A brief introduction of Tibet
by China in 1949-50, the independent country of Tibet was forced to face
the direct loss of life that comes from battles and, soon after, the
loss of universal freedoms that stemmed from Communist ideology and its
programs such as the Cultural Revolution (1967 - 1976). However, it is
erroneous to believe that the worst has passed. The fate of Tibet's
unique national, cultural and religious identity is today seriously
threatened and manipulated by the Chinese.
policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than
the destruction of Tibet's national independence, culture and religion,
environment, and the universal human rights of its people. China has
broken international laws and routinely violates its own constitution by
inflicting this destruction, yet time and again goes without punishment.
With a written history of more than 2000 years, Tibet existed as an
independent sovereign state prior to Chinese rule. As recently as 1914,
a peace convention was signed by Britain, China and Tibet that again
formally recognized Tibet as a fully independent country. But having no
representation in the United Nations, the world largely stood by and
allowed China's occupation and destruction to happen.
have demonstrated repeatedly for independence from China. Ours has been
a non-violent struggle, yet even when Tibetan children as young as ten
whisper the words "Tibet is independent" or "Long Live His Holiness the
Dalai Lama", the Chinese accuse them of trying to "split" the
"motherland" and often sentence them to prison. Possessing an image of
the Tibetan national flag can lead to a seven-year jail term. As of
1998, 1083 known Tibetans remain incarcerated in Chinese prisons on
account of their political, religious or ethical views. Of these, 246
were women and 12 were juvenile.
China's relentless destruction of religion in Tibet saw the loss of over
6000 monasteries and countless religious artifacts during the Cultural
Revolution and, today, the Communist authority's approach to religion
has changed little. In 1996 the "Strike Hard" campaign was initiated,
specifically targeting Tibetan Buddhism. This campaign has been
vehemently pursued in recent years.
Denouncing Tibet's Spiritual Leaders
Forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal
leader, and his chosen Panchen Lama, Tibetans must pledge their
allegiance to the Chinese government. Failure to do so can result in
imprisonment or other forms of punishment. Possessing an image of the
Dalai Lama is today illegal in Tibet.
The continued population transfer of Chinese to Tibet in recent years
has seen the Tibetans become a minority in their own land. Today 7.5
million Chinese in Tibet outnumber 6 million Tibetans. Under the guise
of economic and social development, the calculated and
government-encouraged population transfers have marginalized Tibetans in
economic, educational, political and social spheres, and thereby
threaten to quash Tibetan culture.
Chinese occupation and the massive migration of Chinese to Tibet have
seen the Tibetan language surpassed by that of the Chinese. The
government is repressing Tibetan culture by making the language
redundant in all sectors. Tibet's education system, controlled entirely
by the Chinese and their Communist ideology, is directed to the Chinese
immigrants and compromises Tibetans. Tibetan students also suffer from
prohibitive and discriminatory fees and inadequate facilities in rural
monasteries, the heart of Tibetan academia and debate, Chinese
government "work teams" are being sent to forcibly "re-educate" monks
and nuns in their political and religious beliefs. Their methods are
similar to those imposed during the Cultural Revolution and between 1996
and 1998, the "Strike Hard" campaign saw 492 monks and nuns arrested and
9,977 expelled from their religious institution by the Chinese.
UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS
By the end of 1998, the People's Republic of China had signed the three
covenants comprising the International Bill of Rights, but it is still
far from implementing these domestically and in Tibet. Individual and
collective rights abuses continue to challenge the Tibetan people in
their daily lives and in the future survival of their unique cultural
commence the 21st century, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile solemnly
relays that the Chinese government's treatment of Tibetans in Tibet is
still in breach of the rights to life, liberty and security, and the
freedoms of expression, religion, culture and education. Today, in
expression of opinion contrary to Chinese Communist Party ideology
can result in arrest.
Chinese government has systematically covered religious institutions
with police presence in an attempt to eradicate allegiance to the
Dalai Lama, Tibetan nationalism and any dissention.
are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.
imprisoned are often denied legal representation and Chinese legal
proceedings fail to meet international standards.
still prevails in Chinese prisons and detention centres despite
being in contradiction with the United Nations Convention Against
women are subjected to enforced sterilisation, contraception and
subsistence difficulties, inadequate facilities and discriminatory
measures, many Tibetan children are denied access to adequate
healthcare and schooling.
of imprisonment for political reasons is far greater than in other
areas under Chinese rule.
are not exempt from China's repression of freedom of expression.
There are Tibetan political prisoners below the age of 18 and child
monks and nuns are consistently dismissed from their religious
institutions. China has recently declared Tibet to be non-Buddhist.
disappearances, where a person is taken into custody and the details
of their detention are not disclosed, continue to occur.
eleven-year-old 11th Panchen Lama has been missing since his status
was announced in 1995.
than 70 per cent of Tibetans in the "TAR" now live below the poverty
Continual international pressure is essential in encouraging the Chinese
government to abide by the regulations of the covenants of human rights.
Situated at the heart of Asia, Tibet is one of the most environmentally
strategic and sensitive regions in the world. Tibetans live in harmony
with nature, guided by their Buddhist belief in the interdependence of
both living and non-living elements of the earth. However with the
invasion of Tibet, the consumerist and materialistic Chinese Communist
ideology trampled upon this nature-friendly attitude of the Tibetan
people. The past 50 years has seen widespread environmental destruction
resulting in deforestation, soil erosion, and extinction of wildlife,
overgrazing, uncontrolled mining and nuclear waste dumping. Today, the
Chinese continue to extract various natural resources - often with
foreign backing - without any environmental safeguards, and consequently
Tibet is facing an environmental crisis the ramifications of which will
be felt far beyond its borders.
Tibet boasts some of the finest quality forest reserves in the world.
Having taken hundreds of years to grow, many trees stand 90 feet high
with a girth of 5 feet or more. China's "development" and
"modernization" plans for Tibet are seeing these forests
indiscriminately destroyed. In 1959, 25.2 million hectares of forest
were found in Tibet, but in 1985 the Chinese had reduced forest-coverage
to 13.57 million hectares. Over 46 per cent of Tibet's forest has been
destroyed and in some areas this figure is as high as 80 per cent.
Between 1959 and 1985, the Chinese removed US$54 billion worth of timber
from Tibet. Deforestation, and inadequate reforestation programs, has a
profound effect on wildlife and leads to soil erosion and changing
global weather patterns.
Erosion and Flooding
Massive deforestation, mining and intensified agricultural patterns in
Tibet have led to increased soil erosion and the siltation of some of
Asia's most important rivers. Siltation of the Mekong, Yangtse, Indus,
Salween and Yellow rivers raises riverbeds to cause major floods such as
those Asia has experienced in recent years. This in turn causes
landslides and reduces potential farming land, thus affecting half the
world's population, which lives downstream from Tibet.
Scientists have observed a correlation between natural vegetation on the
Tibetan Plateau and the stability of the monsoon, which is indispensable
to the break-baskets of south Asia. Scientists have also shown that the
environment of the Tibetan Plateau affects jet streams, which are
related to the cause of Pacific typhoons, and the El Nino phenomenon,
which has had adverse environmental effects worldwide.
Extinction of Wildlife
In 1901, the 13th Dalai Lama issued a decree banning the hunting of wild
animals in Tibet. Unfortunately, the Chinese have not enforced similar
restrictions and instead the "trophy-hunting" of endangered species has
been actively encouraged. There are at least 81 endangered species on
the Tibetan Plateau of which 39 are mammals, 37 birds, four amphibians
and one a reptile. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Giant Panda,
an animal native to Tibet yet one that is propagated by the Chinese as
their national mascot.
Extraction of borax, chromium, salt, copper, coal, gold and uranium is
being vigorously developed by the Chinese government as a means of
providing raw materials for industrial growth. Seven of China's 15 key
minerals are expected to run out within a decade and consequently the
extraction of minerals in Tibet is increasing in a rapid and unregulated
manner. Increased mining activities further reduce vegetation cover and
thereby increase the danger for severe landslides, massive soil erosion,
loss of wildlife habitat and the pollution of streams and rivers.
Once a peaceful buffer state between India and China, Tibet has been
militarized to the point of holding at least 300,000 Chinese troops and
up to one quarter of China's nuclear missile force. The Chinese brought
their first nuclear weapon onto the Tibetan Plateau in 1971. Today, it
appears the Chinese are using Tibet as a dumping ground for their, and
foreign, nuclear waste. In 1984, China Nuclear Industry Corporation
offered western countries nuclear waste disposal facilities at US$1500
Mysterious deaths of Tibetans and livestock residing close to China's
nuclear sites have been reported, as too have increases in cancer and
birth defects. In addition, there has been incidence of waterway
contamination where the local Chinese populations were officially warned
against using the water but the local Tibetans were not. China continues
to control the Tibetan Plateau without any regard for its fragile
ecology or for the rightful inhabitants of the land.
This information has
been sourced from DIIR's Environment and Development Desk and from the
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.