History of Tibet (1950–present) - 1956–1958: Trials and Incremental Reform

1956–1958: Trials and Incremental Reform

By 1956 there was unrest in eastern Kham and Amdo, where land reform had been implemented in full. Rebellions erupted and eventually spread into western Kham and Ü-Tsang. In some parts of the country Chinese Communists tried to establish rural communes, as they were in the whole of China.

A rebellion against the Chinese occupation was led by noblemen and monasteries and broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June 1956. The insurrection, supported by the American CIA, eventually spread to Lhasa.

The Tibetan resistance movement began with isolated resistance to PRC control in the late 1950s. Initially there was considerable success and with CIA support and aid much of southern Tibet fell into Tibetan guerilla fighters hands. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed.

In 1959, China's socialist land reforms and military crackdown on rebels in Kham and Amdo led to the "1959 Tibetan uprising." In a crackdown operation launched in the wake of the National Uprising of 10 March 1959 in Lhasa, 10,000 to 15,000 Tibetans were killed within three days. Resistance spread throughout Tibet. Fearing capture of the Dalai Lama, unarmed Tibetans surrounded his residence, at which point the Dalai Lama fled with the help of the CIA to India. On 28 March, the Chinese set the Panchen Lama (who was virtually their prisoner) as a figurehead in Lhasa, claiming that he headed the legitimate Government of Tibet in the absence of the Dalai Lama, the traditional ruler of Tibet.

After this, resistance forces operated from Nepal. Operations continued from the semi-independent Kingdom of Mustang with a force of 2000 rebels, many of them trained at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, USA Guerrilla warfare continued in other parts of the country for several years.

In 1969, on the eve of Kissinger's overtures to China, American support was withdrawn and the Nepalese government dismantled the operation.

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