their cultural rule. Therefore, it is not surprising at all that they clamor about the "extinction of traditional Tibetan culture."

The development of a culture has never been achieved in isolation, and it is bound to acquire new contents and forms ceaselessly with the progress of the times and development of the society, and nourish and enrich itself while adapting to and absorbing other cultures. The development of Tibetan culture in the last four decades and more has been achieved while Tibetan society is gradually putting an end to ignorance and backwardness, and heading for reform, opening-up and modernization, and while Tibetan culture and modern civilization, including modern Western civilization, are absorbing and blending with each other. The people's mode of thinking and concepts are bound to change with the changes of the modes of production and life in Tibet. During this process, some new aspects of culture which are not contained in the traditional Tibetan culture but are essential in modern civilization have been developed, such as modern scientific and technological education and news dissemination. The fine cultural traditions with Tibetan features are being carried forward and promoted in the new age, and the decayed and backward things in the traditional culture that are not adapted to social development and people's life are being gradually sifted out. It is a natural phenomenon in conformity with the law of cultural development, and a manifestation of the unceasing prosperity and development of Tibetan culture in the new situation. To prattle about the "extinction of Tibetan culture" due to its acquisition of the new contents of the new age and to its progress and development is in essence to demand that modern Tibetan people keep the life styles and cultural values of old Tibet's feudal serfdom wholly intact. This is completely ridiculous, for it goes against the tide of progress of the times and the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people.

At present, as mankind has marched into the new millennium, economic globalization and informationization in social life are developing rapidly, increasingly changing people's material and cultural lives. With the deepening development of China's reform and opening-up and the modernization drive, especially the practice of the strategy of large-scale development of the western region, Tibet is striding toward modernization and going global with a completely new shape, and new and still greater development will certainly be achieved in Tibetan culture in this process.


Back to top of page


Copyright 2008 Global Community WebNet Ltd.Global Community WebNet Ltd