Tibet is a colony of China, conquered by force. But, in a world that has reflected colonialism, it is tragic that the issue of independence for Tibet is avoided. The U.S. and other countries do ask the Chinese to treat Tibetans better, but they are not demanding that china end its lillegal occupation. Even many of Tibet's friends who acclaim Tibetan wisdom and culture don't speak out for Tibetan independence because that would be "too political" or "urealistic". In Tibet: The Issue is Independence; eight Tibetans confront the weakness of this international response to the occupation of Tibet. These Tibetan authors, with clarity and passion, focus directly on the central issue for Tibet- the issue of independence. They counter the complacency and defeatism that has allowed the Chinese occupation to continue for four decades without persistent challenge. This book will be a revelation for readers new to the issue of Tibet and it will provide a provocative jolt to anyone already interested in Tibetan culture, the Tibetan people, and the contribution an independent Tibet can make to Central Asia and the world.
"The issue of Tibetan independence is one that has bedeviled the relations between Lhasa and Beijing for decades. This book is an excellent introduction to how Tibetans feel about this bitter dispute and how they would like to see it resolved."
The tragedy of Tibet is at heart a man made tragedy, one that has resulted from china's four-decade occupation of our formerly independent country. This occupation has brought death to over one million Tibetans through willful slaughter, and untold suffering to those who survived and have been subjected to bizarre social and economic experiments carried out by China in the name of "progress" a wretched process that essentially meant the Sinicization of Tibet.
The Chinese army marched into Tibet only a few years after the end of World War II, and a weary world seemed able to give no more than muted sympathy to the plight of Tibetans who found themselves deprived of the rights afforded them by the independence of their faith that one day the world will be moved to act in the face of what is plainly one of the great tragedies of the postwar world. Now over forty years later a great change has taken place as it has become increasingly obvious to people all over the world that the loss of Tibet's independence was only the first step in one of the bloodiest wars on a people and a culture in the postwar world. In recent years the question of Tibet has received greater and greater visibility. Finally, the just nature of the Tibetan quest for the restoration of Tibet's independence has started to receive the widespread and vocal support that it merits.
There are several facts that throw some light on the reasons for the refusal of Tibetans to submit to China's determined efforts to swallow up our country, including Tibet's history of independence from China up to the Chinese invasion of 1949 and the tragic situation that China created through its rule in Tibet. These should be reviewed briefly. It is sometimes stated, mistakenly, that Tibet, whatever its current legal position, has for a long time been at least a distant part of China. This is not at all the case. Most people don't realize it but Tibet first came into significant contact with China as a result of the rise of Tibet as one of the great Asian empires in the early Middle Ages, Tibetan armies fought and conquered territories belonging to or contested by the empires of the Arabs, Turks and Chinese in the period from the seventh to the ninth centuries.
During this time, Tibet itself was an occupying power and ruled over wide stretches of land and territory in Western China, at one point even occupying the Chinese capital and forcing the Chinese emperor to flee. This great martial strength collapsed in the ninth century, not because of any setback on the battlefield, but because of internal conflicts of the Tibetan court. This era of Tibetan conquest was never repeated, perhaps because the period of the Tibetan Empire was also the period in which the Buddhist faith gained strength among the Tibetan people and ultimately became the major philosophical and ethical force in their lives. In the centuries that followed one might justifiably say that Tibet itself was conquered by Buddhism.
From the tenth to the thirteenth centuries Buddhist ideas and philosophical schools of all sorts were continuously transplanted from India into Tibet, where they flourished. The effect was startling. When the Mongols rose to power over Europe and Asia they were forcefully drawn to Buddhism in the form in which it was present it Tibet. Mongol reverence for Tibetan Buddhism has continued into our own times and even today the independent Mongol state that has emerged from under Russian domination is reasserting its traditional faith.
While the Mongols dominated most of the Eurasian land mass in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it is absolutely clear from all historical records that in their domination they never made Tibet a part of china in any way, let alone an "integral part of China", as modern Chinese propagandists put it. The relationship between Tibet and the Mongol throne was wholly separate from that between China and the Mongol Empire. The Chinese argument that Tibet became a part of China under the Mongols is, on close examination, untenable. It is based on the reasoning that the Mongols were actually Chinese, and that China, as the homeland of the Mongols, was never subject to the Mongol conquest!
With the end of the Mongol Empire in China in the fourteenth century, Tibet and China resumed their places as independent neighboring states. All records, Chinese and Tibetan, clearly show that the Chinese emperors never inherited the power of the Mongols outside the borders of China. Only the subsequent Manchu conquerors of China were able to follow the pattern of the Mongols and to establish a large empire beyond the borders of China. This Manchu Empire endured from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, and included China, Tibet, and Mongolia in its territories. But Tibet and Mongolia were never part of China, and when this empire collapsed in the early twentieth century both Tibet and Mongolia declared their independence.
Mongolia is still independent today, but the world turned its back when Tibet was subjected to Chinese aggression and swallowed up by the Peoples Republic of China. Even if one accepts Mongol and Manchu domination as an historical fact, it nevertheless remains true that this domination was affected within the context of empire building, i.e. as an aspect of imperialism. There is no small irony in the spectacle of "socialist" China asserting imperial rights to Tibet!
The differences between Tibetan civilization and Chinese civilization are vast. The Tibetan and Chinese languages are mutually incomprehensible and aside from a few borrowed words appear to be quite unrelated. Even the manner in which they are written differs with each language- the Chinese system incorporates thousands of different characters while Tibetan uses a thirty-letter alphabet devised on an Indian model. Tibet, moreover, has been the home of a rich esoteric Buddhist tradition transmitted directly from India over a period of centuries. China received its Buddhism in a more compressed time period, and over the centuries Buddhism, one of several Chinese creeds, has often suffered stringent restrictions and persecutions. Even the Tibetan and Chinese canons of Buddhist scriptures vary considerably.
In addition to history, culture and religion, perhaps the most important point of all is that the Tibetan people themselves ardently desire independence from China. The will of the Tibetan people has been unambiguously expressed on a number of occasions, and it is fully on the side of independence for Tibet- the overwhelming majority of Tibetans understand that without independence they have no guarantees for their future. The core of the solution of the Tibetan issue is Tibet's independence. Until the time that Tibetans have full political control over their destinies, Tibet's future will be endangered. The determination of Tibetans in Tibet to attain their national rights as a member nation of the world community will not cease with any half measure that puts their future in jeopardy. This should be obvious to anyone who has followed the course of political activity, protest and repression in Tibet during the last several years.
China has periodically followed policies designed to undermine the Tibetan identify and to rebuild it as a Chinese identity. The result of all this, however, has been to reinforce the determination of the Tibetan people to be free. I must emphasize that if Tibet is not accorded the right to choose independence, the Tibet question will never be settled. Anything less than independence for Tibet will simply be an agreement for further suffering, much as was the case of the Chinese 17-point Agreement of 1951, which Tibet was forced to sign. Should the Tibetan Government in-exile ever accept that Tibet is part of China, the Tibetan question will cease to be the concern of other countries. The creeping violation of any such agreement and the assimilation of Tibet into China (which is exactly what happened after the Tibet government signed the 17-point Agreement) may cause Tibetans to plead once more for their country, but what answer will they have when they are told that they willingly accepted incorporation into China? Incorporation into China will destroy Tibet's international identity.
This much is absolutely certain. The international response to recent cases of international aggression has shown us that only when a people's right to independence is clearly recognized by the international community can they hope for understanding, justice and assistance from the nations of the world. Even then, their hopes may remain unfulfilled. A people without that status will find themselves in even worse straits, as we Tibetans have been from our own experience. Therefore it is absolutely essential that Tibet regain its rightful place as an independent state. Without that status the Tibetan people will lack the most basic tool with which to maintain themselves as free Tibetans in the future.
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