Although often on the lips of celebrities or seen frequently on
many bumper stickers around town, the important plight of Tibet is
often overlooked as our gaze is shifted towards other regions of
the world. “Tibet has sort of fallen off our radar screen,” said
Sen. Craig Thomas during a U.S. Congress Subcommittee meeting on
Tibet in 2000.
With the situation in Tibet becoming ever more complicated and
the oppression of this mountain nation ever increasing, it is
essential to re-focus and attempt to achieve understanding of this
serious case of oppression in this land high in the Himalayas.
While it is true that throughout the centuries Tibet has come
under influences of the neighboring powers such as the Mongols,
Gorkhas, Manchus and even the British colonists from India, the
exiled Tibetan government rightly contends that “its status at the
time of the Chinese invasion must… be judged on the basis of its
position in modern history.”
Declared independent in 1913, the 1950 invasion of Tibet by
40,000 troops from the People’s Republic of China was viewed by the
Tibetans not, as China contends, as a “peaceful annexation of a
historically owned territory” but rather as a hostile and bloody
invasion that compromised and viciously oppressed the Tibetan
people, politics and culture.
Uprising in 1959, the Tibetan nationalists found an estimated
100,000 of their people slaughtered and another 100,000 forced into
exile, according to the BBC. With the further oppression of their
culturally vital religious identities in 1966 with the destruction
of monasteries and religious figures sent to forced labor camps,
the Tibetan culture has in recent years become even more crushed
under Chinese rule.
Today, the oppression of the Tibetan people can be seen growing
in severity. “The Chinese Communist government is reshaping Tibet
with the force of China’s superheated economy, pouring money and
tens of thousands of Han Chinese into the region,” says Jim Yardley
of the New York Times.
While China contends that the economy has successfully grown in
the area, most native Tibetans are not benefiting from these
economic successes. While China asserts things such as the
Qinghai-Tibet Railroad will bring jobs into the area, the reality
is that only 4,000 to 5,000 of the projected 38,000 jobs will be
given to Tibetans, and these jobs would be unskilled, low-paying
work, according to the New York Times. The high-paying jobs in
these areas instead are going to the Han Chinese the People’s
Republic of China is encouraging to relocate to the area and who
now, according to CNN, outnumber the native Tibetans in urban
“It’s a carrot-and-stick strategy,” says Wang Lixiong in the
Times. “It combines the economic carrot with a political stick of
continued oppression.” By making “native” Chinese more economically
and socially dominant, China is hoping to gain more control over
Along with this economic and political oppression, China is also
attempting to establish a cultural and religious stranglehold on
the area. In a situation that should resonate with all of us
students here at CSU, students in Tibet face expulsion from Tibet
University for taking part in religious activities.
Students are not allowed to attend ceremonies at Buddhist
monasteries or take part in Buddhist pilgrimages without facing
losing their educational opportunities. Even while in school,
Chinese language curriculum is emphasized and often, such as in the
experience of 13-year-old Tibetan refugee Pafang, Tibetan language
is forbidden in schools.
These are just a snippet of the ways in which “the treatment of
Tibetans by the Chinese Government over the past 50 years has been
inconsistent with international standards of respect for
fundamental human rights,” as Julia Taft, the special coordinator
for Tibetan Issues who presented Tibet’s case before the U.S.
Senate in 2000.
With Taft noting not only these issues but also an increase in
“arbitrary arrests, detention without public trial, torture in
prisons (and) also an intensification of controls over Tibetan
monasteries and on monks and nuns,” as Taft says, the often
forgotten issue of the oppression of Tibet should no longer be
pushed to the backburner.
In realizing the dire situation of oppression taking place in
Tibet, we should raise our voices in support of the Tibetan people
and no longer leave them “refugees from a forgotten land,” as Chris
Summers of the BBC calls them.
Meg is a graduate student studying anthropology. She is an
active participant in Buddhist practices.