In what has been called by some the worst single human catastrophe since the Jewish genocide during World War II, Tibet has been under Chinese occupation for nearly 50 years. Tibet has often been erroneously portrayed as a mysterious "Shangri-La"; unfortunately, the harsh reality is that this remote Himalayan country has been the victim of the worst of China’s well-documented human rights atrocities, having faced over four decades worth of Tiananmen-like agony since the Chinese invasion in 1949. China’s human rights violations were brought to light to the majority of the world in 1989 due to the infamous shooting of the unarmed student protesters in Tiananmen Square.
The following is a small list of some of the documented atrocities that have befallen Tibet and its people:
Over 1.2 million Tibetans, or one-fifth of the population, have been killed as a direct result of the Chinese invasion and occupation. Most of the Tibetans killed have been unarmed.
China has been dumping nuclear waste on the Tibetan plateau, polluting the headwaters of many of Asia’s major river sources. China has admitted to this, confirming the existence of a 20 square mile dumpsite for radioactive pollutants near Lake Kokonor, the largest lake on the Tibetan plateau.
China has established a massive resettlement policy of Chinese to Tibet, causing the Tibetans to become minorities in their own country. Chinese is the official language, and Tibetans are frequently barred from education, or if admitted to schools, are educated in an attempt to make them "Chinese" in their way of thinking. Tibetans are regularly subjected to a dizzying array of Chinese propaganda, including movies, newspapers, and radio. Tibetans who help to promote The Chinese cause are rewarded monetarily, and gain rights that most Americans take for granted.
One out of every ten Tibetans has been imprisoned, usually for merely exercising free speech in a non-violent manner.
Religious freedom has been abolished. More than 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed, with only a handful remaining, having been restored for the benefit of tourists. Media people who are allowed to visit China are taken to sections of Tibet made to look like a movie set.
Strip-mining in Tibet’s forests, depletion of natural resources, and the extinction of wildlife are chief results of China’s environmental policy.
Common Questions About Tibet
What was Tibet like before the Chinese invasion?
Prior to the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, Tibet was an independent nation, largely isolated by the Himalayas. The people had developed a unique and peaceful culture based on the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism, interwoven into their language, literature, art, and philosophy.
Tibet has never been a mythical "Shangri-La" fantasyland, contrary to how it is often depicted in the movies. Tibet had its own internal problems, just like any other country, and was a feudal theocracy. However, Tibet did exist as a peaceful community, with a quarter of its male population entering the monastery, and did live in harmony and respect with its often harsh Himalayan environment.
China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
The Communist Chinese invaded Tibet in 1949, resulting in a decade of turmoil and uneasiness. The current spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, was forced to flee in 1959 with 100,000 Tibetans during an uprising that resulted in a bloody massacre of 87,000 Tibetans. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile now reside in Dharamsala, India, although the Dalai Lama travels tirelessly in an effort to increase world awareness of the Tibetan plight. For his continuing efforts at a nonviolent resolution with the Chinese, as well as for his peaceful teachings in Buddhism, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
What is Most Favored Nation (MFN) NTR?
Most Favored Nation status allows a country to export its goods to the United States with the lowest possible tariffs. Countries with non-market economies are prohibited from receiving MFN privileges; however, the President of the United States can waive these restrictions for one year if he certifies that a country is not denying its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate.
Since 1980, each U.S. President has renewed China's MFN status despite evidence that there was not freedom of emigration in China. Since China's Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, Congress has introduced legislation to condition MFN based on improvement of human rights, unfair trade practices, and weapons proliferation. In 1993, President Clinton granted MFN status to China, but with several conditions that must be met in order for China to receive renewal of its MFN status for the following year. One of these conditions is that China must make significant progress in protecting Tibet's religious and cultural heritage. Another is that China's human rights violations must be improved.
China has made no progress in either of these conditions. However, the MFN status continues to be granted to China. MFN is now referred to as Normal Trade Relations, or NTR.
What can I do? Can I make a difference?
You can make a difference. Yes!
With 1.2 billion people, China represents a great potential source of income for business interests. Business lobbyists in this country are quite powerful and affect political policy. Despite these lobbyists, however, it is possible to affect governmental policy by increasing public awareness of the terror that Tibet and its people face, by writing to public officials, and by participating in letter-writing campaigns. Writing to newspapers and magazines, lobbying for revocation of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status towards China, and refusing to purchase goods made in China can make an impact.
Joining or offering financial support to Tibetan support groups such as SFOT, the International Campaign for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet and other non-profit organizations is another way to help. Please visit our links page for more information. Public awareness of China’s heinous human rights violations has increased and it remains important for all of us to continue to try and save what is left of the Tibetan people and culture before it is too late.