In Commemoration of 51 years of Tibetan Resistance to Chinese Rule

By Tenzin Doshi

The History of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10th:March 10, 2010 will mark the 51st anniversary of Tibet’s occupation by the People’s Republic of China. On this same date in 1959, Tibetans held their final uprising against the invading People’s Liberation Army (PLA) while still officially a sovereign nation. 300,000 Tibetans surrounded Norbulingka palace in Lhasa, which at the time was the residence of the head of state, the Dalai Lama. This mass of demonstrators had come together with the intention of protecting the Dalai Lama as a rumor had spread that the Chinese army had been plotting to kidnap their leader. Simultaneously, about 30,000 to 50,000 Chinese troops were stationed in Lhasa while heavy artillery was stationed outside of the city. After receiving a suspicious invitation from the PLA to attend a dance performance but without the accompaniment of bodyguards, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee from his homeland on March 17, 1959. Days later, the PLA shelled the palace and killed what is estimated to be 86,000 Tibetan men, women, and children, the overwhelming majority of whom were unarmed.

The Result of the Occupation: The occupation can be summarized with two words: genocide and colonization. Since the struggles in the 1950s to the present day, over a million Tibetans have died at the hands of the Chinese, whether it was through starvation, torture, or execution. About 6,000 monasteries, which once held the heart of Tibetan philosophy and culture, have been destroyed. Over 100,000 Tibetans have been forced to undertake the perilous trek across the Himalayas to live as refugees in India or Nepal. The few million Tibetans who remain in Tibet have become a marginalized group in what used to be their own land. Socio-economic mobility as well as educational opportunity is seriously limited as most positions or institutions prioritize people of Han Chinese ethnicity. There has been a massive influx of Chinese settlers, threatening the integrity of the traditional Tibetan way of life. And finally, efforts to preserve the delicate environment of the Tibetan plateau have been put away to maximize economic profit as well as to support the Chinese military.

Hope for the Future:

The Dalai Lama initially extended his proposal of autonomy for Tibet versus complete independence to China in the 1980s. Autonomy would include obtaining human rights for Tibetans along with greater political freedom. The end goal is greater cooperation, and that can be facilitated through careful analysis of the truth. For the sake of China and Tibet’s future, both nations would benefit by agreeing to meet and sincerely discuss history, as well as the reality of current events in this region of China. Many Tibet movement supporters will advocate various forms of peaceful resistance such as boycotting products that are made in China, or petitioning to Chinese leaders, but sometimes progress for justice can be made simple with an openness to different perspectives. China must eventually realize that as a rising superpower, stability will not be created with military might, but with the recognition that in the 21st century, peace is created with mutual respect for human rights.

Tenzin Doshi ’10 writes on behalf of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) at Macalester and can be reached at [email protected]