March 25, 2008
Status: Occupied Territory
Population: 6 million (Tibetans) & 7,5 million (Chinese)
Areas: 2.5 million km2
Religion: Tibetan Buddhism
Ethnic Groups: Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru, Ra, Bai people, Blang, Bonan, Dongxiang, Han, Hui Chinese, Lhoba, Lisu people, Miao, Mongols, Monguor (Tu people), Menba (Monpa), Mosuo, Nakhi, Qiang, Nu people, Pumi, Salar, and Yi people.
The “Government of Tibet in Exile” is a government headed by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama that describes itself as the rightful and legitimate government of Tibet. Tibet is currently under the control of the People's Republic of China, a situation that the Government of Tibet in Exile characterizes as an illegitimate military occupation. The Government of Tibet in Exile has its headquarters in Dharamsala, India. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Tibet is strategically situated at the Centre of Asia and borders China in the East, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma in the South, and East-Turkestan in the North. Tibet is comprised of the three provinces of Amdo (now split by China into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu & Sichuan), Kham (largely incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai), and U-Tsang. The area covers about 2,5 million km². The Tibetan Plateau is the source of most of Asia’s major rivers; and the surrounding terrain is extremely fertile and rich in forests. The northern plane (Chang-Tang) is largely uninhabitable.
The Tibet Autonomous Region (T A R) is not seen as the authentic Tibet; it was created by China in 1965 for administrative reasons, comprises less than half of historic Tibet and consists of the provinces western Kham and U-Tsang.
Tibet has an estimated population of about 6 million Tibetans and 7.5 million Chinese settlers. The estimated population within the Tibet Autonomous Region (T A R) is 2.62 million, of which Tibetan (93%) and Han Chinese (6%), whilst the rest live in the Tibetan areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Tibet is rich in natural resources, such as gold, iron, lead, uranium and huge reserves of forest.
Tibet emerged from an obscure history to flourish in the 7th century A.D. as an independent kingdom with its capital at Lhasa. The Chinese first established relations with Tibet during the T'ang dynasty (618–906), and there were frequent wars of conquest. The Tibetan kingdom was associated with early Mahayana Buddhism, which the scholar Padmasambhava fashioned (8th century) into Tibetan Buddhism. In the 13th century Tibet fell under Mongol influence, which was to last until the 18th century. In 1720, the Ch'ing dynasty replaced Mongol rule in Tibet. China thereafter claimed suzerainty, often merely nominal.
During the 18th century, British authorities in India attempted to establish relations with Lhasa. Jesuits and Capuchins had visited Tibet in the 17th and 18th century, but throughout the 19th century Tibet maintained its traditional seclusion. Meanwhile, Ladakh, long part of Tibet, was lost to the rulers of Kashmir, and Sikkim was detached (1890) by Britain. In 1893, Britain succeeded in obtaining a trading post at Yadong, but continued Tibetan interference led to the military expedition (1904) of Sir Francis Younghusband to Lhasa, which enforced the granting of trade posts at Yadong, Gyangzê, and Gar. In 1906 and 1907, Britain recognized China's suzerainty over Tibet. However, the Tibetans were able, with the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty in China, to expel (1912) the Chinese in Tibet and reassert their independence. At a conference (1913–14) of British, Tibetans, and Chinese at Shimla, India, Tibet was tentatively confirmed under Chinese suzerainty and divided into an inner Tibet, to be incorporated into China, and an outer autonomous Tibet.
The Shimla agreement was, however, never ratified by the Chinese, who continued to claim all of Tibet as a “special territory.” After the death (1933) of the 13th Dalai Lama, Tibet gradually drifted back into the Chinese orbit. The 14th Dalai Lama was installed in 1939–40 and assumed full powers (1950) after a ten-year regency.The succession of the 10th Panchen Lama, with rival candidates supported by Tibet and China, was one of the excuses for the Chinese invasion (October, 1950) of Tibet.
By a Tibetan-Chinese agreement (May, 1951), Tibet became a “national autonomous region” of China under the traditional rule of the Dalai Lama, but under the actual control of a Chinese Communist Commission. The Communist government introduced far-reaching land reforms and sharply curtailed the power of the monastic orders. After 1956 scattered uprisings occurred throughout the country, but a full-scale revolt broke out in March 1959, prompted in part by fears for the personal safety of the Dalai Lama. The Chinese suppressed the rebellion, but the Dalai Lama was able to escape to India, where he eventually established headquarters in exile. The Panchen Lama, who had accepted Chinese sponsorship, acceded to the spiritual leadership of Tibet. The Chinese adopted brutal repressive measures, provoking charges from the Dalai Lama of genocide.
Landholdings were seized, the lamaseries were virtually emptied, and thousands of monks were forced to find other work. The Panchen Lama was deposed in 1964 after making statements supporting the Dalai Lama; a secular Tibetan leader replaced him. In 1962, China launched attacks along the Indian-Tibetan border to consolidate territories it claimed had been wrongly given to India by the British McMahon Commission in 1914. Following a cease-fire, Chinese troops withdrew behind the disputed line in the east but continued to occupy part of Ladakh in Kashmir. Some border areas are still in dispute. In 1965 the Tibetan Autonomous Region was formally established.
The Cultural Revolution, with its antireligious orientation, was disastrous for highly religious Tibet. Religious practices were banned and over 4,000 monasteries were destroyed. Though the ban was lifted in 1976 and some Buddhist temples have again been in operation since the early 1980s, Tibetans continue to complain of widespread discrimination by the Chinese. Several protests in Tibet in the late 1980s and early 1990s were violently suppressed by the Communist government and martial law was imposed in 1989. Demonstrations against Chinese rule have nevertheless continued. Moreover, in recent years other countries have increasingly raised the issue of human-rights violations in Tibet, and have pressured the Chinese government to moderate their stance in that region.
Human rights monitoring and protection has become an unusual challenge to the de facto impunity of the Chinese government system. Acquiring accurate information from the so-called ethnic minority regions of Tibet had become extremely difficult due to the secretive nature of operations and so called lack of transparency. Tibetans in their own home country have become victims of deep-seated prejudice. A carefully chiseled policy has led to a cultural genocide in Tibet due to denial of basic fundamental rights, freedoms and justice over a period of 45 yeas. The Human Rights situation has not improved in 2004/2005 in Tibet. There is an ongoing suppression of the Tibetan people. The Chinese government continues to accelerate the political, economic, social and geographical integration of Tibet into China. There is no let-up on many unpopular measures of control imposed by China on the Tibet region such as the “Strike Hard Campaign”, “Patriotic re-education Campaign”, and the establishment of a re-education-through-labor camp in Ngari County in the Tibet Autonomous Region to check the refugee flow. The “Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy” recorded by the end of December 2004 that there are at least 150 known political prisoners in the various prisons in Tibet.
The Chinese Communist Party with the active support of the military presence in Tibet, at least a quarter of a million strong, strictly governs the territory. Military and police are often overwhelmingly present in Lhasa and elsewhere, though as of February 1992, security in Lhasa is dominated by undercover police. Since 2002 the Peoples Republic of China and Tibet have entered into direct negotiations. At the end of June 2005 they met for the fifth time. Despite the existing areas of disagreement, both parties are pleased with the direct contact, which is becoming stable and an “established practice”.
Despite officially introducing more environment-friendly policies in recent years, China continues to flood Tibet with potentially destructive mega development projects such as railway routes, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical complexes, hydro dams, construction of airports, highways, military bases and new cities for migrants from Mainland China. The influx of millions of Chinese settlers to a fragile arid land is more than the land can sustainably bear. China’s current much-vaunted Western Development Program will facilitate extraction of Tibet’s natural resources to benefit China. Mammoth extractive projects geared towards exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources include planned gold, copper and chromite mines, power grids and cascades of hydro dams. It is feared by experts that these may prove disastrous for Tibet, Mainland China and all the neighboring countries that depend on the life-sustaining rivers of the Tibetan Plateau.
CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
The Potala Palace, located in Lhasa, Tibet, was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Tibet language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group of the Sino-Tibetan languages.
Their oldest religion is Bon, after that the Buddhism has been spread. Nowadays, most of the people in Tibet are Lamaists. This religion is a blend of the Bon and the Buddhism. Bon has typically been described as the shamanistic religion in Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century. The "New Bon" phase emerges in the 14th century when Bon schools adopt the Tibetan Buddhist practice of recovering ancient hidden texts known as termas (and possibly other Tibetan Buddhist practices). Whereas the Tibetan Buddhists recover texts hidden by Padmasambhava, the Bon recover texts written by their own saints, such as Drenpa Namkha. New Bon becomes an organizational entity alongside the other Tibetan Buddhist schools. Presently about 10% of Tibetans are estimated to follow the Bon Buddhism. However, most of the Tibetan population observes Tibetan Buddhism.
Buddhism is still prevalent in Tibet today and some of the thousands temples and monasteries that were destroyed have been rebuilt. The Chinese government still has a strong hold on religious practices, including placing a limit on the number of religious buildings. Tibetans are resentful of the control the government has imposed on religion and the numerous restrictions that are in place.