During the past 53 years, there has been a glimmer of hope among the people of Tibet. That is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama will be able to safely return to his homeland.
For a longer time than His Holiness, The Dalai Lama has been alive, tensions between Tibet and China have existed. Before the Communist revolution in China, a border crisis began in 1942 with the Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek ordered soldiers on the alert to invade Tibet in 1942. The Chinese threatened to bomb Tibet if the Tibetan government sought help from Japan to protect their country from the Chinese.
After the Chinese Communist revolution, the army of the People’s Republic of China defeated part of the Tibetan army in the Kham territory of Tibet in October of 1950. A month later, the fifteen year old Tenzin Gyatso was enthroned formally as the temporal ruler over Tibet.
In September of 1954, the Dalai Lama traveled to Beijing to meet Mao Zedong and then attend the first session of the National People’s Congress as an official delegate. He was chosen as a deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Ironically, he officially held that Chinese governmental position until 1964.
Stage by stage the Chinese took control of Tibet. First, they stripped power from as many Tibetan officials as possible. Soon, the Communists drafted Tibetan and Chinese laborers for road and airstrip construction. Because of the influx of Chinese workers, cropland was exploited and granaries were emptied. When the food ran out, the Chinese removed most of Tibet’s gold and silver stores to sell on the world market.
A program of Chinese occupation placed Tibet under such control that scattered Tibetan revolts erupted. Mass killings of Tibetans began. Reeducation of the rest of the population took place to teach the supremacy and virtues of the motherland. Much of the reeducation came about through threats, torture, humiliation and imprisonment. Those who did not submit were simply “disappeared”.
The situation became desperate in 1958 and 1959, the genocide claimed 6,000,000 Tibetan lives. Culturally, more than 6,000 Tibetan monasteries were demolished. A harsh Chinese crackdown on the capital city of Lhasa began in March.
The Dalai Lama along with 20 men, including six cabinet ministers smuggled themselves out of Lhasa on March 17, 1959. The party had to dodge scattered Chinese militia over the harsh climate and unforgiving heights of the Himalayas. Most of the journey was done at night in order to escape detection by Chinese sentries. One of the major obstacles was the crossing of the 500 yard wide Brahmaputra River.
Meantime, in the absence of the Dalai Lama, around 2,000 people perished during three days of fighting between Tibetans and the Chinese army. Also, the Communists blasted the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace with about 800 artillery shells, completely destroying the ancient structure, around 300 civilian houses were also demolished with thousands of Tibetans dying in the massacre.
That incident marked the end of the major uprising in Lhasa. Any military age men who survived were soon deported. There were reports that the Chinese military burned corpses for over twelve hours inside the city.
It was announced that the former government of Tibet was dissolved under martial law and that the Dalai Lama was replaced by the rival Panchen Lama. The foundation of the Tibetan Autonomous Region within the People’s Republic of China had been established.
The sick and weakend Dalai Lama finally crossed the Khenzimana Pass and over the Indian border 15 days after leaving Lhasa. Later, he established the Government of Tibet in Exile at Dharamshala, India. Some 80,000 refugees followed into exile. Agricultural lands were set up and the educational system established, The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was founded and 200 monasteries and nunneries were refounded in India, Europe and North America.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has continued to advocate for Tibet and is an ambassador for Tibetan Buddhism, human rights and peace. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is also the recipient of many other major awards and distinctions. He has authored many books of teachings for Buddhist practitioners and for the general reading public. He has continued an arduous world tour of lectures and public appearances, as well.
Despite the massive efforts of the current regime to rewrite Tibetan history and to deny the genocide, the world is aware of the plight of the Tibetan people. Even today, Tibetan refugees are being killed by the regime as they try to escape their oppressive environment. The tragedy of self-immolation by Tibetan monks and students marks the desperation that still exists among the people. My words are only a small sketch that outlines the continuing tragedy that is Tibet.
The Blue Jay of Happiness takes a few moments to think about the simple, peaceful Tibetans he knows.
I sympathize with the Tibetan people, but I have never found suicide to solve any problem – stick around and help out with the fight. (Even General Yamashita, when he surrendered on Luzon 1945 said, “If I killed myself, who would take the blame?”
The monks are violating a major Buddhist precept if they kill themselves. It’s a great concern to the community at large.