Chances are the new-comers to the issue has picked up snippets or vague clues from protests during the Olympic Torch Relay, or in the media following the recent riots in March.
So why am I posting this? I’m posting this because I want people to get a view of the other side of the story; those in China and those in the West see very different things when it comes to this, and from what I see on Deviantart, the majority of the voices you hear over this are the Pro-Tibetan Independence ones… shouting “Free Tibet!” On the other side though, many people have noticed an outpouring of nationalistic sentiment in ethnic Chinese people, and anger at the Western media.
Do you know why?
I am going to try to examine some of the statements made by the Tibetan Government in Exile and by Free Tibet groups. I will try to include sources of information where I can and I will try to be as objective as I can. This is going to be one long read, but if you’re interested at all in this I urge you to read on. Things are not as simple as they seem…
Statement one: “China invaded Tibet in 1951”
Tibet was a part of China during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese rulers state that sovereignty over Tibet was passed on to the proceeding Ming dynasty, the Tibetan Government in Exile refutes this claim. Tibet was again a part of China during the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty, the Qing, from 1644 – 1912, during this time, Mongolia was also considered Chinese territory. See map of Qing China ([link])
Following the downfall of the Imperial dynasty in 1911 and the establishment of the Republic of China under Sun Yat Sen, Tibet declared independence. Interesting to note, China never renounced its sovereignty to Tibet during this period and no other country formally recognised Tibet as an independent country between 1911 and 1951. Either way, no one bothered Tibet much during this time and China was busy fighting a civil war between the KuoMingDang (Nationalist Party) and the Communist Party. Eventually the Communist Party seized power in China and the Nationalist Party escaped to the island of Taiwan where it is to this day and is another of China’s political agendas at the moment.
Having secured power in China, the Communist army turned its sights on regaining what it feels rightly belongs to China. You can call it an invasion, you can say that actually Tibet was always a part of China, the details no longer seem relevant now.
Statement two: “Since 1950, an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese”
This is the statement found on all Free Tibet or similar websites and is maintained by the Dalai Lama and his exile government and is a figure most Free Tibet activists don’t dispute… it is a major weapon in the hands of the pro-independence groups.
The 1953 official census puts the Tibetan population at approximately 1.274million. Even if we use a higher end estimate of 2million, 1.2million dead would leave the region a wasteland.
(From The Department of Information and International Relations: Central Tibetan Administration, 1996. p. 53) 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. French says the CTA based this total on refugee interviews, but prevented outsider access to the data. French, who did gain access, found no names, but “the insertion of of seemingly random figures into each section, and constant, unchecked duplication”. Furthermore, he found that of the 1.1 million dead listed, only 23,364 were female (implying that 1.07 million of the total Tibetan male population of 1.25 million had died)
The 2000 census according to UNESCAP ([link]) puts the current Tibetan Autonomous Region population at 2.62 million, 90% of which are ethnic Tibetans.
I will let you make up your own mind about whether or not to trust this 1.2 million dead figure.
Statement three: “China destroyed thousands of Tibetan Buddhist temples”
According to the Epoch Times (an overseas Chinese language newspaper with anti-government overtones), “Statistics recorded that Tibet had 2,711 temples and 114,103 monks and nuns before 1959. Six years later, only 553 temples and 6,913 monks and nuns existed. After the catastrophe of Cultural Revolution, only 80 plus temples and about 7,000 monks and nuns were left.”
It is accepted that the vast majority of the destruction of temples occurred during the early years of the Communist establishment.
Wang Lixiong’s ‘Reflections on Tibet’ essay ([link]) offers the view that much of the destruction was done by Tibetans under the fervour and teaching of the Maoist government and propaganda.
“The clearest manifestation of this rotation-of-the-gods in the minds of the Tibetan peasants was their active participation in levelling the very temples and monasteries they had once held most sacred. The Dalai camp and Western public opinion have always attributed this to Han Red Guards coming in from China proper, after the Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966. They have seen it as part of the CCP’s ‘systematic, methodical, calculated, planned and comprehensive destruction’ of Tibetan religion. The truth is that, because of poor transportation and the huge distances involved, only a limited number of Han Red Guards actually reached Tibet. Even if some of them did participate in pulling down the temples, their action could only have been symbolic.”
In reply to this, another article was written ([link])
”It is true that Tibetans played an active part in the Cultural Revolution, and this fact cannot be wiped out of history. It should, however, be put into proper perspective, and the actual nature of their participation subjected to examination. The Cultural Revolution is a difficult topic not only for Tibetans but also for the Chinese. The strategy of China’s leaders has been to blame it all on the Gang of Four, with nothing more being said about the others who plundered or killed.”
It cannot be denied that the Chinese government/army had a part in the destruction of Buddhist temples, both in incitement and in action. But it is also important to put this into context. The Cultural Revolution was seen as one of the great disasters of the Maoist period ([link]) and was not limited to Tibet but all throughout China. It is widely recognized as a method to regain control of the party after the disastrous Great Leap Forward led to a significant loss of Mao’s power to rivals Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Those in charge, The Gang of Four, were arrested in 1976 following Mao’s death. The official historical view of the Communist Party of China on the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s role within it is incorporated in the ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China’ adopted on June 27, 1981. In this document, it is stated that the “Chief responsibility for the grave ‘Left’ error of the ‘Cultural Revolution,’ an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong”
Statement four: “The Chinese killed tens of thousands of Tibetan protesters in 1959”
The Tibetan Uprising of 10th March 1959 was a dark time for all involved. The article on Tibet . com ([link]) gives a rough history leading to the event.
“An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Chinese troops wielded modern weapons and had 17 heavy guns surrounding the city. While the Chinese manned swivelling howitzers, the Tibetans were wielding cannons into position with mules.”
What they fail to mention throughout the entire article was that the Tibetans had modern weapons too. Film footage of the time shows Tibetan monks leaving a monestary in surrender following defeat, each holding a rifle.
Where did monks get rifles? Do prayer deliver weapons? (link to BBC’s Lost World of Tibet: [link])
Well, no, but the CIA sure do. ([link]) Not many people are aware of the CIA’s involvement in the training of Tibetan rebels for the uprising, and its supply of weapons; an operation known as ST CIRCUS, designed to rouse trouble in communist China.
(watch the documentaries: [link]
Both the Tibetan and Chinese side suffered great loss of life.
Statement five: “Tibet was a peaceful place where people were innocent and happy”
This is what many Free Tibet campaigners say about Tibet before the Communist takeover. Perhaps it was childlike in some ways, it was generally noted to be a isolated, even “medieval” place, free from the cares of the rest of the world. But it has also been pointed out that Tibet was far from peaceful and pure.
(Taken from “Friendly Feudalism” by Michael Parenti [link])
“Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet,” writes one western Buddhist practitioner. “History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and nonviolent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation…Religions have had a close relationship not only with violence but with economic exploitation. Indeed, it is often the economic exploitation that necessitates the violence. Such was the case with the Tibetan theocracy. Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs. These estates were owned by two social groups: the rich secular landlords and the rich theocratic lamas. Even a writer sympathetic to the old order allows that “a great deal of real estate belonged to the monasteries, and most of them amassed great riches.” Much of the wealth was accumulated “through active participation in trade, commerce, and money lending.”
Anna Louise Strong, a journalist and eye witness of old Tibet, wrote the book “When Serfs Stood Up in Tibet”. She also visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by Tibetan overlords “There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, and breaking off hands. For gouging out eyes, there was a special stone cap with two holes in it that was pressed down over the head so that the eyes bulged out through the holes and could be more readily torn out. There were instruments for slicing off kneecaps and heels, or hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disembowling.”
Not to suggest that this gives the Chinese government right to torture people, but it sure dispels the Shangri-La myth.
Statement six: “The Chinese government performed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protest in Lhasa in March 2008”
Due to journalistic restrictions or otherwise, so far I have not seen any photo evidence of the army’s brutality in Lhasa. All images used by Western media so far show either Nepalese police, Indian police, ambulances as army trucks, Han boys as Tibetan protesters, medics as armed guards or other equally confused things. (www.anti-cnn.com) All eyewitnesses of the riots in Lhasa have said that it was the Tibetans inflicting violence on Han and Hui civilians and their property.
You could say that it’s China’s own fault that these misleading news images have appeared, as if no journalists are allowed on the scene, how can you expect accurate information? Touché, but that’s a weak excuse. I do hope this incident lets China be more open to journalists though… it will be a good move for all involved.
“The House on Wednesday criticized China for its “disproportionate and extreme” response to protests in Tibet” – referring to the US Senate. For a group of people who don’t know what’s really happened in Tibet, it’s strange that they would deem it “disproportionate and extreme”
Statement seven: “Tibet is a totally different race and culture to the rest of China”
China consists of 56 different ethnic groups.
Looking on the bright side:
The mortality rate had fallen from 28 per 1,000 in the 1950s to 6.60 per 1,000 in 2000. Infant mortality rate had fallen from 430 per 1,000 in 1951, 91.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to 35.3 per 1,000 by the year 2000. In 1990, life expectancy in Tibet has reached 59.64 years, 57.64 for male and 61.57 for female.
The educational composition of Tibet’s population has changed dramatically and the education level has improved since 1949. According to the 1990 and 2000 censuses, the education structure of Tibet’s population had been changing, with an increase in the number of people with higher education and a decrease in the number of illiterates and semi-illiterates. The illiterate population was 0.98 million in 1990 but 0.85 in 2000. The illiterate rate was 44.43% in 1990 but 32.50% in 2000, down 11.93%.
Government incentives to Tibetans: the Chinese government allow Tibetans to have more children than the Han population (they are not bound by the one child policy), Tibetan children can get into universities with lower grades than other Chinese children.
Free Tibet: US driven media machine?
“…The shadowy hand of the National Endowment for Democracy can be found in many of the anti-China reports over the last few weeks.…Australian writer Michael Barker, in a report last Aug. 13 published by Canada-based Global Research, detailed at that time the rise of groups aimed at breaking Tibet away from China, all of which were NED-funded.
The International Campaign for Tibet, for example, not only is funded by the NED but also has a board of directors that includes several former assistant secretaries of the U.S. State Department and former U.S. AID officials.
The Tibet Fund is another NED payee, as is the Tibet Information Network and the Tibetan Literary Society, Barker reports. Also getting funds from the NED is the Tibetan Review Trust Society, which publishes the English-only Tibetan Review magazine. Finally, Barker says, the NED also set up the Voice of Tibet short-wave radio station.
About 38 percent of the U.S. government’s nonmilitary China-related programs are allocated through the NED.”
A Free Tibet = A Human Catastrophe?
There has been a large influx of non-Tibetan settlers in recent years into the Tibetan Autonomous Region. If Tibet were to gain independence, fighting would break out between the Han and the Tibetans all over again. This would be a bitter and bloody battle, and could possibly involve the military action of China, would result in unimaginable civilian death. Xinjiang, a part of China with a Muslim majority, may take the chance to declare independence, as, perhaps, might Taiwan. The Chinese government will naturally oppose this, but the US has vowed to step in should China threaten war with Taiwan. For 2 countries with sizable nuclear arsenals, this could really be the end of the world.
In conclusion, I’m offering the other side of the story… there’s many facets to the Tibet situation and until you do some thorough researching and thinking, do not just buy into your media and a few cheap slogans. The situation is far from being simply a humanitarian one, but a complex and delicate geopolitical situation also… possibly more so. There NEEDS to be a better way to overcome human rights violations, a more subtle way. The Chinese have an ingrained idea of “saving face”, and for China to co-operate, you can not back it into a corner.
In conclusion, I’m offering up the “other side of the story”. Perhaps some of the information is not perfectly accurate, but it’s the best we have now. I advocate Human Rights fully, but shouting “Free Tibet” and jumping at Olympic Torch bearers is not the way to advance it, not in China.
Also, I’m not interested in hearing things about being a commie, brain washed, a stooge for the CCP, etc, I am none of these. I don’t support communism as it goes against our fundamental selfish human traits, I am not brainwashed by the Chinese government; I have very limited Chinese literacy for I grew up in the UK and I don’t watch Chinese TV or read Chinese newspapers, I am also not a stooge, just check out my DA page if you don’t believe me