Kristi McCracken, July 4, 2011
Tibetans are now a minority in their own country. Over one million Tibetans have been killed since China invaded Tibet 60 years ago. The Chinese have imprisoned and tortured thousands of Tibetans and have destroyed thousands of monasteries. By the thousands, Tibetans continue to flee each year - while the Chinese are encouraged to migrate to Tibet with incentives such as high paying jobs and lower cost housing.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and political leader, fled to India a half a century ago in order to avoid execution by the Chinese. He was forced to set up his government in exile from the Indian side of the border. For fifty plus years, he has attempted to negotiate a peaceful solution with the Chinese – but the Chinese government has refused to meet with him or his delegation. Thus, his “middle-way” approach, which sought to uphold an independent country status for Tibet, was given up in hope of at least establishing an autonomous zone for Tibetans.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Dalai Lama twenty years ago for his continued non-violence stance. Four years ago, the US awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal which is the highest honor a civilian can be given.
Buddhism is a key component of the cultural identity of Tibetans. Despite this, the Chinese have killed over 90,000 monks and nuns, and they have destroyed over 6000 monasteries and temples. Religious suppression in Tibet is so severe that many consider it genocide. Even today, Chinese restrict religious life by banning images or talk of the Dalai Lama.
The Tibetan people have faced political oppression by the Chinese for six decades. The political protests in 1950s, 1980s and 2008 were met by extreme violence which crushed each uprising by beating, arresting, and silencing protesters. An estimated 300,000 Chinese soldiers still stationed in Tibet clamp down on any attempts by Tibetans to voice their desire for freedom.
Economic discrimination makes it hard for the Tibetans to rise out of the poverty of their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Chinese resettlement, land confiscation and fencing practices have all but wiped out their nomadic heritage. Over a million nomads from this plateau are being relocated by the Chinese. If they commit to not herd for 10 years, they are promised housing in the city - but often they can neither afford the rent nor find work, since all jobs are controlled by the Chinese government. This rural farming population is the object of discrimination by the Chinese, and they are relegated to areas with open sewage flowing in the streets.
Environmental exploitation of the Tibetan Plateau has resulted in half of the available forests being cut down. A hydropower station damaged the lake that Tibetans feel holds the life force of Tibet. Several nuclear missile sites are located inside this country of peaceful people, with nuclear waste threatening contamination of Tibet’s largest lake. Over $100 billion from large mineral deposits of zinc, copper, and lead are being collected by the Chinese.
The Tibetan plateau, which is a third the size of the U.S., is known as the roof of the world. This plateau, also nicknamed “the third pole,” is now experiencing an unprecedented glacier melt. Over half of the green, high-altitude meadows have become desert.
The Tibetan Plateau is the source of many of Asia’s major rivers, and those rivers are the primary water source for 80% of the Asian population. Tibet’s rivers are drying up or being diverted to irrigate Chinese farms.
The 700 mile railway between China and Tibet strengthens Chinese control. The railway was built at a cost of over $4 billion. It is facilitating the migration of Chinese into this once isolated country, and also the extraction of mineral and timber resources.
While the Chinese portray Tibetans as backward and their monks as barbaric, the Dali Lama continues to peacefully lead by example. Many around the world are speaking out for Tibetans, who have lost even the right to maintain their own language.
Our prayers of support are needed by the occupied country of Tibet and by the Tibetans who have fled their country. May some goodness eventually come from this long standing issue. May Tibetans regain their basic human rights, and have the privilege of self-determination once again.
Kristi McCracken journalist from the Central Valley of California.
For more information about Tibet try these links:
Chinese invasion of Tibet as outlined in Lost in Tibet See www.lostintibet.com/chineseinvasion.html
History of Tibet Before the Chinese Invasion of 1949 ... See www.savetibet.org/resource-center/all-about-tibet/history-tibet-before-chinese-invasion-1949html
Tibet: Before and After Invasion | Friends of Tibet (INDIA) See www.friendsoftibet.org/main/today.html
Invasion of Tibet See www.tibetancommunityinireland.com/invasionoftibet.html