Tibetan independence movement: Wikis


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Free Tibet Movement
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The Tibetan independence movement is a movement to establish historical Tibet, comprising the three traditional provinces of Amdo, Kham, and Ü-Tsang as an independent state. The movement is largely led by Tibetans in exile with the support of some individuals and organizations outside of Tibet. Among these supporters are a number of American and European celebrities, and some non-Tibetan followers of Tibetan Buddhism. The level of support for the movement within the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China is difficult to assess.

The goals of the Tibetan independence movement are different from the goals of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. In response to the 2008 unrest in Tibet, the Dalai Lama reiterated that he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet within China, not full independence, which he described as "out of the question".[1]

Beginning in the 1950s the Central Intelligence Agency inserted paramilitary teams into Tibet to train and lead Tibetan commandos against the Chinese Army. These CIA units were from their Special Activities Division and they trained the first resistance fighters. They were also responsible for the Dalai Lama's clandestine escape to India.[2]


Historical background

Map of Asia in 1890, showing Tibet within Imperial China. The map was published in the Meyers Konversations-Lexikon in Leipzig in 1892.
Map of Asia from the 1925 Finnish encyclopedia Pieni Tietosanakirja, depicting Tibet within Republican China.

After the Mongol Prince Köden took control of the Kokonor region in 1239, he sent his general Doorda Darqan on a reconnaissance mission into Tibet in 1240. During this expedition the Kadampa monasteries of Rwa-sgreng and Rgyal-lha-khang were burned, and 500 people killed. The death of Ögödei the Mongol Qaghan in 1241 brought Mongol military activity around the world temporarily to a halt. Mongol interests in Tibet resumed in 1244 when Prince Köden sent an invitation to the leader of the Sakya sect, to come to his capital and formally surrender Tibet to the Mongols. The Sakya leader arrived in Kokonor with his two nephews Drogön Chögyal Phagpa ('Phags-pa; 1235-80) and Chana Dorje (Phyag-na Rdo-rje) (1239-67) in 1246. This event marked the incorporation of Tibet into the Mongol Empire.

By the early 18th century, the Chinese Manchu imperial government under the Qing Dynasty sent resident commissioner (amban) to Lhasa. Tibetan factions rebelled in 1759 and killed the resident commissioners after the central government decided to reduce the number of soldiers to about 100. The Qing army entered and defeated the rebels and reinstalled the resident commissioner. The number of soldiers in Tibet was kept at about 2,000. The defensive duties were assisted by a local force which was reorganized by the resident commissioner, and the Tibetan government continued to manage day-to-day affairs as before.

In 1904, a British mission, accompanied by a large military escort, invaded Tibet, forcing its way through to Lhasa. The head of the mission was Colonel Francis Younghusband. The principal motivation for the British mission was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its footprint into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the Tibetan government. But on his way to Lhasa, Younghusband killed 1,300 Tibetans in Gyangzê (as written in "The Great Game" of Peter Hopkirk), because the natives were in fear of what kind of unequal treaty the British would offer the Tibetans. Some documents claim that 5,000 Tibetans were killed by the British army.

The Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906 recognized Chinese sovereignty over the region [3] and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, without Beijing's acknowledgement, recognized the suzerainty of China over Thibet.[4] The Qing central government established direct rule over Tibet in 1910. The thirteenth Dalai Lama fled to British India in February, 1910. In the same month, the Chinese government issued a proclamation deposing the Dalai Lama and instigating the search for a new incarnation.[5]

The subsequent outbreak of World War I and civil war in China caused the Western powers and the infighting factions of China proper to lose interest in Tibet, and the 13th Dalai Lama ruled undisturbed. At that time, the government of Tibet controlled all of Ü-Tsang (Dbus-gtsang) and western Kham, roughly coincident with the borders of the Tibet Autonomous Region today. Eastern Kham, separated by the Yangtze River was under the control of Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui. The situation in Amdo (Qinghai) was more complicated, with the Xining area controlled by ethnic Hui warlord Ma Bufang, who constantly strove to exert control over the rest of Amdo (Qinghai).

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China entered Tibet, after taking over the rest of China from Republic of China during the five years of civil war. In 1951, the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, a treaty signed by representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, provided for rule by a joint administration under representatives of the central government and the Tibetan government. Most of the population of Tibet at that time were serfs, bound to land owned by lamas. Any attempt at land reform or the redistribution of wealth would have proved unpopular with the established landowners. This agreement was initially put into effect in Tibet proper. However, Eastern Kham and Amdo were outside the administration of the government of Tibet, and were thus treated like any other Chinese province with land reform implemented in full. As a result, a rebellion broke out in these regions in June 1956. The rebellion eventually spread to Lhasa, but was crushed by 1959. The 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India.

Positions on the status of Tibet

The status of Tibet before 1950, especially in the period between 1912 and 1950, is largely in dispute between supporters and opponents of Tibetan independence.

According to supporters of Tibetan independence, Tibet was a distinct nation and state independent before conquest by the Mongol Empire (Yuan Dynasty) 700 years ago; between the fall of the Mongol Empire in 1368 and subjugation by the Qing Dynasty in 1720; and again between the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 and its incorporation into the PRC in 1951. Moreover, even during the periods of nominal subjugation to the Mongol and Qing Empires, Tibet was largely self-governing. As such, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) views current PRC rule in Tibet as illegitimate, motivated solely by the natural resources and strategic value of Tibet, and in violation of both Tibet's historical status as an independent country and the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination.[citation needed] It also points to PRC's autocratic and divide-and-rule policies, and assimilationist policies, regarding those as an example of imperialism bent on destroying Tibet's distinct ethnic makeup, culture, and identity, thereby cementing it as an indivisible part of China.[citation needed]

On the other hand, opponents say that the PRC rules Tibet legitimately, by saying that Tibet has been an indivisible part of China de jure since Mongol (Yuan) conquest 700 years ago, and that all subsequent Chinese governments (Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, Republic of China, and People's Republic of China) have succeeded the Yuan Dynasty in exercising de jure sovereignty and de facto power over Tibet. In addition, they say that China (under the Republic of China government) continued to maintain sovereignty over Tibet between 1912 and 1950; no country gave Tibet diplomatic recognition; and Tibet itself acknowledged Chinese sovereignty by sending delegates to the Drafting Committee for a new constitution of the Republic of China in 1925; to the National Assembly of the Republic of China in 1931; to the fourth National Congress of the Kuomintang in 1931; to a National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1946; and to another National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1948.[6] Finally, the PRC considers all movements aimed at ending Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, starting with British attempts in the late 19th century and early 20th century, to the CTA today, as one long campaign abetted by malicious Western imperialism aimed at destroying Chinese integrity and sovereignty, thereby weakening China's position in the world. The PRC also points to what it calls the autocratic and theocratic policies of the government of Tibet before 1959, as well as its renunciation of Arunachal Pradesh, claimed by China as a part of Tibet occupied by India, and its association with India, and as such claims the CTA has no moral legitimacy to govern Tibet.

Positions on Tibet after 1950

Tibetan exiles generally say that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, violence, or other unnatural causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million.[7] However, this number is controversial, and the government does not agree to it. According to Patrick French, a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, the estimate is not reliable because the Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total, with many persons double or triple counted. There were, however, many casualties, perhaps as many as 400,000.[8] This figure is extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" from Tibet.[9] Even anti-Communist resources such as the Black Book of Communism expresses doubt at the 1.2 million figure, but does note that according to the Chinese census, the total population of ethnic Tibetans in the PRC was 2.8 million in 1953, but only 2.5 million in 1964. It puts forward a figure of 800,000 deaths and alleges that as many as 10% of Tibetans were interned, with few survivors.[10] Chinese demographers have estimated that 90,000 of the 300,000 "missing" Tibetans fled the region.[11]

The Central Tibetan Administration also says that millions of Chinese immigrants to the TAR are diluting the Tibetans both culturally and through intermarriage. Exile groups say that despite recent attempts to restore the appearance of original Tibetan culture to attract tourism, the traditional Tibetan way of life is now irrevocably changed. It is also reported that when Hu Yaobang, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, visited Lhasa in 1980 he was unhappy when he found out the region was behind neighbouring provinces. Reforms were instituted, and since then the central government's policy in Tibet has granted most religious freedoms. But monks and nuns are still sometimes imprisoned[12], and many Tibetans (mostly monks and nuns) continue to flee Tibet yearly. At the same time, many Tibetans believe projects that the PRC implement to benefit Tibet, such as the China Western Development economic plan or the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, as politically-motivated actions to consolidate central control over Tibet by facilitating militarization and Han Chinese migration while benefiting few Tibetans; they also believe the money funneled into cultural restoration projects as being aimed at attracting foreign tourists. They also say that there is still preferential treatment awarded to Han Chinese in the labor market as opposed to Tibetans.

The government of the PRC claims that the population of Tibet in 1737 was about 8 million. It claims that due to the 'backward' rule of the local theocracy, there was rapid decrease in the next two hundred years and the population in 1959 was only about one million.[13] Today, the population of Greater Tibet is 7.3 million, of which 5 million is ethnic Tibetan, according to the 2000 census. According to the PRC the increase is viewed as the result of the abolishment of the theocracy and introduction of a modern, higher standard of living. Based on the census numbers, the PRC also rejects claims that the Tibetans are being swamped by Han Chinese; instead the PRC says that the border for Greater Tibet drawn by the government of Tibet in Exile is so large that it incorporates regions such as Xining that are not traditionally Tibetan in the first place, hence exaggerating the number of non-Tibetans.

The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, pointing to rights enjoyed by the Tibetan language in education and in courts and says that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to the Dalai Lama's rule before 1950. Benefits that are commonly quoted include: the GDP of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) today is 30 times that before 1950; it has 22,500 km of highways, all built since 1950; all secular education in the region was created after integration into the PRC; there are 25 scientific research institutes, all built by the PRC; infant mortality has dropped from 43% in 1950 to 0.661% in 2000; life expectancy has risen from 35.5 years in 1950 to 67 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 to the maintenance and protection of Tibetan monasteries[14]. 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 and whose recurrence is unthinkable in an increasingly modernized China. The China Western Development plan is viewed by the PRC as a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards.

Development and influence

Free Tibet LED Banner at Bird's Nest, Beijing, August 19, 2008.

Organisations which support the Tibetan independence movement include:

However, Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, has retreated from calling for independence. He has spoken in many international venues, including the United States Congress, and the European Parliament. In 1987, he has also started campaigning for a peaceful resolution to the issue of the status of Tibet, and has since then advocated that Tibet should not become independent, but that it should be given meaningful autonomy within the People's Republic of China. This approach is known as the "Middle Way".[citation needed]

Celebrity support and Freedom Concerts

Paris Hilton has voiced her support for the movement and participates in various charities and benefits around New York.[citation needed] British comedian Russell Brand also occasionally mentions his support for the movement on his BBC Radio 2 show. Richard Gere is one of the most outspoken supporters of the movement and is chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Campaign for Tibet. Actress Sharon Stone caused significant controversy when she suggested that the 2008 Sichuan earthquake may have been the result of "bad karma," because the Chinese "are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine."[15] Observers have noted that Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the earthquake, is located in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, where ethnic Tibetans comprise over half of the population. Other notable supporters include Talia Rosenbaum and Lindsay Lohan.[citation needed]

Steven Seagal has been an active supporter of Tibetan independence for several decades and makes regular donations to various Tibetan charities around the world.[16] He has been recognized by Tibetan Lama Penor Rinpoche as the reincarnation of tulku Chungdrag Dorje, the treasure revealer of Palyul Monastery. He also claims to have the special ability of clairvoyance; in a November 2006 interview, he stated: "I was born very different, clairvoyant and a healer".[17]

With the release of the Beastie Boys album Ill Communication in 1994, the Milarepa Fund was born. The organization was named after Milarepa, the revered eleventh-century Tibetan yogi, who used music to enlighten people. Originally designed to disburse royalties from Ill Communication to benefit Tibetan monks who were sampled on two songs, it took off when Milarepa Fund organizers joined the Beastie Boys as they headlined the 1994 Lollapalooza Tour. During the tour, the idea of staging a Live Aid-style concert for Tibetan independence was born.

Organized in June 1996, the first concert (in San Francisco) opened with Icelandic singer Björk and featured acts such as Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Cibo Matto, Rage Against the Machine, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and De La Soul.[18][19][20] The concerts continued for three more years, generating public awareness about Tibetan independence, particularly amongst young people. This helped spur the growth of pro-Tibet organisations such as Students for a Free Tibet and Free Tibet Campaign worldwide.[21]

Gorillaz, the virtual pop band have shown support through a TV spot showing animated frontman, 2D, meditating with fellow supporters outside of the Chinese embassy, followed by a brief message encouraging people to join the Free Tibet Campaign. In addition, during the holographic performances of "Clint Eastwood", 2D is wearing a shirt saying "FREE TIBET."[citation needed]

Additionally, Radiohead's stage set-up for their 2008 tour prominently displays two Tibetan flags.[22] Two Tibetan flags were also visible during Radiohead's headlining performances at the 2009 Reading and Leeds festivals.

See also


  1. ^ "China blames Dalai Lama for riots". BBC News. March 18, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7302021.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  2. ^ The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, Kenneth Conboy, James Morrison, The University Press of Kansas, 2002.
  3. ^ Smith, Tibet, p. 162
  4. ^ Goldstein, History, p. 830
  5. ^ Smith, Tibet, p. 175
  6. ^ "西藏在辛亥革命后变成一个独立国家吗" (in Simplified Chinese). the Embassy of the PRC in the ROK. http://www.chinaemb.or.kr/chn/zgzt/zgxz/t81209.htm0. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  7. ^ "Human rights". Central Tibetan Administration. 1996-02-02. http://www.tibet.com/WhitePaper/white5.html. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  8. ^ French, Tibet, pp. 278–82
  9. ^ Smith, Tibetan, p. 600
  10. ^ Internment Est:page 545, cites Kewly, Tibet p. 255; Tibet Death Est: page 546, Black Book, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  11. ^ Hao, Yan (March 2000). "Tibetan Population in China: Myths and Facts Re-Examined" (PDF). Asia Ethnicity 1 (1): 24. http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/booksAndPapers/tibetan.population.in.china.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  12. ^ "Who Are the Drapchi 14?". Amnesty International USA Group 133. April 4, 2004. http://web.archive.org/web/20040604130812/http://www.drapchi14.org/drapchi14/. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  13. ^ "A breach of constitution under pretext of religion". Tibet.cn. 2008-12-05. http://eng.tibet.cn/news/today/200812/t20081205_441499.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  14. ^ "Govt. White Papers: Tibet's Modernization Achievements". China.org.cn. http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/20011108/3.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  15. ^ "Sharon Stone quake karma remarks spark anger in China". AFP. 2008-05-27. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hWK2KdEFCaHcxde6-AXrexm59hfw. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  16. ^ Carreon, Charles. ""Steven Seagal comes out of the buddhist closet"". http://finevery.googlepages.com/stevenseagal.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  17. ^ Rinpoche, Penor. "Steven Seagal - "The Action Lama"". http://sangyetashiling.dk/kt/seagal.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  18. ^ "Bjork Tibet Cry: Blacklisting May Follow". Sky News. 2008-03-07. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Sky-News-Archive/Article/20080641308378. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  19. ^ Browne, David. "INCITE AND SOUND". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,290070,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  20. ^ "Why Just a Free Tibet? How About a Free China?". Pop Matters. 2004-07-21. http://www.popmatters.com/columns/sham-shackleton/040721.shtml. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  21. ^ George, Matthew. "Tibetan Freedom Concert". http://archive.peacemagazine.org/v15n4p25.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  22. ^ "Radiohead stage Tibet protest". Ireland On-Line. 2008-05-07. http://breakingnews.iol.ie/entertainment/?jp=mhgbausnmhoj. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 


  • Allen, Charles (2004). Duel in the Snows: The True Story of the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa. London: John Murray, 2004. ISBN 0-7195-5427-6.
  • Bell, Charles (1924). Tibet: Past & Present. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Courtois, Stéphane; Mark Kramer et al. (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, terror, repression. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674076087. 
  • French, Patrick (2002). Tibet, Tibet: a personal history. New York: Knopf. ISBN 1400041007. 
  • McKay, Alex (1997). Tibet and the British Raj: The Frontier Cadre 1904-1947. London: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-0627-5.
  • Shakya, Tsering (1999). The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7.
  • Smith, Warren W. (Jr.) (1996). Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3155-2.

Further reading

  • Dowman, Keith (1988). The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, ISBN 0-7102-1370-0. New York, ISBN 0-14-019118-6.
  • Dunham, Mikel (2004). Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. Penguin Group, ISBN 1-58542-348-3.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C.; with the help of Gelek Rimpche. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (1993), ISBN 81-215-0582-8. University of California (1991), ISBN 0-520-07590-0.
  • Grunfield, Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. ISBN 1-56324-713-5.
  • Norbu, Thubten Jigme; Turnbull, Colin (1968). Tibet: Its History, Religion and People. Reprint: Penguin Books (1987).
  • Pachen, Ani; Donnely, Adelaide (2000). Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun. Kodansha America, Inc. ISBN 1-56836-294-3.
  • Powers, John (2000). The Free Tibet Movement: A Selective Narrative. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7
  • Samuel, Geoffrey (1993). Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies. Smithsonian ISBN 1-56098-231-4.
  • Schell, Orville (2000). Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-4381-0.
  • Stein, R. A. (1962). Tibetan Civilization. First published in French; English translation by J. E. Stapelton Driver. Reprint: Stanford University Press (with minor revisions from 1977 Faber & Faber edition), 1995. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1.
  • Thurman, Robert (2002). Robert Thurman on Tibet. DVD. ASIN B00005Y722.
  • Wilby, Sorrel (1988). Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1900-Mile Trek Across the Rooftop of the World. Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.
  • Wilson, Brandon (2005). Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith. Pilgrim's Tales. ISBN 0977053660, ISBN 0977053679.

External links


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