Tibet has been occupied and ruled over by China and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) since 1951 in “a calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of their national and cultural identities" (14th Dalai Lama, 1997). This has often been described by the Tibetan people as a cultural genocide (Goldstein, 1998). Eight years of occupation and repression led to the Tibetan Uprising of 1959, in which Tibetans rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the Chinese government; instead, the uprising led to the fleeing of HH the Fourteenth Dalai Lama into India, where he has lived in exile ever since. A few hundred Tibetans initially followed the 14th Dalai Lama into exile, and since then hundreds of thousands have followed. A more detailed history of Chinese-Tibetan relations is presented below.
After the death of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933, political upheaval characterized much of Tibet until a new religious candidate could be found. Deciding that power should be temporarily shared by a lama acting as regent, Reting, and a lay chief minister, the Tibetan government was sieged both by internal and external quests for control over the region. The latter in the form of China sought to "liberate" Tibetans from their "serf-like" existence and to ultimately "return" Tibet to the motherland. Aware that they would eventually be forced to deal with China, Tibetan officials attempted to maintain negotiations while denying requests.
Finally in 1937, a potential candidate for Dalai Lama was discovered in the Chinese-controlled province of Amdo. Forced to rely on Chinese aid for the removal of the boy to political Tibet, the entourage returned to Lhasa in 1939. By the time the Dalai Lama was to receive his vows in 1941, Tibet had long been under the corrupt rule of Reting's regime. Vindictive, greedy, and non-celebate, Reting was unwilling to allow a more senior monk, Takdra, to take his place as regent to give the Dalai Lama his vows. Resigning with the belief that Takdra would eventually reinstate him, Reting spent the next six years until his death in constant contention with the Tibetan government. After dealing with the corruption left over from Reting's reign and Reting's many attempts at overthrow, Takdra finally approved Reting's arrest by the Chinese in 1947. With the nation divided by these political allegiances and the country in need of revision and modernization, Tibet was unprepared for the increase in Chinese pressure for control and integration.
As the Chinese army advanced towards political Tibet, Tibetan religious leaders urged that state power be transferred to the young Dalai Lama and that government officials relocate to the Indian border. In 1951, the Dalai Lama was forced to accept the terms of the Seventeen Point Agreement, forcing Tibet to return to Chinese jurisdiction while maintaining some level of autonomy, including religious freedom. However, throughout the 1950s, relations between Tibetan Buddhism and Communist China worsened as monasteries continued to be places of resistance and potential shelter for rebels. With increased Chinese negativity towards religion and allegations of disappearing lamas, the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. After the imprisonment of the Panchen Lama for a dissenting report about the state of Tibetan affairs, China no longer felt restrained by its earlier promises and was free to enforce its policies. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) demonstrated this through the destruction of many symbols of Tibetan religious life, including temples and monasteries. Furthermore, religious figures and other educated individuals were forced into reeducation and severely maltreated. Although Chinese policies in the 1980s tried to revert some of the destruction, the damage to Tibetan culture was already done.
In the late 1980s, tensions between Tibet and China increased until violence climaxed in early 1989 with the deaths of many protesting Tibetans by police fire. Other demonstrations for the exiled Dalai Lama and pro-democracy (like the demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Beijing) received international attention and made Tibetan religious devotion tantamount to political views in the eyes of the Chinese government. In an attempt to curb instability in Tibet during the 1990s and 2000s, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) pushed for the economic development of the region and campaigned for the removal of images of the Dalai Lama from public areas and many private residences. Furthermore, the Chinese government re-hauled educational texts for Tibetan students, ultimately promoting Chinese ideologies in the Tibetan language
BACK TO MAIN PAGE
Macalester College · 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 USA · 651-696-6000