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The tragedy of Tibet.

SINCE 1945 nearly one hundred former colonies have gained their independence, but unfortunately we do not yet live in a post-colonial age, since one huge country was annexed after the War, and that country is Tibet. An article in the New internationalist (March 1992), declared Tibet to be |one of the last outposts of colonialism', and this is surely correct.

Tibet occupies an area of about 600,000 square miles (two-thirds the size of India), and stretches from the Karakoram mountains in the west, to Lake Kokonor in the east, which is situated some 800 miles east of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. For most of its two thousand year recorded history Tibet has been independent, though the Chinese have claimed it since the 13th century, claims which the Tibetans have rebutted on numerous occasions. The Tibetan population is about 5-6 million.

In 1949/50 Communist China began a brutal occupation, which spells cultural genocide for this Buddhist culture. China justifies this occupation with arguments, which if used by John Major's government, would legitimise the occupation of Southern Ireland on the basis of claims made by the English Plantagenet kings of the 13th century. Not surprisingly, the Chinese encounter problems when justifying their annexation of Tibet at the UN Human Rights Commission, as they have been attempting to do since 1985.

The occupation of Tibet contravenes the UN Charter, which recognises the right of peoples to determine their own destiny. On the basis of similar claims, arising from ancient imperial dynasties, China has also occupied Mongolia (much of which was lost to the former Soviet Union), Manchuria and East Turkistan (Xinjiang). These three areas, together with Tibet, cover over 11/2 million square miles, and without them China would be less than half its present size, having no border with India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Korea, and practically none with the former Soviet Union. China is arguably a land empire as the Soviet Union was, and seems destined to suffer a similar fate.

The Chinese stated that they had come to help the Tibetans and |introduce them to the ways of civilization', the classic justification for colonisation and empire. In October 1950, under threat of war, the Tibetans were forced to sign the |17 Point Agreement' in which the Chinese promised to respect Tibetan religion and culture. These, and many other promises, were systematically broken, resulting in the |Twenty Years War', in which some 400,000 Tibetans died, in a forlorn attempt to preserve their independence.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet is a double tragedy, not only because of the measureless human misery it has caused, but because |Tibet was the only ancient culture to survive intact into modern times', whose roots are lost in antiquity, as Fosco Morraine observed. It has been practically destroyed by the Chinese, when they were ideally suited to bring this unique Tantric Buddhist culture gently into the 20th century. Tibet is now a huge military base having an army of occupation of nearly half a million, together with nuclear missile bases, such as the one at Nagchuka, and parts of Tibet suffer from radiation and industrial pollution.

The old Tibet produced prodigies of art, religious iconography, sculpture, metalwork and literature, and this culture, which would have proved a treasure-trove to the anthropologist, the social historian, the archaeologist, the ethnologist, the student of myth and folklore, song and dance, has been virtually obliterated by Chinese communist barbarism. Intimate contact with other ancient cultures, such as those of Egypt, Greece, the Incas or the Aztecs was obviously impossible, but Tibetan culture actually survived until the time of the Suez Crisis.

The Chinese never lose an opportunity to emphasise the supposed cruelty of Tibetan culture, but cruel punishments were largely abolished by the 13th Dalai Lama some ninety years ago, and the defects of the old regime are like a candle to the sun, compared with wholesale Chinese crimes against humanity. Over six thousand monasteries, the repositories of Tibetan learning and culture, were destroyed, leaving only five remaining, reducing the Tibetan landscape to |a nuclear aftermath' as Mark Braine, a BBC correspondent expressed it. Well over one million Tibetans perished in this holocaust, including nearly one hundred thousand Tibetans tortured to death by the Chinese Public Security Bureau, whose record would surely have excited the admiration of the Gestapo or the Kempeitai, the Japanese military police. About one in five Tibetans have died since 1950, a similar percentage to the war-time Polish dead.

Thousands of Tibetans have perished in the Xining (Sining) labour complex,

situated in the former eastern Tibetan province of Amdo, renamed Qinhai by the Chinese. This is the most densely populated gulag in the world today, and probably contains at least ten million prisoners. An article in Newsweek (23rd September 1991), written by Harry Wu, a former inmate, gives a graphic description of this labour complex, and includes a picture of prisoners working waist deep in vats of chemicals. Both Harry Wu and Dr. Tenzin Choedak, a former Tibetan inmate, who has been interviewed by Amnesty International, have pointed out that many items, produced by slave labour, are sold abroad and contribute to the Chinese economy.

The Chinese generally maintain that Tibetan culture was largely destroyed during the |Cultural Revolution' (1966-1976). However, it is now known that most of Tibetan culture lay in ruins before the |Cultural Revolution', which in fact marked the culmination of Chinese policies, rather than a departure from them. From almost the very beginning the Chinese sought to destroy the old Tibet, and by attempting to place the blame entirely on the |Gang of Four' they are imitating the present Turkish government, who maintain that responsibility for the Armenian Massacres rests with a small group of people. It is now known that many of the great massacres took place before the |Cultural Revolution', dwarfing the Tiananmen killings. For example, 87,000 Tibetans were massacred in and around central Tibet during 1959/60, according to captured Chinese documents, just after the ill-fated Lhasa Uprising of March 1959.

Although Chinese rule is not as extreme now, it should be remembered that scores of Tibetans have been gunned down in independence riots in 1989, 1990 and 1991, and hundreds have disappeared, or have been tortured to death, in such infamous prisons as Drapchi, Sangyip and Gutsa. Amnesty International regularly features detailed items about Tibet in their publications, and have issued two reports on Tibet during the last two years.

Since the early 1980s the Chinese have intensified their policy of sinification, with the consequence of cultural genocide for Tibetans. About six million Chinese have moved into Tibet, both in the former Tibetan provinces of Kham and Amdo in the east, and in the |Autonomous Region of Tibet' in the west, the truncated Tibet which is only about one-third of its former size. This policy has been supplemented by ruthless measures of birth control, which for Tibetans mean principally forced sterilisations and forced abortions, and which the Mayor of Lhasa, Mr. Lhoga, publicly deplored in March 1989. Some Tibetan women suffer from forced abortions when six or even seven months pregnant, and the journal The Tibetan Review (October 1990), contains one such harrowing account from a Tibetan woman, Tashi Dolma. Various reports, such as that received from Valda Harding, an English nurse in Lhasa, describe truck loads of Tibetan women being taken away to have abortions or sterilisations, and doctors in India have examined such women, who have escaped across the Himalayas.

Such draconian policies may be understandable in mainland China with its huge population, though not the brutality with which they are enforced. But they are clearly unnecessary in a country the size of Western Europe which has a population of 5-6 million. Government planned cultural genocide, designed to reduce the number of Tibetans in their own country, provides a credible explanation of Chinese policies in Tibet, and Chinese statements that such culls are necessary to maintain present per capita income in Tibet, or to prevent mentally retarded people from reproducing, sound more like retrospective rationalisations than causes.

There are also detailed accounts, compiled in exile by the Tibetan Office of Information and International Relations, of imprisoned Tibetan women who have been forced to give blood by the Chinese, even though they have been weakened by hunger, cold, torture and long beatings, and sometimes they die. Such accounts emanate particularly from Gutsa prison, Lhasa, and it seems that Chinese prisoners there are generally exempt from such treatment. Much information on forced abortions, sterilisations and blood |donations' has been sent by |Optimus' and |Campaign Free Tibet' to women's organisations in Britain for a considerable time, but they seem to be indifferent and never respond.

Given the above facts few people will be surprised to hear that Chinese administration in Tibet is characterised by a form of racial discrimination bordering on Apartheid. Tibetans are discriminated against in housing, education, jobs, food and health care, and according to such westerners as Adel Thobe and Julie Brittain, Tibetans are only seen in unskilled and labouring jobs, and no technocratic generation has arisen.

These and many other facts were contained in my report entitled Tibet: The Facts, which Mr. Stephen Chan reviewed in Contemporary Review (May 1991). While admitting that the Chinese have committed great wrongs in Tibet, Mr. Chan felt moved to add that: |The Chinese have effected great good in Tibet'. If the deaths of well over one million Tibetans under Chinese rule |constitutes "great good", then it can also be cogently argued that the Germans did "great good" in Poland during the War, that the Turks did "great good" in Armenia in 1915, and the Japanese did "great good" in China during the 1930s and 1940s'. Mr. Chan also stated that the book |. . . contains unattributed accounts and reports'. In fact Tibet: The Facts contains 408 footnotes which occupy 96 pages, together with several hundred auxiliary references.

Massive deforestation in Tibet and China, approaching Amazonian dimensions, is one of the best kept secrets of the 1990s, since many ecologists who have visited Tibet and China refuse to publicise it, knowing that the Chinese, who resent criticism, might deny them re-entry, thus jeopardising their budding careers. One of the very few ecologists to speak out is the American, Galen Rowell. There is little doubt that the Chinese are committing |ecocide' in Tibet, and in 1987 the Chinese themselves admitted that $54 billions worth of timber had been taken from Tibet. Once verdant and wooded areas now resemble deserts of the moon, and it seems that an area of over 100,000 square miles, in which the entire British Isles could be lost, has been deforested. Some atmospheric scientists have expressed concern that the increasingly erratic behaviour of the monsoon may be partly caused by deforestation on the Tibetan plateau, and on 5th May 1988 a Bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives, which voiced deep concern at ecological destabilisation in Tibet.

Since the Tiananmen Massacre of June 1989, Tibetans are listened to with a new respect all over the world, when they tell their tragic tale. Severe internal convulsions are likely to weaken China, and provide the Tibetans with an opportunity of re-establishing their independence, which should never have been taken from them. The Tibetan Government in Exile, at present based in India, is embracing a democratic form of government which it intends to transplant to an independent Tibet. When communism finally collapses in China it is to be hoped that the Chinese people will learn from, and follow, the Tibetan example.
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Title Annotation:impact of Chinese occupation
Author:Ingram, Paul
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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