Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tibet's day of mourning

Tibet’s day of mourning

03/28/2009 13:58

For Tibetans in exile, the "end of slavery" is nothing but propaganda

In Lhasa and Beijing, great celebrations and proclamations of the "liberation" brought by the Communist Party to Tibet. In Dharamsala, today is a day of protests and mourning. Beijing pressures India to block the "political activities of the Dalai Lama."

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Today the Chinese authorities launched their annual Day of "freedom from slavery," to commemorate the Chinese victory over a Tibetan revolt that, 50 years ago, sent the Dalai Lama into exile. But in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, today is being lived as a "day of mourning," and Beijing is being accused of conducting "propaganda. "

In Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, about 10,000 pro-Chinese Tibetans gathered in front of the Potala, the former residence of the Dalai Lama, to celebrate the anniversary, red flags flying. Zhang Qingli, the local secretary of the Communist Party, asserted that the Chinese Communist Party has brought "democratic reforms unprecedented in human history to the Tibetan highland."
Yesterday evening, at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Panchen Lama selected by China, Gyaincain Norbu - who is viewed unfavorably by the Tibetans - thanked the Chinese Communist Party for giving him "clear eyes for judging what is true from what is false," and praised Beijing's policies on Tibet as "an historic leap in Tibet's social system."
There were also some testimonies from Tibetans who once had been servants in the monasteries and for the Tibetan nobility, and who received "liberation" with the Chinese invasion.
The Day of "liberation from slavery" was created by Beijing this year, after the revolts one year ago, which were repressed with violence and with thousands of arrests. Tibet has been under martial law for months in preparation for the Day.
For the Tibetans in exile, these 50 years have been "years of oppression," during which Tibetans "continue to suffer unimaginable religious, political, and cultural repression." For this reason, today in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, tens of thousands of exiles gathered for an entire day of protests, organized by the Tibetan Women's Association, Students for a Free Tibet, and by the Tibetan YouthAssociation. "The day of 'liberation from slavery' sponsored by Beijing," one of them says, "is a heavy-handed campaign of propaganda to convince the world that Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule. But no propaganda can hide the fact that these have been 50 years of servility."
Recently the Dalai Lama himself recalled the "series of repressive and violent campaigns" conducted in Tibet by Beijing. "These," he said, "have thrown Tibetans into the depths of suffering and hardship, making them live hell on earth. The first result of these campaigns has been the death of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans." Speaking in Dharamsala, on the anniversary of his flight, the Buddhist leader added: "Still today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant terror . . . Their religion, culture, language, identity are close to extinction. The Tibetan people have been branded as criminals, who deserve only to be put to death."
Yesterday, Zhang Yan, the Chinese ambassador to India, asked New Delhi at a press conference to "not permit the Dalai Lama to carry out political activities on Indian soil, in the best interests of bilateral relations between the two countries."
For some time, China has been threatening economic consequences for all countries that host the Dalai Lama or let him speak.

http://www.asianews .it/index. php?l=en&art=14849&size=A

Sunday, March 22, 2009

‘China regards Tibetans as criminals deserving death’

‘China regards Tibetans as criminals deserving death’

(Pioneer, OPED | Monday, March 23, 2009)

Fifty years ago this month, the people of Tibet rose in revolt against the forcible occupation of their country by China. They were suppressed ruthlessly: Hundreds were killed, monasteries were smashed, and a way of life was destroyed forever. The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since then, looks back at Tibet’s tragedy

This is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising against Communist China’s repression in Tibet. Since last March, widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride. It will serve as a source of inspiration for those in the international community who take keen interest in the issue of Tibet. We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.

Around 1949, Communist forces began to enter north-eastern and eastern Tibet (Kham and Amdo) and by 1950, more than 5,000 Tibetan soldiers had been killed. Taking the prevailing situation into account, the Chinese Government chose a policy of peaceful liberation, which in 1951 led to the signing of the 17-Point Agreement and its annexure. Since then, Tibet has come under the control of the People’s Republic of China. However, the Agreement clearly mentions that Tibet’s distinct religion, culture and traditional values would be protected.

Between 1954 and 1955, I met with most of the senior Chinese leaders in the Communist Party, Government and military; led by Chairman Mao Zedong, in Beijing. When we discussed ways of achieving the social and economic development of Tibet, as well as maintaining Tibet’s religious and cultural heritage, Mao Zedong and all the other leaders agreed to establish a preparatory committee to pave the way for the implementation of the autonomous region, as stipulated in the Agreement, rather than establishing a military administrative commission. From about 1956 onwards, however, the situation took a turn for the worse with the imposition of ultra-Leftist policies in Tibet.

Consequently, the assurances given by higher authorities were not implemented on the ground. The forceful implementation of the so-called “democratic reform” in the Kham and Amdo regions of Tibet, which did not accord with prevailing conditions, resulted in immense chaos and destruction. In Central Tibet, Chinese officials forcibly and deliberately violated the terms of the 17-Point Agreement, and their heavy-handed tactics increased day by day.

These desperate developments left the Tibetan people with no alternative but to launch a peaceful uprising on March 10, 1959. The Chinese authorities responded with unprecedented force that led to the killing, arrests and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Tibetans in the following months. Consequently, accompanied by a small party of Tibetan Government officials including some Kalons (Cabinet Ministers), I escaped into exile in India Thereafter, nearly a hundred thousand Tibetans fled into exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan. During the escape and the months that followed they faced unimaginable hardship, which is still fresh in Tibetan memory.

Having occupied Tibet, the Chinese Communist Govern-ment carried out a series of repressive and violent campaigns that have included ‘democratic reform’, class struggle, communes, the Cultural Revolution, the imposition of martial law, and more recently the patriotic re-education and the strike hard campaigns. These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth. The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. The lineage of the Buddha Dharma was severed. Thousands of religious and cultural centres such as monasteries, nunneries and temples were razed to the ground. Historical buildings and monuments were demolished. Natural resources have been indiscriminately exploited. Today, Tibet’s fragile environment has been polluted, massive deforestation has been carried out and wildlife, such as wild yaks and Tibetan antelopes, are being driven to extinction.

These 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet. Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them. Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction; in short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death.

The Tibetan people’s tragedy was set out in the late Panchen Rinpoche’s 70,000-character petition to the Chinese Government in 1962. He raised it again in his speech in Shigatse in 1989 shortly before he died, when he said that what we have lost under Chinese Communist rule far outweighs what we have gained. Many concerned and unbiased Tibetans have also spoken out about the hardships of the Tibetan people. Even Hu Yaobang, the Communist Party Secretary, when he arrived in Lhasa in 1980, clearly acknowledged these mistakes and asked the Tibetans for their forgiveness. Many infrastructural developments such as roads, airports, railways, and so forth, which seem to have brought progress to Tibetan areas, were really done with the political objective of sinicising Tibet at the huge cost of devastating the Tibetan environment and way of life.

As for the Tibetan refugees, although we initially faced many problems such as great differences of climate and language and difficulties earning our livelihood, we have been successful in re-establishing ourselves in exile. Due to the great generosity of our host countries, especially India, Tibetans have been able to live in freedom without fear. We have been able to earn a livelihood and uphold our religion and culture. We have been able to provide our children with both traditional and modern education, as well as engaging in efforts to resolve the Tibet issue. There have been other positive results too. Greater understanding of Tibetan Buddhism with its emphasis on compassion has made a positive contribution in many parts of the world.

Immediately after our arrival in exile I began to work on the promotion of democracy in the Tibetan community with the establishment of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile in 1960. Since then, we have taken gradual steps on the path to democracy and today our exile administration has evolved into a fully functioning democracy with a written charter of its own and a legislative body. This is indeed something we can all be proud of.

Since 2001, we have instituted a system by which the political leadership of Tibetan exiles is directly elected through procedures similar to those in other democratic systems. Currently, the directly-elected Kalon Tripa’s (Cabinet Chairperson) second term is underway. Consequently, my daily administrative responsibilities have reduced and today I am in a state of semi-retirement. However, to work for the just cause of Tibet is the responsibility of every Tibetan, and as long as I live I will uphold this responsibility.

As a human being, my main commitment is in the promotion of human values; this is what I consider the key factor for a happy life at the individual, family and community level. As a religious practitioner, my second commitment is the promotion of inter-religious harmony. My third commitment is of course the issue of Tibet. This is firstly due to my being a Tibetan with the name of ‘Dalai Lama’; more importantly, it is due to the trust that Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet have placed in me. These are the three important commitments, which I always keep in mind.

In addition to looking after the well being of the exiled Tibetan community, which they have done quite well, the principal task of the Central Tibetan Administration has been to work towards the resolution of the issue of Tibet. Having laid out the mutually beneficial Middle-Way policy in 1974, we were ready to respond to Deng Xiaoping when he proposed talks in 1979. Many talks were conducted and fact-finding delegations dispatched. These, however, did not bear any concrete results and formal contacts eventually broke off in 1993.

Subsequently, in 1996-97, we conducted an opinion poll of the Tibetans in exile, and collected suggestions from Tibet wherever possible, on a proposed referendum, by which the Tibetan people were to determine the future course of our freedom struggle to their full satisfaction. Based on the outcome of the poll and the suggestions from Tibet, we decided to continue the policy of the Middle-Way.

Since the re-establishment of contacts in 2002, we have followed a policy of one official channel and one agenda and have held eight rounds of talks with the Chinese authorities. As a consequence, we presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, explaining how the conditions for national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution would be met by the full implementation of its laws on autonomy. The Chinese insistence that we accept Tibet as having been a part of China since ancient times is not only inaccurate, but also unreasonable. We cannot change the past no matter whether it was good or bad. Distorting history for political purposes is incorrect.

We need to look to the future and work for our mutual benefit. We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Fulfilling the aspirations of the Tibetan people will enable China to achieve stability and unity. From our side, we are not making any demands based on history. Looking back at history, there is no country in the world today, including China, whose territorial status has remained forever unchanged, nor can it remain unchanged.

Our aspiration that all Tibetans be brought under a single autonomous administration is in keeping with the very objective of the principle of national regional autonomy. It also fulfils the fundamental requirements of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The Chinese constitution and other related laws and regulations do not pose any obstacle to this and many leaders of the Chinese Central Government have accepted this genuine aspiration.

When signing the 17-Point Agreement, Premier Zhou Enlai acknowledged it as a reasonable demand. In 1956, when establishing the Preparatory Committee for the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, Vice-Premier Chen Yi pointing at a map said, if Lhasa could be made the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which included the Tibetan areas within the other provinces, it would contribute to the development of Tibet and friendship between the Tibetan and Chinese nationalities, a view shared by the Panchen Rinpoche and many Tibetan cadres and scholars.

If Chinese leaders had any objections to our proposals, they could have provided reasons for them and suggested alternatives for our consideration, but they did not. I am disappointed that the Chinese authorities have not responded appropriately to our sincere efforts to implement the principle of meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans, as set forth in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Quite apart from the current process of Sino-Tibetan dialogue having achieved no concrete result, there has been a brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protests that have shaken the whole of Tibet since March last year. Therefore, in order to solicit public opinion as to what future course of action we should take,the Special Meeting of Tibetan exiles was convened in November 2008. Efforts were made to collect suggestions, as far as possible, from the Tibetans in Tibet as well. The outcome of this whole process was that a majority of Tibetans strongly supported the continuation of the Middle-Way policy. Therefore, we are now pursuing this policy with greater confidence and will continue our efforts towards achieving a meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans.

From time immemorial, the Tibetan and Chinese peoples have been neighbours. In future too, we will have to live together. Therefore, it is most important for us to co-exist in friendship with each other.

Since the occupation of Tibet, the Communist China has been publishing distorted propaganda about Tibet and its people. Consequently, there are, among the Chinese populace, very few people who have a true understanding about Tibet. It is, in fact, very difficult for them to find the truth. There are also ultra-Leftist Chinese leaders who have, since last March, been undertaking a huge propaganda effort with the intention of setting the Tibetan and Chinese peoples apart and creating animosity between them. Sadly, as a result, a negative impression of Tibetans has arisen in the minds of some of our Chinese brothers and sisters. Therefore, as I have repeatedly appealed before, I would like once again to urge our Chinese brothers and sisters not to be swayed by such propaganda, but, instead, to try to discover the facts about Tibet impartially, so as to prevent divisions among us. Tibetans should also continue to work for friendship with the Chinese people.

Looking back on 50 years in exile, we have witnessed many ups and downs. However, the fact that the Tibet issue is alive and the international community is taking growing interest in it is indeed an achievement. I have no doubt that the justice of Tibet’s cause will prevail, if we continue to tread the path of truth and non-violence.

As we commemorate 50 years in exile, it is most important that we express our deep gratitude to the Governments and peoples of the various host countries in which we live. Not only do we abide by the laws of these host countries, but we also conduct ourselves in a way that we become an asset to these countries. Similarly, in our efforts to realise the cause of Tibet and uphold its religion and culture, we should craft our future vision and strategy by learning from our past experience.

I always say that we should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Whether we look at it from the global perspective or in the context of events in China, there are reasons for us to hope for a quick resolution of the Issue of Tibet. However, we must also prepare ourselves well in case the Tibetan struggle goes on for a long time. For this, we must focus primarily on the education of our children and the nurturing of professionals in various fields. We should also raise awareness about the environment and health, and improve understanding and practice of non-violent methods among the general Tibetan population.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the leaders and people of India, as well as its Central and State Governments, who despite whatever problems and obstacles they face, have provided invaluable support and assistance over the past 50 years to Tibetans in exile. Their kindness and generosity are immeasurable. I would also like to express my gratitude to the leaders, Governments and people of the international community.

May all sentient beings live in peace and happiness.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Annexation of Tibet by China and India's Himalayan security

Brahma Chellaney, Hindustan Times
September 22, 2008
First Published: 19:30 IST(22/9/2008)
Last Updated: 19:38 IST(22/9/2008)
Art of War

Are we deceiving ourselves again?
Arun Shourie
Rs 395 PP 214

India and China are both adept at playing with numbers. While China invented the abacus, India conceived the binary and the decimal systems. But India, having forsaken the Kautilyan principles, has proven no match to China’s Sun Tzu-style statecraft. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet.

As a result, India has found itself repeatedly betrayed. Indeed, it wasn’t geography but guns — the sudden occupation of the traditional buffer, Tibet, soon after the communists seized power in Beijing — that made China India’s neighbour.

Jawaharlal Nehru later admitted he didn’t anticipate the swiftness of the Chinese takeover of Tibet because he had been “led to believe by the Chinese foreign office that the Chinese would settle the future of Tibet in a peaceful manner”. Shourie’s well-researched, powerfully written book relies on Nehru’s letters, speeches, notes and other correspondence to bring out the significance, in Nehru’s own words, of the events from the 1950-51 fall of Tibet to China’s 1962 invasion.

The author then draws 31 lessons from those developments for today’s India. After all, there are important parallels, as Shourie points out, between the situation pre-1962 and the situation now. Border talks are regressing, Chinese claims on Indian territories are becoming publicly assertive, Chinese cross-border incursions are rising, and India’s China policy is becoming feckless.

Indeed, what stands out in the history of Sino-Indian disputes is that India has always been on the defensive against a country that first moved its frontiers hundreds of miles south by annexing Tibet, then furtively nibbled at Indian territories before waging open war, and now lays claims to additional Indian territories. By contrast, on neuralgic subjects like Tibet, Beijing’s public language still matches the crudeness and callousness with which it sought in 1962, in Premier Zhou Enlai’s words, to “teach India a lesson”. India’s crushing rout in 1962 hastened the death of Nehru, “a fervent patriot,” according to Shourie, who “misled himself and thereby brought severe trauma upon the country, a country that he loved and served with such ardour”.

The defeat transformed Nehru from a world statesman to a beaten, shattered politician. A classic example of Nehru’s selfdelusion cited by the author is the following note he wrote on July 9, 1949, to the country’s top career diplomat: “Whatever may be the ultimate fate of Tibet in relation to China, I think there is practically no chance of any military danger to India arising from any change in Tibet.

Geographically, this is very difficult and practically it would be a foolish adventure. If India is to be influenced or an attempt made to bring pressure on her, Tibet is not the route for it. I do not think there is any necessity for our defence ministry, or any part of it, to consider possible military repercussions on the India-Tibetan frontier.The event is remote and may not arise at all.”

What Nehru naively saw as a “foolish adventure” was mounted within months by China. What Nehru asserted was geographically impracticable became a geopolitical reality that has impacted on Indian security like no other development since the 20th century. Right up to 1949, Nehru kept referring to the “Tibetan government” and to Tibet and India as “our two countries”. But no sooner had China begun gobbling up Tibet than Nehru’s stance changed. He started advising Tibetan representatives, as Shourie brings out, to go to Beijing and plead for autonomy.

By 1954, through the infamous ‘Panchsheel Agreement’, Nehru had not only surrendered India’s extra-territorial rights in Tibet but also recognised ‘the Tibet region of China’ — without securing any quid pro quo, such as the Chinese acceptance of the McMahon Line. From Nehru’s grudging acceptance of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s blithe acceptance of full Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, India has incrementally shed its main card — Tibet — and thereby allowed the aggressor state to shift the spotlight from its annexation of Tibet and Aksai Chin to its newly assertive claims on Arunachal Pradesh.

The irony is that by laying claims to additional Indian territories on the basis of their purported ties to Tibet, China blatantly plays the Tibet card against India, going to the extent of citing the birth in Tawang of one of the earlier Dalai Lamas, a politico-religious institution it has systematically sought to destroy. Yet India remains coy to play the Tibet card against China.

The sum effect of failing to use Tibet as a bargaining chip has been that India first lost Aksai Chin, then more territory in 1962 and now is seeking to fend off Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh. And as Shourie reminds us, India has still to grasp that the Chinese modus operandi of promising a peaceful settlement and then employing force to change facts on the ground is an old practice.

The lessons he paints — from not running policy on hope to ensuring peace by building capability to defend peace — are words of warning no leadership ought to ignore. Shourie’s book is a call for a downthe-earth Indian policy which, without pushing any panic buttons, begins to build better Himalayan security and countervailing leverage to ensure that China’s growing power does not slide into arrogance and renewed aggression. After all, China’s dramatic rise as a world power in just one generation under authoritarian rule represents the first direct challenge to liberal democracy since the rise of fascism in the 1930s.

But just as India has been battered by growing terrorism because of its location next to the global epicentre of terror, it could bear the brunt from its geographical proximity to an increasingly assertive China.

Brahma Chellaney is a political commentator


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The imperative of free Tibet

September 4, 2008

Chinese Tufan

Tibet is a in Central Asia and the home to the indigenous Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 4,900 metres , it is the highest region on Earth and is commonly referred to as the "Roof of the World."

Tibet was once an independent kingdom but today is part of the People's Republic of China while a small part, according to the government of the People's Republic of China, is controlled by India. Currently, the PRC government and the Government of Tibet in Exile still over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether the incorporation into China of Tibet is legitimate according to international law . Since what constitutes Tibet is a matter of much debate neither its size nor population are simple matters of fact, due to various entities claiming differing parts of the area as a Tibetan region.

A unified Tibet first came into being under Songts& in the seventh century. The government of the Dalai Lamas, a line of Tibetan spiritual leaders, nominally ruled a large portion of the Tibetan region from the 1640s until its incorporation into the PRC in the 1950s. During most of this period, the Tibetan administration was subordinate to the Chinese empire of the Qing Dynasty. As a measure of the power that regents must have wielded it is important to note that only three of the fourteen Dalai Lamas have actually ruled Tibet. From 1751 to 1960 regents ruled for 77 percent of the time.

Definitions of Tibet


In English

The English word ''Tibet'', like the word for Tibet in most European languages, is derived from the word ''Tubbat''. This word is derived via from the word ''Töbäd'' , meaning "the heights".

PRC scholars favor the theory that "Tibet" is derived from ''tǔbō''.

In Tibetan

Tibetans call their homeland ''Bod'' , pronounced in Lhasa dialect. .

:"The name Tibetans give their country, ''Bod'' , was closely rendered and preserved by their Indian neighbours to the south, as Bhoṭa, Bhauṭa or Bauṭa. It has even been suggested that this name is to be found in Ptolemy and the ''Periplus Maris Erythraei'', a first-century Greek narrative, where the river Bautisos and a people called the Bautai are mentioned in connexion with a region of Central Asia. But we have no knowledge of the existence of Tibetans at that time."

In Chinese

The present Chinese name for Tibet, 西藏 , is a phonetic transliteration derived from the region called Tsang . The Chinese name originated during the Qing Dynasty of China, ca. 1700. It can be broken down into “xī” 西 , and “zàng” 藏 .

The pre-1700s historic Chinese term for Tibet was . In modern Standard Mandarin, the first character is pronounced "tǔ". The second character is normally pronounced "fān"; in the context of references to Tibet, most authorities say that it should be pronounced "bō", while some authorities state that it should be pronounced as "fān". A reconstructed Medieval Chinese pronunciation would be /t'obwn/, which comes from the word for “heights” which is also the origin of the English term “Tibet”.

:"The Chinese, well informed on the Tibetans as they were from the seventh century onwards, rendered Bod as Fan . Was this because the Tibetans sometimes said 'Bon' instead of 'Bod', or because 'fan' in Chinese was a common term for 'barbarians'? We do not know. But before long, on the testimony of a Tibetan ambassador, the Chinese started using the form T'u-fan, by assimilation with the name of the T'u-fa, a Turco-Mongol race, who must originally have been called something like Tuppat."

When expressing themselves in Chinese, many exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama's government in Dharamsala, now use the term 吐博 Tǔbó.

The PRC government equates Tibet with the Tibet Autonomous Region . As such, the name “Xīzàng” is equated with the TAR. Some English-speakers reserve “Xīzàng”, the Chinese word transliterated into English, for the TAR, to keep the concept distinct from that of historic Tibet.The character 藏 has been used in transcriptions referring to Tsang as early as the Yuan Dynasty, if not earlier, though the modern term "Xizang" was devised in the 18th century. The Chinese character 藏 has also been generalized to refer to all of Tibet, including other concepts related to Tibet such as the Tibetan language and the Tibetan people .


The Tibetan language is generally classified as a Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan language family although the boundaries between 'Tibetan' and certain other Himalayan languages can be unclear. According to Matthew Kapstein:

From the perspective of historical linguistics, Tibetan most closely resembles among the major languages of Asia. Grouping these two together with other apparently related languages spoken in the Himalayan lands, as well as in the highlands of Southeast Asia and the Sino-Tibetan frontier regions, linguists have generally concluded that there exists a Tibeto-Burman family of languages. More controversial is the theory that the Tibeto-Burman family is itself part of a larger language family, called , and that through it Tibetan and Burmese are distant cousins of Chinese.

The language is spoken in numerous regional dialects which, although sometimes mutually intelligible, generally cannot be understood by the speakers of the different oral forms of Tibetan. It is employed throughout the Tibetan plateau and Bhutan and is also spoken in parts of Nepal and northern India, such as Sikkim. In general, the dialects of central Tibet , Kham, Amdo and some smaller nearby areas are considered Tibetan dialects. Other forms, particularly Dzongkha, , , and , are considered by their speakers, largely for political reasons, to be separate languages. However, if the latter group of Tibetan-type languages are included in the calculation then 'greater Tibetan' is spoken by approximately 6 million people across the Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan is also spoken by approximately 150,000 exile speakers who have fled from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries.

Although spoken Tibetan varies according to the region, the written language, based on Classical Tibetan, is consistent throughout. This is probably due to the long-standing influence of the Tibetan empire, whose rule embraced the present Tibetan linguistic area, which runs from northern Pakistan in the west to Yunnan and Sichuan in the east, and from north of the Kokonor lake south as far as Bhutan. The Tibetan language has its own that it shares with and , which is derived from the ancient Indian script.


The general history of Tibet begins with the rule of Songts& who united parts of the Valley and ruled Tibet as a kingdom. He also brought in many reforms and Tibetan power spread rapidly creating a large and powerful empire. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the niece of the powerful Chinese emperor Emperor Taizong of Tang China.

Under the next few kings who followed Songsten Gampo, Buddhism became established as the state religion and Tibetan power increased even further over large areas of Central Asia while major inroads were made into Chinese territory, even reaching the Chinese capital Chang'an in late 763. However, Tibetan troops occupied Chang'an for only fifteen days.

Nanzhao remained under Tibetan control from 750 to 794, when they turned on their Tibetan overlords and helped the Chinese inflict a serious defeat on the Tibetans.

The Tibetans were allied with the and eastern . In 747, the hold of Tibet was loosened by the campaign of general Gao Xianzhi, who tried to re-open the direct communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the . However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the and at the Battle of Talas river , Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence resumed.
In 821/822 CE Tibet and China signed a remarkable peace treaty. A bilingual account of this treaty including details of the borders between the two countries are inscribed on a stone pillar which stands outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. Tibet continued as a Central Asian empire until the mid-9th century.

Tibet and the Mongols

At the end of the 1230s, the turned their attention to Tibet. At that time, Mongol armies had already conquered Northern China, much of Central Asia, and as far as Russia and modern Ukraine. The Tibetan nobility, however, was fragmented and mainly occupied with internal strife. G&, a brother of , entered the country in 1240. A second invasion led to the submission almost all Tibetan states. In 1244, Göden summoned the Sakya Pandita to his court, and in 1247 appointed Sakya the Mongolian viceroy for Central Tibet, though the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo remained "under direct Mongol rule". When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, Tibet became a part of the Yuan Dynasty.

Between 1346 and 1354, towards the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the House of Pagmodru toppled the Sakya. The following 80 years were a period of relative stability. They also saw the birth of the Gelugpa school by the disciples of , and the founding of the important Ganden, Drepung, and monasteries near Lhasa. After the 1430s, the country entered another period of internal power struggles.

In 1578, Altan Khan of the Tümed Mongols invited Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the Gelugpa school. They met near , where Altan Khan first referred to Sönam Gyatso as the ''Dalai Lama''; ''Dalai'' being the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or "Ocean".

Events leading to Qing control

In the 1630s, Tibet became entangled in the power struggles between the rising Manchu and various Mongol and Oirad factions. Ligden Khan of the Mongolian Chakhar tribe, retreating from the Manchu forces, set out to destroy the Yellow Hat Gelug school in Tibet but died on the way near Kokonor, in 1634. His vassal Tsogt Taij continued the fight but was defeated and killed by Güshi Khan of the Khoshud in 1637, who, in turn, became the overlord over Tibet, and acted as a "Protector of the Yellow Church". Güshi helped the to establish himself as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet and destroyed any potential rivals.

In 1705, of the Khoshud used the 6th Dalai Lama's refusal of the role of a monk as an excuse to take control of Tibet. The regent was murdered, and the Dalai Lama sent to Beijing. He died on the way, also near Kokonor, ostensibly from illness. Lobzang Khan appointed a new Dalai Lama, who, however, was not accepted by the Gelugpa school.

A was found in the region of Kokonor. The Dzungars invaded Tibet in 1717, deposed and killed a pretender to the position of Dalai Lama , which met with widespread approval. However, the Dzungars soon began to loot the holy places of Lhasa which brought a swift response from Emperor Kangxi in 1718, but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars not far from Lhasa.

Emperor Kangxi finally expelled the Dzungars from Tibet in 1720 and the troops were hailed as liberators. They brought Kelzang Gyatso with them from Kumbum to Lhasa and he was installed as the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1721, though they did not make Tibet a province, allowed it to maintain its own officials and legal and administrative systems, and levied no taxes. However, the Manchu put Amdo under their control in 1724, and incorporated eastern Kham into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728. The Qing government sent a resident commissioner, namely ''Amban'', to Lhasa. In 1751, installed the Dalai Lama as both the spiritual leader and political leader of Tibet leading the government, namely ''Kashag''.

Tibet under Qing and the Republic

While the ancient relations between Tibet and China are more complex, there is generally little doubt regarding the subordination of Tibet to Manchu-ruled China following first decades of the 18th century. In 1788, Gurkha forces sent by Bahadur Shah, the Regent of Nepal, invaded Tibet, occupying a number of frontier districts. The young Panchen Lama fled to Lhasa and Qing Emperor Qianlong sent troops to Lhasa, upon which the Nepalese withdrew agreeing to pay a large annual sum. In 1791 the Nepalese Gurkhas invaded Tibet a second time, seizing Shigatse and destroyed, plundered, and desecrated the great Tashilhunpo Monastery. The Panchen Lama was forced to flee to Lhasa once again. Emperor Qianlong then sent an army of 17,000 men to Tibet. In 1793, with the assistance of Tibetan troops, they managed to drive the Nepalese troops to within about 30 km of Kathmandu.

The first Europeans to arrive in Tibet were missionaries in 1624 and were welcomed by the Tibetans who allowed them to build a . The 18th century brought more Jesuits and from Europe who gradually met opposition from Tibetan lamas who finally expelled them from Tibet in 1745. However, at the time not all Europeans were banned from the country — in 1774 a Scottish nobleman, , came to Shigatse to investigate trade for the British East India Company, introducing the first potatoes into Tibet.

However, by the 19th century the situation of foreigners in Tibet grew more tenuous. The British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Himalayas and Afghanistan and the Russian Empire of the tsars was expanding south into Central Asia and each power became suspicious of intent in Tibet. Sándor K&, the Hungarian scientist spent 20 years in British India trying to visit Tibet. He created the first Tibetan-English dictionary.

By the 1850s Tibet had banned all foreigners from Tibet and shut its borders to all outsiders.

In 1865 Great Britain began secretly mapping Tibet. Trained Indian surveyor-spies disguised as pilgrims or traders counted their strides on their travels across Tibet and took readings at night. Then, in 1904 a mission under the command of Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by a large military escort, invaded Tibet and reached Lhasa.

The principal pretext for the British invasion was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its power into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the local Tibetan government. But on his way to Lhasa, Younghusband slaughtered many Tibetan troops in Gyangzê who tried to stop the British advance.

When the mission reached Lhasa, the Dalai Lama had already fled to Urga in Mongolia, but Younghusband found the option of returning to India empty-handed untenable. He proceeded to draft a treaty unilaterally, and have it signed in the Potala by the regent, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, and any other local officials he could gather together as an ''ad hoc'' government. The treaty made provisions for the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet to be respected, for free trade between British and Tibetan subjects, and for an indemnity to be paid from the Qing court to the British Government for its expenses in dispatching armed troops to Lhasa. The provisions of this 1904 treaty were confirmed in a 1906 treaty signed between and China. The British, for a fee from the Qing court, also agreed "not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet", while China engaged "not to ''permit'' any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet".

The position of British Trade Agent at Gyangzê was occupied from 1904 until 1944. It was not until 1937, with the creation of the position of "Head of British Mission Lhasa", that a British officer had a permanent posting in Lhasa itself.

André Migot, a French doctor who travelled for many months in Tibet in 1947 described the complex border arrangements between Tibet and China, and how they had developed:

:"In order to offset the damage done to their interests by the treaty between England and Tibet, the Chinese set up about extending westwards the sphere of their direct control and began to colonize the country round Batang. The Tibetans reacted vigorously. The Chinese governor was killed on his way to Chamdo and his army put to flight after an action near Batang; several missionaries were also murdered, and Chinese fortunes were at a low ebb when a special commissioner called Chao Yu-fong appeared on the scene.
:Acting with a savagery which earned him the sobriquet of "The Butcher of Monks," he swept down on Batang, sacked the lamasery, pushed on to Chamdo, and in a series of victorious campaigns which brought his army to the gates of Lhasa, re-established order and reasserted Chinese domination over Tibet. In 1909 he recommended that Sikang should be constituted a separate province comprising thirty-six subprefectures with Batang as the capital. This project was not carried out until later, and then in modified form, for the Chinese Revolution of 1911 brought Chao's career to an end and he was shortly afterwards assassinated by his compatriots.
:The troubled early years of the Chinese Republic saw the rebellion of most of the tributary chieftains, a number of pitched battles between Chinese and Tibetans, and many strange happenings in which tragedy, comedy, and religion all had a part to play. In 1914 Great Britain, China, and Tibet met at the conference table to try to restore peace, but this conclave broke up after failing to reach agreement on the fundamental question of the Sino-Tibetan frontier. This, since about 1918, has been recognized for practical purposes as following the course of the Upper Yangtze. In these years the Chinese had too many other preoccupations to bother about reconquering Tibet. However, things gradually quieted down, and in 1927 the province of Sikang was brought into being, but it consisted of only twenty-seven subprefectures instead of the thirty-six visualized by the man who conceived the idea. China had lost, in the course of a decade, all the territory which the Butcher had overrun.
:Since then Sikang has been relatively peaceful, but this short synopsis of the province's history makes it easy to understand how precarious this state of affairs is bound to be. Chinese control was little more than nominal; I was often to have first-hand experience of its ineffectiveness. In order to govern a territory of this kind it is not enough to station, in isolated villages separated from each other by many days' journey, a few unimpressive officials and a handful of ragged soldiers. The Tibetans completely disregarded the Chinese administration and obeyed only their own chiefs. One very simple fact illustrates the true status of Sikang's Chinese rulers: nobody in the province would accept Chinese currency, and the officials, unable to buy anything with their money, were forced to subsist by a process of barter."

In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own to establish direct Chinese rule and deposed the Dalai Lama in an imperial edict. The Dalai Lama once again fled, this time to British India, in February 1910. The Dalai Lama returned to Tibet from India in July 1912, and by the end of the year the Chinese troops in Tibet had returned, via India, to China Proper.

Independence proclaimed

Upon his return to Tibet in 1913, the Dalai Lama issued a proclamation that stated that relationship between the Chinese emperor and Tibet "had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other." "We are a small, religious, and independent nation," the proclamation stated. signed a in , proclaiming mutual recognition and their independence from China. The 13th Dalai Lama later told a British diplomat that he did not authorized Agvan Dorzhiev to conclude any treaties on behalf of Tibet.

In 1914, representatives of Tibet, Britain, and China negotiated a treaty concerning Tibet's status called the Simla Convention. The convention included a map delineating a boundary between Tibet and India later called the McMahon Line. It affirmed Chinese suzerainty and stated that Tibet was "part of Chinese territory". When the Chinese government refused to ratify, Tibet and Britain concluded the treaty as a bilateral agreement and attached a note denying China any privileges under it.

The subsequent outbreak of World War I and the ruled by warlords caused the Western powers and the infighting factions within China to lose interest in Tibet, and the 13th Dalai Lama ruled undisturbed until his death in 1933. At that time, the government of Tibet controlled all of and western , somewhat larger than the Tibet Autonomous Region today. Eastern Kham, separated by the Yangtze River, was under the control of Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui.

In 1935 the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso was born in Amdo in eastern Tibet and was recognized as the latest reincarnation. He was taken to Lhasa in 1937 where he was later given an official ceremony in 1939. In 1944, during World War I, two Austrian mountaineers, Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter came to Lhasa, where Harrer became a tutor and friend to the young Dalai Lama giving him a sound knowledge of western culture and modern society, until he was forced to leave in 1959.

Supporters of the PRC have characterized the socio-economy of Tibet prior to Communism as 'feudal serfdom'. However, supporters of an independent Tibet objected to this assessment. For a discussion of the debate see Serfdom in Tibet controversy. For a description of the traditional social structure see Social classes of Tibet.

Tibet under The People's Republic of China

With the in 1950 and the subsequent , the PRC asserted control over Tibet.

A rebellion against the Chinese occupation was led by noblemen and monasteries and broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June 1956. The insurrection, supported by the American CIA, eventually spread to Lhasa. It was crushed by 1959. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and the 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India.

Chinese sources generally claim progress towards a prosperous and free society in Tibet, with its pillars being economic development, legal advancement, and peasant emancipation. These claims, however, have been refuted by the Tibet Government-in-Exile and some indigenous Tibetans, who claim of genocide in Tibet from the Chinese government, comparing it to Nazi Germany. The official doctrine of the PRC classifies Tibetans as one of its 56 recognized ethnic groups and part of the greater ''Zhonghua Minzu'', a national concept with a complex definition. Independent scholar Warren Smith, whose work became focused on Tibetan history and politics after spending five months in Tibet in 1982, portrays the Chinese as chauvinists who believe they are superior to the Tibetans, and claims that the Chinese use torture, coercion and starvation to control the Tibetans.

The Central Tibetan Administration states that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million, which the Chinese Communist Party denies. The Chinese Communist Party's official toll of deaths recorded for the whole of China for the years of the Great Leap Forward is 14 million, but scholars have estimated the number of the famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million. According to Patrick French, the estimate of 1.2 million in Tibet is not reliable because Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. There were, however, many casualties, with a figure of 400,000 extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" from Tibet.

The following Cultural Revolution and the damage it wrought upon Tibet and, indeed, the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe. In the PRC government's view, the main instigators were the Gang of Four, who have since been brought to justice. Large numbers of Tibetans died violent deaths due to the Cultural Revolution, and the number of intact monasteries in Tibet was reduced from thousands, to less than ten. Tibetan resentment towards the Chinese deepened. Tibetans participated in the destruction, but it is not clear how many of them actually embraced Chinese ideology, and how many participated out of fear of becoming targets themselves.

Projects that the PRC government claims to have benefited Tibet as part of the China Western Development economic plan, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, have roused fears of facilitating military mobilisation and Han migration. There is still ethnic imbalance in appointments and promotions to the civil and judicial services in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, with disproportionately few ethnic Tibetans appointed to these posts.

The PRC government claims that its rule over Tibet is an unalloyed improvement, and that the China Western Development plan is a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the wealthier eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards. But foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of CCP rule in Tibet because of frequent reports of human rights violation in Tibet by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The government of the PRC maintains that the Tibetan Government did almost nothing to improve the Tibetans' material and political standard of life during its rule from 1913–59, and that they opposed any reforms proposed by the Chinese government. According to the Chinese government, this is the reason for the tension that grew between some central government officials and the local Tibetan government in 1959.

The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, and states that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to self rule before 1950. Belying these claims, some 3,000 Tibetans brave hardship and danger to flee into exile every year.

These claims are, however, disputed by many Tibetans. In 1989, the Panchen Lama,finally allowed to return to Shigatse, addressed a crowd of 30,000 and described what he saw as the suffering of Tibet and the harm being done to his country in the name of socialist reform under the rule of the PRC in terms reminiscent of the petition he had presented to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962.

In 1995 the Dalai Lama named 6 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama without Chinese approval, while the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu in conflict. Gyancain Norbu was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally on state media. The PRC-selected Panchen Lama is rejected by exiled Tibetans and anti-China groups who commonly refer to him as the "Panchen Zuma" . Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have gone missing — believed by some to be imprisoned by China — and under a hidden identity for protection and privacy according to the PRC.

The Dalai Lama has stated his willingness to negotiate with the PRC government for genuine autonomy, but according to the government in exile and Tibetan independence groups, most Tibetans still call for full Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama sees the millions of government-imported Han immigrants and preferential socioeconomic policies, as presenting an urgent threat to the Tibetan nation and culture. Tibetan exile groups say that despite recent attempts to restore the appearance of original Tibetan culture to attract tourism, the traditional Tibetan way of life is now irrevocably changed. Tashi Wangdi, the Representative of the , stated in an interview that China's Western China Development program "is providing facilities for the resettlement of in Tibet."

In 2001 representatives of Tibet succeeded in gaining accreditation at a United Nations-sponsored meeting of non-governmental organizations. On August 29 Jampal Chosang, the head of the Tibetan coalition, stated that China had introduced "a new form of apartheid" in Tibet because "Tibetan culture, religion, and national identity are considered a threat" to China.

In 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence. The Dalai Lama said in an interview with the South China Morning Post "We are willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment." This statement was seen as a renewed diplomatic initiative by the Tibetan government-in-exile. He had already said he would accept Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but insisted on real autonomy over its religious and cultural life. The Tibetan government-in-exile called on the Chinese government to respond. The move was unpopular with many Tibetans.

In January 2007 the Dalai Lama, in an interview on a private television channel, said, "what we demand from the Chinese authority is more autonomy for Tibetans to protect their culture". He added that he had told the Tibetan people not to think in terms of history and to accept Tibet as a part of China.

Talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government began again in May 2008 and again in July, but with little results. The two sides agreed to meet again in October.


Geographically, UNESCO and ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' consider Tibet to be part of Central Asia, while some academic organizations consider it part of South Asia.

Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region. The world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, is on Nepal's border with Tibet. The average altitude is about 3,000 m in the south and 4,500 m in the north.

Several major rivers have their source in the Tibetan Plateau . These include, Yellow River, Indus River, Mekong, Brahmaputra River, Ganges, and the . The Indus, Brahmaputra rivers originate from a lake in Western Tibet, near Mount Kailash. The mountain is a holy pilgrimage for both Hindus and Tibetans. The Hindus consider the mountain to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The Tibetan name for Mt Kailash is Khang Rinpoche. Tibet has numerous high-altitude lakes referred to in Tibetan as ''tso'' or ''co''. These include Lake Manasarovar, Namtso, Pangong Tso, Yamdrok Lake, Siling Co, Lhamo La-tso, Lumajangdong Co, Lake Puma Yumco, Lake Paiku, Lake Rakshastal, Dagze Co and Dong Co

The atmosphere is severely dry nine months of the year, and average annual snowfall is only 18 inches, due to the rain shadow effect whereby mountain ranges prevent moisture from the ocean from reaching the plateaus. Western passes receive small amounts of fresh snow each year but remain traversable all year round. Low temperatures are prevalent throughout these western regions, where bleak desolation is unrelieved by any vegetation beyond the size of low bushes, and where wind sweeps unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. The Indian monsoon exerts some influence on eastern Tibet. Northern Tibet is subject to high temperatures in the summer and intense cold in the winter.

Historic Tibet consists of several regions. These include Amdo in the northeast, incorporated by China into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan., Kham in the east, divided between Sichuan, northern Yunnan and Qinghai., Western Kham, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and & , part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring states of Bhutan, Nepal, adjacent regions of India such as Sikkim and Ladakh, and adjacent provinces of China where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion.

On the border with India, the region popularly known among Chinese as South Tibet is claimed by China and administered by India as the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Cities, towns and villages

There are over 800 settlements in Tibet, Lhasa is Tibet's traditional capital and the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Lhasa contains the world heritage site the Potala Palace and Norbulingka, the residences of the Dalai Lama. Lhasa contains a number of significant temples and monasteries which are deeply engrained in its history including Jokhang and Ramoche Temple.

Shigatse is the country's second largest city, west of Lhasa. Gyantse, Chamdo are also amongst the largest.

Other cities in Historic Tibet include, Nagchu, Nyingchi, Nedong, Barkam, , Gartse, Pelbar, Lhatse, and Tingri; in Sichuan, Kangding ; in Qinghai, Jyekundo or Yushu, , and Golmud. There is also a large Tibetan settlement in South India near Kushalanagara. India created this settlement for Tibetan refugees which had fled to India.


According to Chinese sources, Tibet's GDP in 2001 was 13.9 billion yuan . The Central government exempts Tibet from all taxation and provides 90% of Tibet's government expenditures. The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, livestock raising is the primary occupation mainly on the Tibetan Plateau, among them are sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks and horses. However, the main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes and assorted fruits and vegetables.

In recent years, due to the increased interest in Tibetan Buddhism, tourism has become an increasingly important sector, and is actively promoted by the authorities. The Tibetan economy is heavily subsidized by the Central government and government cadres receive the second-highest salaries in China.

Tourism brings in the most income from the sale of handicrafts. These include Tibetan hats, jewelry , wooden items, clothing, quilts, fabrics, Tibetan rugs and carpets.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway which links the region to Qinghai in China proper was opened in 2006. The Chinese government claims that the line will promote the development of impoverished Tibet. But opponents argue the railway will harm Tibet. For instance, Tibetan opponents contend that it would only draw more Han Chinese residents, the country's dominant ethnic group, who have been migrating steadily to Tibet over the last decade, bringing with them their popular culture. Opponents believe that the large influx of Han Chinese will ultimately extinguish the local culture.

Other opponents argue that the railway will damage Tibet's fragile ecology and that most of its economic benefits will go to migrant Han Chinese. As activists call for a boycott of the railway, the Dalai Lama has urged Tibetans to "wait and see" what benefits the new line might bring to them. According to the Government-in-exile's spokesmen, the Dalai Lama welcomes the building of the railway, "conditioned on the fact that the railroad will bring benefit to the majority of Tibetans."

In January 2007, the Chinese government issued a report outlining the discovery of a large mineral deposit under the Tibetan Plateau. The deposit has an estimated value of $128 billion and may double Chinese reserves of zinc, copper, and lead. The Chinese government sees this as a way to alleviate the nation's dependence on foreign mineral imports for its growing economy. However, critics worry that mining these vast resources will harm Tibet's fragile ecosystem as well take valuable resources away from the Tibetan people.

The Government of Tibet in Exile questions all statistics given by the PRC government, since they do not include members of the People's Liberation Army garrisoned in Tibet, or the large floating population of unregistered migrants. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is also a major concern, as it is believed to further facilitate the influx of migrants.

The Government of Tibet in Exile quotes an issue of ''People's Daily'' published in 1959 to claim that the Tibetan population has dropped significantly since 1959. According to the article, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics of the PRC show that the autonomous region of Tibet was populated by persons. In the Tibetan sectors of Kham, Tibetans were counted. In Qinghai and other Tibetan sectors that are incorporated in Gansu, Tibetans were counted. According to the total of these three numbers, the Tibetan population attained in 1959.

In 2000, the number of Tibetans as a whole of these regions was about according to National Bureau of Statistics.

The Tibetan exile Government's analysis of these statistics originating from National Bureau of Statistics shows that in between 1959 and 2000, the Tibetan population decreased by about one million, a 15% decline. During the same period, the Chinese population doubled, and the world-wide population increased by 3-fold. This analysis gives an additional argument concerning the estimation of the number of Tibetan deaths during the period between 1959 and 1979. It also suggests the existence of a demographic deficit of the Tibetan population and the precise time course and causes must be specified.

The accuracy of this 1959 Tibetan population estimate quoted by the Government of Tibet in Exile is in conflict with the findings of the 1954 Chinese census report. The census states that the total population of the autonomous region of Tibet was 1,273,969; the total population of Kham was 3,381,064; and the total population of Qinghai was 1,675,534. These numbers were taken by the Government of Tibet in Exile as the population of Tibetans in each province.

View of the People's Republic of China

The PRC government does not view itself as an occupying power and has vehemently denied allegations of demographic swamping. The PRC also does not recognize Greater Tibet as claimed by the government of Tibet in Exile. The PRC government claims that the ethnically Tibetan areas outside the TAR were not controlled by the Tibetan government before 1959 in the first place, having been administered instead by other surrounding provinces for centuries. It further alleges that the idea of "Greater Tibet" was originally engineered by foreign in order to divide China amongst themselves .

The PRC gives the number of Tibetans in Tibet Autonomous Region as 2.4 million, as opposed to 190,000 non-Tibetans, and the number of Tibetans in all Tibetan autonomous entities combined as 5.0 million, as opposed to 2.3 million non-Tibetans. In the TAR itself, much of the Han population is to be found in Lhasa. Population control policies like the one-child policy only apply to Han Chinese, not to minorities such as Tibetans .

Jampa Phuntsok, chairman of the TAR, has also said that the central government has no policy of migration into Tibet due to its harsh high-altitude conditions, that the 6% Han in the TAR is a very fluid group mainly doing business or working, and that there is no immigration problem.

With regards to the historical population of ethnic Tibetans, the Chinese government claims that according to the First National Census conducted in 1954, there were 2,770,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 1,270,000 in the TAR; whereas in the Fourth National Census conducted in 1990, there were 4,590,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 2,090,000 in the TAR. These figures are used to advance the claim that the Tibetan population has doubled since 1951.

This table includes all Tibetan in the PRC, plus Xining PLC and Haidong P. The latter two are included to complete the figures for Qinghai province, and also because they are claimed as parts of Greater Tibet by the Government of Tibet in exile.

P = Prefecture; AP = Autonomous prefecture; PLC = Prefecture-level city; AC = Autonomous county.

Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.

Human rights

According to the non-government Save Tibet website, the Tibetan people are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression, and travel. Elliot Sperling, an Associate Professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University, in a statement to the Human Rights Watch, also detailed human rights violation in Tibet. The Tibet Justice.org claims that according to UN Development Programme data, Tibet is ranked the lowest among China’s 31 provinces, and is ranked 153 out of the 160 countries on the Human Development Index.

Amnesty International has stated that political prisoners are often beaten and tortured, and sometimes summarily executed. Since the 1988 ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture by China, 69 Tibetans are recorded as having died as a result of torture in Chinese prisons. Human rights groups have confirmed by name over 700 Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet, many of them detained without charge or trial.

Journalist Thomas Laird claims that there is no evidence to support China's claim that Tibet is autonomous, as all local legislation is subject to approval of the central government in Beijing.

The Tibetan exile government claims that China does not allow independent human rights organisations into Tibet, and foreign delegations invited to Tibet are denied independent access to meet with Tibetans. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that more than 11,000 monks and nuns have been expelled from Tibet since 1996 for opposing "patriotic re-education" sessions conducted at monasteries and nunneries under the "Strike Hard" campaign.

Thomas Laird also claims that China continues to encourage the transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet. This threatens the survival of the Tibetan religious, cultural and national identity. The Free Tibet website claims that unemployment in schools, discussion of Tibetan cultural, religious and social issues is discouraged, and Chinese culture is promoted.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that unemployment among Tibetans is high. An unequal taxation system further exacerbates the conditions of poverty for Tibetans in rural areas. Many basic rights, such as the right to housing, education and health, remain unfulfilled.



Tibetan Buddhism

Religion and spirituality is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of lives; ingrained deeply into their cultural heritage. Bön is the ancient traditional religion of Tibet, but following the introduction of Tantric Buddhism into Tibet by Padmasambhava this became eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism, a distinctive form of Vajrayana. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in Tibet but also in Mongolia, parts of northern India, the Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and in the Republic of Kalmykia.

Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions :

* , ''Way of Virtue'', also known casually as ''Yellow Hat'', whose spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal, the Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

* , ''Oral Lineage''. This contains one major subsect and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. There are further eight minor sub-sects, all of which trace their root to Pagtru Kagyu. Among the eight sub-sects the most notable of are the and the Drukpa Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an eleventh century mystic.

* , ''The Ancient Ones''. This is the oldest, the original order founded by Padmasambhava.

* , ''Grey Earth'', headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya Pandita 1182–1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This school very much represents the scholarly tradition.


In Tibetan cities, there are also small communities of , known as Kachee , who trace their origin to immigrants from three main regions: Kashmir , Ladakh and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from Persia. After 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that year. There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community , which traces its ancestry back to the ethnic group of China. It is said that Muslim migrants from Kashmir and Ladakh first entered Tibet around the 12th century. Marriages and social interaction gradually led to an increase in the population until a sizable community grew up around Lhasa.

Buddhist monasteries in Tibet

Tibetan art

Tibetan representations of art are intrinsically bound with Tibetan Buddhism and commonly depict deities or variations of in various forms from bronze Buddhist statues and shrines, to highly colorful thangka paintings and mandalas.


Tibetan architecture contains Oriental and Indian influences, and reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, can be seen on nearly every Gompa in Tibet. The design of the Tibetan Ch&s can vary, from roundish walls in Kham to squarish, four-sided walls in Ladakh.

The most distinctive feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south, and are often made out of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heat or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area.

Standing at 117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, the Potala Palace is considered as the most important example of Tibetan architecture. Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it contains over one thousand rooms within thirteen stories, and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.


The music of Tibet reflects the cultural heritage of the trans-Himalayan region, centered in Tibet but also known wherever ethnic groups are found in India, Bhutan, Nepal and further abroad. First and foremost Tibetan music is religious music, reflecting the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the culture.

Tibetan music often involves chanting in or Sanskrit, as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Other styles include those unique to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the classical music of the popular Gelugpa school, and the romantic music of the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Kagyupa schools.

Nangma dance music is especially popular in the karaoke bars of the urban center of Tibet, Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the classical style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. are a type of songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches. There are also epic bards who sing of Tibet's national hero Gesar.


Tibet has various festivals which commonly are performed to worship the Buddha throughout the year. Losar is the Tibetan New Year Festival. Preparations for the festive event are manifested by special offerings to family shrine deities, painted doors with religious symbols, and other painstaking jobs done to prepare for the event. Tibetans eat Guthuk on New Year's Eve with their families. The Monlam Prayer Festival follows it in the first month of the Tibetan calendar, falling on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. which involves many Tibetans dancing and participating in sports events and sharing picnics. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order.


The Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lamas, is a World Heritage Site, as is Norbulingka, former summer residence of the Dalai Lama.

Since 2002, Tibetans in exile have allowed a Miss Tibet beauty contest in spite of concerns that this event is considered a Western influence. The beauty contest is condemned by the Tibetan government in exile.


The most important crop in Tibet is barley, and dough made from barley flour called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet. This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called . Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or , often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item. Butter tea is very popular to drink.

Tibet in popular culture

In recent years there have been a number of films produced about Tibet, most notably Hollywood films such as '''', starring Brad Pitt, and ''Kundun'', a biography of the 14th Dalai Lama, directed by Martin Scorsese. Both of these films were banned by the Chinese government because of Tibetan nationalist overtones. Other films include '''', ''The Cup'' and the 1999 ''Himalaya'', a French-American produced film with a Tibetan cast set in Nepal and Tibet. In 2005, exile Tibetan filmmaker Tenzing Sonam and his partner Ritu Sarin made ''Dreaming Lhasa'', the first internationally recognized feature film to come out of the diaspora to explore the contemporary reality of Tibet.

'''', is a film made by National Geographic about a Chinese reporter that goes to Tibet to report on the issue involving the endangerment of Tibetan Antelope. It won numerous awards at home and abroad.


Further reading

* Allen, Charles . Duel in the Snows: The True Story of the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa. London: John Murray, 2004. ISBN 0-7195-5427-6.
* Bell, Charles . Tibet: Past & Present. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Dowman, Keith . ''The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide.'' Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, ISBN 0-7102-1370-0. New York, ISBN 0-14-019118-6.
* Goldstein, Melvyn C.; with the help of Gelek Rimpoche. ''A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State.'' Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers , ISBN 81-215-0582-8. University of California , ISBN 0-520-07590-0.
* Grunfeld, Tom . ''The Making of Modern Tibet.'' ISBN 1-56324-713-5.
* Gyatso, Palden . "The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk". Grove Press. NY, NY. ISBN 0-8021-3574-9
* Human Rights in China: ''China, Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions'', London, Minority Rights Group International, 2007
* McKay, Alex . Tibet and the British Raj: The Frontier Cadre 1904-1947. London: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-0627-5.
* Norbu, Thubten Jigme; Turnbull, Colin . ''Tibet: Its History, Religion and People.'' Reprint: Penguin Books .
* Pachen, Ani; Donnely, Adelaide . ''Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun.'' Kodansha America, Inc. ISBN 1-56836-294-3.
* Petech, Luciano . China and Tibet in the Early XVIIIth Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet. T'oung Pao Monographies, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 9-00403-442-0.
*Powers, John. ''History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China'' Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195174267
* Samuel, Geoffrey . ''Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies.'' Smithsonian ISBN 1-56098-231-4.
* Schell, Orville . ''Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood.'' Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-4381-0.
* Shakya, Tsering . The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7.
* Stein, R. A. . ''Tibetan Civilization.'' First published in French; English translation by J. E. Stapelton Driver. Reprint: Stanford University Press , 1995. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1.
* Thurman, Robert . ''Robert Thurman on Tibet.'' DVD. ASIN B00005Y722.
* Wilby, Sorrel . ''Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's Trek Across the Rooftop of the World.'' Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.
* Wilson, Brandon . ''Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith.'' Pilgrim's Tales. ISBN 0977053660, ISBN 0977053679.
* Wang Jiawei . "The Historical Status of China's Tibet". ISBN-7-80113-304-8.
* by Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis, 22 February 200


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Terrorism and counter-terrorism in Xinjiang, China

Uighurs and China's Xinjiang Region

Preeti Bhattacharji
Council on Foreign Relations
Friday, August 1, 2008; 9:20 AM


The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a territory in western China, accounts for one-sixth of China's land and is home to about 20 million people from thirteen major ethnic groups. The largest of these groups is the Uighurs [PRON: WEE-gurs], a predominantly Muslim community with ties to Central Asia. Some Uighurs call China's presence in Xinjiang a form of imperialism, and they stepped up calls for independence -- sometimes violently -- in the 1990s through separatist groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The Chinese government has reacted by promoting the migration of China's ethnic majority, the Han, to Xinjiang. Beijing has also strengthened economic ties with the area and tried to cut off potential sources of separatist support from neighboring states that are linguistically and ethnically linked with the Uighurs.

Intermittent Independence

Since the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, Xinjiang has enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy. Turkic rebels in Xinjiang declared independence in October 1933 and created the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (also known as the Republic of Uighuristan or the First East Turkistan Republic). The following year, the Republic of China reabsorbed the region. In 1944, factions within Xinjiang again declared independence, this time under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and created the Second East Turkistan Republic. But in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party took over the territory and declared it a Chinese province. In October 1955, Xinjiang became classified as an "autonomous region" of the People's Republic of China.

Some Uighurs, nostalgic for Xinjiang's intermittent periods of independence, call for the recreation of a Uighur state. "The Central Asian Uighurs know a great deal about the two East Turkestan periods of sovereign rule, and they reflect on that quite frequently," says Dru C. Gladney, president of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College. Many of these Uighurs say China colonized the area in 1949. But in its first white paper on Xinjiang, the Chinese government said Xinjiang had been an "inseparable part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation" since the Western Han Dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to 24 AD.

Economic Development

Xinjiang's wealth hinges on its vast mineral and oil deposits. In the early 1990s, Beijing decided to spur Xinjiang's growth by giving it special economic zones, subsidizing local cotton farmers, and overhauling its tax system. In August 1991, the Xinjiang government launched the Tarim Basin Project (World Bank) to increase agricultural output. During this period, Beijing invested in the region's infrastructure, building massive projects like the Tarim Desert Highway and a rail link to western Xinjiang. In an article for The China Quarterly, Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says these projects were designed to literally "bind Xinjiang more closely to the rest of the PRC."

Since 1954, China has also used the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) to build agricultural settlements in China's western periphery. Locally known as the Bingtuan, the XPCC is charged with cultivating and guarding the Chinese frontier. To achieve this mission, the corps has its own security organs, including an armed police force and militia. Over the past fifty years, the XPCC has attracted a steady stream of migrant workers to Xinjiang.

Beijing continues to develop Xinjiang in campaigns called "Open up the West" and "Go West." These economic programs have been relatively successful: Xinjiang has become one of the wealthiest parts of China."If you look at the general per capita income of Xinjiang as a region, it's higher than all of China's except for the southeast coast," says Gladney. International development bodies like the Asian Development Bank say that despite Xinjiang's growth, there are high levels of inequality (PDF) in the area. But the Chinese government has launched a series of programs to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang, and in March 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao emphasized harmonious development of the region in a government report.

Han Migration

Growing job opportunities in Xinjiang have lured a steady stream of migrant workers to the region, many of whom are ethnically Han. The Chinese government does not count the number of workers that travel to Xinjiang, but experts say the local Han population has risen from approximately 5 percent in the 1940s to approximately 40 percent today. These migrants work in a variety of industries, both low tech and high tech, and have transformed Xinjiang's landscape. In June 2008, the BBC produced a photo report called Life in Urumqi, which said Xinjiang's capital had recently witnessed "the arrival of shopping centres, tower blocks, department stores and highways."

In its 2007 annual report to the U.S. Congress, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said the Chinese government "provides incentives for migration to the region from elsewhere in China, in the name of recruiting talent and promoting stability" (PDF). Since imperial times, the Chinese government has tried to settle Han on the outskirts of China to integrate the Chinese periphery. But the Communist Party says its policies in Xinjiang are designed to promote economic development, not demographic change. Xinjiang's influx of migrants has fueled Uighur discontent as Han and Uighurs compete over limited jobs and natural resources.

Ethnic Tension

The Chinese government says Xinjiang is home to thirteen major ethnic groups. The largest of these groups is the Uighurs, who comprise 45 percent of Xinjiang's population, according to a 2003 census. Like many of these groups, the Uighurs are predominantly Muslim and have cultural ties to Central Asia.

As Han migrants pour into Xinjiang, many Uighurs resent the strain they place on limited resources like land and water. "Uighurs feel like this is their homeland, that these resources should be more devoted to them," says Gladney. In 2006, Human Rights in China said population growth in Xinjiang had transformed the local environment, leading to "reduced human access to clean water (PDF) and fertile soil for drinking, irrigation and agriculture."

Ethnic tension is fanned by economic disparity: the Han tend to be wealthier than the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Some experts say the wage gap is the result of discriminatory hiring practices. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China reports that in 2006, the XPCC reserved approximately 800 of 840 civil servant job openings for Han. Local officials say they would like to hire Uighurs, but have trouble finding qualified candidates. "One common problem of the western region is that the education and cultural level of the people here is quite low," said Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's Communist Party secretary, in an interview with the BBC. Gladney says Han applicants tend to have better professional networks because they are more often "influential, children of elite Party members and government leaders."

According to Bequelin, Uighurs are also upset by what they consider Chinese attempts to "refashion their cultural and religious identity." In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Rebiyah Kadeer, a prominent exiled Uighur, condemns China for its "fierce repression of religious expression," and "its intolerance for any expression of discontent." Beijing officials respond to these accusations by saying they respect China's ethnic minorities, and have improved the quality of life for Uighurs by raising economic, public health, and education levels in Xinjiang.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

During the 1990s, separatist groups in Xinjiang began frequent attacks against the Chinese government. The most famous of these groups was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China, the United States, and the UN Security Council have all labeled ETIM a terrorist organization, and Chinese officials have said the group has ties to al-Qaeda. Concern about Uighur terrorism flared in July 2008 -- two weeks before the Beijing Olympics -- when a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party took credit for a series of terrorist attacks (Xinhua), including two bus explosions in Yunnan province.

The Chinese government has taken steps to combat both separatists and terrorists in its western province. According to the U.S. State Department, Chinese authorities raided an alleged ETIM camp in January 2007, killing eighteen and arresting seventeen. China also monitors religious activity in the region to keep religious leaders from spreading separatist views. Since September 11, 2001, China has raised international awareness of Uighur-related terrorism and linked its actions to the Bush administration's so-called war on terror.

But many experts say China is exaggerating the danger posed by Uighur terrorists. China has accused the Uighurs of plotting thousands of attacks, but Andrew J. Nathan, chair of the political science department at Columbia University, says, "You have to be very suspicious of those numbers." Gladney notes that many of the "terrorist incidents" that China attributes to ETIM are actually "spontaneous and rather disorganized" forms of civil unrest. Most experts say ETIM has no effective ties to al-Qaeda, and Bequelin goes so far as to say, "ETIM is probably defunct by now, as far as we know." In a 2008 report, Amnesty International accused Chinese officials of using the war on terror to justify "harsh repression of ethnic Uighurs." But in Xinhua, a state-run newspaper, Chinese rights organizations refuted the Amnesty report, saying it was designed to slander China under the pretense of human rights.

Experts disagree on the efficacy of China's counterterrorism measures. Some, including Bequelin, say China's anti-separatist campaign actually provokes more resentment, which can lead to more terrorism. But other Western outlets say China's counterterrorism measures have been relatively successful. A review of U.S. State Department documents shows a decrease in Uighur-related terrorism since the end of the 1990s.

Tough Neighborhood

Xinjiang shares a border with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Because of the Uighurs' cultural ties to its neighbors, China has been concerned that Central Asian states may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang. According to Nathan, these fears are fueled by the fact that the Soviet Union successfully backed a Uighur separatist movement in the 1940s. To keep Central Asian states from fomenting trouble in Xinjiang, China has cultivated close diplomatic ties with its neighbors, most notably through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. According to Bequelin, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was created "to ensure the support of Central Asian states," and to "prevent any emergence of linkages between Uighur communities in these countries and Xinjiang."

Many experts believe China's diplomatic efforts have been successful. Adam Segal, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says China's neighbors "are now fighting their own Muslim fundamentalist groups," which makes them more sympathetic to China's plight. According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan extradited a Canadian citizen of Uighur ethnicity to China in August 2006, where he was convicted for alleged involvement in ETIM activities. Nathan says cases like these are evidence that China's neighbors are cooperating with China's anti-secessionist policies. In contrast, the United States refused to hand over five Uighurs who had been captured by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2001, despite Chinese calls to do so. After their release from Guantanamo Bay in May 2006, the Uighurs were instead transferred to Albania.

None of China's neighbors have expressed official support for the Uighurs, but the region's porous borders still worry Chinese officials. In the 1980s and 1990s, many Uighurs traveled into Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they were exposed to Islamic extremism. "Some enrolled in madrassas, some enrolled with [the anti-Taliban opposition force] the Northern Alliance, some enrolled with the Taliban, some enrolled with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," says Bequelin. Chinese officials worry that militants who slip in and out of Xinjiang can promote anti-state activity.

International Disinterest

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, protests in Tibet reaped international attention. But protests in Xinjiang (IHT) went relatively unnoticed. "People aren't threatening to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony for the Uighurs," says Segal. Because Tibet gets more global attention than Xinjiang, some reporters have referred to Xinjiang as "China's other Tibet" (al-Jazeera).

International interest in Xinjiang is muted for a variety of reasons. According to Nathan, the Uighur community lacks an effective leader. "For the Uighurs, their most prominent spokesperson is Rebiya Kadeer in Washington, who really doesn't have the infrastructure and the Nobel Prize that the Dalai Lama has," he says. Bequelin adds that the Chinese government has effectively branded Uighur separatists as terrorists, which has reduced international sympathy for their mission. Amidst international apathy, most experts say the human rights situation in Xinjiang is likely to get worse before it gets better. "There's no international pressure to change policy in Xinjiang right now," says Segal. "So why would China make any changes?"


From The Times

August 5, 2008
Delicate China
With only four days to the start of the Olympics, China is growing nervous about political challenges from within the country
The deadly attack by Islamist separatists on a police barracks in China's Muslim-majority north west has left the Chinese authorities aghast. Only four days before the start of the Olympics, the daylight bombing of border police, leaving sixteen people dead, seemed to fulfil the warnings given by nervous officials that Uighur separatists would use the Games to attempt a publicity-seeking attack.

For China, the stakes could not be higher. The Olympics in Beijing are planned as the biggest, most lavish, most spectacular ever held. China has poured in huge sums of money, and invested enormous national pride. The Games are seen as a way of showing the world that China is a mighty power and one that has emerged as a global economic powerhouse.

The city of Beijing has been transformed in a way that few other cities have been by the event: daring new architecture dominates the skyline, the infrastructure has been revamped, buildings cleaned, factories relocated or even closed and the city's population given extensive tips, lectures and orders on how to behave.

Patriotism has combined with nervousness to make these Games highly political. It is the first time since the 1980 Olympics in Moscow that they have been staged in a communist country, and the party is determined to show not only that it is in full control but that it runs an effective and popular government. Any challenge, whether political or logistic, therefore assumes unusual importance as it is seen to reflect on the party's boast and on Chinese pride.

Not all has been smooth-running, however. The run-up to the Games has proved increasing vexed for the party as challenges have appeared on all sides. Getting the organisation right has been the least difficult. The environmental problems have proved far harder to resolve, and the cost of a traffic ban and virtual closedown of industry in a desperate attempt to clear the leaden skies will prove enormous.

Western criticism of China's human rights record was probably also expected, and has drawn two contradictory responses. On the one hand, China has attempted to defuse attacks on its foreign policy by taking steps to put pressure on governments in Sudan, Burma and North Korea. On the domestic front, however, it has bristled defiance, cracking down on critics and cutting off websites, only grudgingly restoring some access after Western complaints.

But the bigger challenges have been emotional - the terrible earthquake in May - and political, especially the uprising in Tibet in March. This coincided with the ill-fated Olympic torch relay to cause huge embarrassment and anguish in Beijing, while rallying Han nationalism. Security was stepped up and the authorities realised that the Games had become a target for the demonstrators. For Beijing, the real danger never came from the distant and sparse Tibetan plateau but from a lesser known but far more disaffected region: China's restive Muslim provinces.

The Uighurs of Xinjiang in the far north west are Turkic-speaking Central Asians who have long complained of religious and political oppression under nearly six decades of Chinese Communist rule. Numbering around eight million, they have recently been the target of infiltration and agitation by al-Qaeda and extremist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. Chinese authorities claim to have foiled a series of plots, although a militant group has claimed responsibility for explosions in four cities, including two bus bombings.

The latest attack has put Beijing on full alert. The Olympics will go ahead with panache. But beneath the glitter lurk ingredients all too common nowadays: worry, a security alert and overreaction. The Games come at a high price.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

China changes in the face of foreign religious devils

On December 18, the party's politburo, the highest ruling body in the country, held a plenary collective study session. It was the second one since the 17th Communist Party Congress that ended in October last year. For the first time in the history of the People's Republic, the party's top echelons met to discuss a once-taboo subject - religion.

The Chinese Communist Party, like many other communist parties, is patently atheist, to the point that religious affiliation is forbidden for party members. However, right in Congress there was the first sign that things could be moving in a different direction.

Broadcasting from the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the 17th Party Congress was in session, TV screens showed the slim and attentive face of the young Panchen Lama (the second-highest ranking Lama after the Dalai Lama), who was following the speech of party general secretary Hu Jintao. The badge on his chest said "guest". [...] Indeed, Hu's keynote speech devoted a paragraph to religion [2]. He said religious people, including priests, monks and lay-believers, played a positive role in the social and economic development of China. Furthermore, Hu did not talk about religions as such, thus establishing a form of respect and non-interference in purely religious affairs. That is, the party is not interested in religion per se, but it values the positive social contribution of religious people.

At the study session on December 18, the politburo explored the issue. Two experts introduced the subject. One was Zuo Xinping, a specialist on Christianity from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the other was Mou Zhongjian, a scholar on Confucianism from the Central University of Nationalities in Beijing. It seemed the party wanted two perspectives, one about new Christian faiths coming from abroad and one from the country's own native traditions.

Hu presented some introductory remarks, reported in a Xinhua article in Chinese [3], and it was indeed an historic event. Two facts are extraordinary.

It was the first high-level meeting of the party fully devoted to religion. That was a sign that party leaders recognized the great political significance of religion in building a "moderate, affluent and harmonious society". Religion is no longer an issue of public security that can be handed over to the police - it is a top social and political issue involving all aspects of society, and therefore all politburo members must be aware of it.

Secondly, in all of the Xinhua reports, there were no negative, derogatory remarks about religion, as one would expect to find about the "opiate of the masses". There were not even "ifs" or "buts" to indicate that the party would handle religion with diffidence. The English version stresses that there must be freedom of belief, and in the Chinese version, Hu is quoted as saying that the party must mobilize the positive elements of religion for economic and social development. Thus, religion can play an important role in realizing the "harmonious society" that is the new political goal of the party. [...]

However, Chinese history tells party leaders that religion is also an extremely volatile element. Major uprisings in the past were organized by religious groups. For instance, the Taiping, who almost brought to an end the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century, were pseudo-Christians. Similarly, extreme radical Islam now mobilizes millions worldwide. Religion has to be handled with care, but it cannot simply be ignored or looked down on like some kind of feudal leftover.

"China's massive wrench: Change in the face of foreign devils" (Francesco Sisci), Asia Times Online (03 July 08)

[Rest of this thread at Sunthar V (Jun 6, 2008 )

China's New Confucianism by Daniel A Bell / Reith lectures on China] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/4553