Friday, March 14, 2008
Chinese occupation of Tibet: Q&A
The Potala palace, former home of the exiled Dalai Lama in the heart of Lhasa, Tibet. Photograph: Adrian Bradshaw/EPA
Q&A: Tibet and ChinaAllegra Stratton guardian.co.uk, Friday March 14 2008 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Friday March 14 2008. It was last updated at 14:50 on March 14 2008.
Who runs Tibet?
Tibet declared itself independent of China at the beginning of the 20th century and it wasn't until 1950 that China reasserted itself by invading eastern Tibet. A year later, the two countries signed the "Seventeen Point Agreement" guaranteeing Tibetan autonomy and freedom to practice Buddhism, but agreeing to the establishment of Chinese civil and military headquarters in the capital, Lhasa. Tibetans wrestled with this and in 1959 a full scale rebellion resulted in thousands killed and the Dalai Lama exiled to India. It is the anniversary of this rebellion that the current protests against China are marking. Despite the Chinese government establishing the Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965, over the years, Tibetan monks felt China wasn't fulfilling its side of the Seventeen Point Agreement and there were repeated revolts. The most serious of these was in 1988, after which China imposed martial law. Though Tibet is called an "autonomous" region, Tibetans see the Chinese to be in control.
What historical claim does China have on Tibet?
Though it wasn't till 1950 that Chairman Mao's troops actually invaded, China regards Tibet to have been a part of its land since the Mongol dynasty extended into the Himalayan region some 700 years ago. This was formalised in the 18th and 19th centuries when Tibet was made a protectorate of China. Tibet achieved autonomy of sorts when it unilaterally declared independence in 1913.
How has China run Tibet?
After the invasion of the late 1950s there was large scale relocation of Han Chinese to Tibet and the rolling out of the 60s and 70s Chinese Cultural Revolution to Tibet saw monasteries and cultural artifacts destroyed. Though the Chinese government allowed "Open Door" reforms in the mid 80s with the aim of boosting investment, Tibetan monks still felt the Chinese stranglehold was too strong. In the last two years, a railway link has been opened up between Lhasa and the Chinese city of Golmud, which Tibetans fear will simply result in increased numbers of Han Chinese arriving.
What role does the Dalai Lama play in Tibet?
The Dalai Lama was made head of state at the age of 15 in the year China invaded the east of Tibet. Within a year, he was negotiating the "Seventeen Point Agreement" and at the age of 19 he was in Beijing unsuccessfully negotiating with Chairman Mao for a relaxing of Chinese involvement in the territory. Final bloody rebellion against the Chinese in 1959 left thousands dead and the Dalai Lama exiled to Dharamsala in India.
From Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama continued to work for genuine self rule in Tibet, receiving the Nobel peace prize for his efforts in 1989. Though his negotiations faltered in 1993, they were resumed in 2002. For his part, the Dalai Lama has said that he has given up the idea of actual independence for the territory but instead hopes for Tibet to be given cultural autonomy, leaving the central government in Beijing in charge.