Dec 092003
Authors: Meg Burd

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

the region.

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.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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