History of Tibet (1950–present) - 1959–1976: Uprising and Upheaval

1959–1976: Uprising and Upheaval

Mao's Great Leap Forward (1959–1962) led to famine in Tibet. "In many parts of Tibet people have starved to death.. . . In some places, whole families have perished and the death rate is very high. This is very abnormal, horrible and grave," according to a confidential report by the Panchen Lama sent to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962. "In the past Tibet lived in a dark barbaric feudalism but there was never such a shortage of food, especially after Buddhism had spread....In Tibet from 1959 to 1961, for two years almost all animal husbandry and farming stopped. The nomads have no grain to eat and the farmers have no meat, butter or salt," the report continued. Panchen Lama makes it clear that these deaths were a result of official policies, not of any natural disasters, as Mao was claiming to his foreign visitors, a claim still accepted by some western sinologists. Panchen Lama also states the uniqueness of the famine that Tibet suffered from, "There was never such an event in the history of Tibet. People could not even imagine such horrible starvation in their dreams. In some areas if one person catches a cold, then it spreads to hundreds and large numbers simply die." The destruction of most of Tibet's more than 6,000 monasteries happened between 1959 and 1961. Of the 6,259 monasteries in Tibet before the Chinese occupation, only eight remained in 1976.

According to Barry Sautman, called an advocate of the PRC line on Tibet by exile Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu, the 10th panchen-lama is purported to have visited three counties before writing his report: the xian of Ping’an, the Hui autonomous xian of Hualong and the Salar autonomous xian of Xunhua. His description of a famine concerns only Xunhua, his native region. All three xians are in the Haidong prefecture, a part of the Qinghai province whose population is 90% non-Tibetan and does not belong to “cultural Tibet”.

Sautman also stated that the claim that Tibet was the region most hit by China’s famine of 1959-1962 is based not on statistics gathered in Tibetan areas, but on anonymous refugee reports lacking in numerical specificity ». Sautman's conclusions recently subjected to criticism.

In 1960 the western-based nongovernmental International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) gave a report titled Tibet and the Chinese People's Republic to the United Nations. The report was prepared by the ICJ's Legal Inquiry Committee, composed of eleven international lawyers from around the world. This report accused the Chinese of the crime of genocide in Tibet, after nine years of full occupation, six years before the devastation of the cultural revolution began. The ICJ also documented accounts of massacres, tortures and killings, bombardment of monasteries, and extermination of whole nomad camps Declassified Soviet archives provides data that Chinese communists, who received a great assistance in military equipment from the USSR, broadly used Soviet aircraft for bombing monasteries and other punitive operations in Tibet.

The ICJ examined evidence relating to human rights within the structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as announced by the General Assembly of the United Nations. After taking into account the human, economic and social rights, they found that the Chinese communist authorities had violated Article 3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tibet.

The Tibetans were not allowed to participate in the cultural life of their own community, a culture which the Chinese have set out to destroy, according to the ICJ. The ICJ discovered that Chinese allegations that the Tibetans enjoyed no human rights before the entry of the Chinese were based on distorted and exaggerated accounts of life in Tibet. Accusations against the Tibetan "rebels" of rape, plunder and torture were found in cases of plunder to have been deliberately fabricated and in other cases unworthy of belief for this and other reasons.

Under the Seventeen Point Agreement the Central People's Government of the Chinese People's Republic gave a number of undertakings, among them: promises to maintain the existing political system of Tibet, to maintain the status and functions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, to protect freedom of religion and the monasteries and to refrain from compulsion in the matter of reforms in Tibet. The ICJ found that these and other undertakings had been violated by the Chinese People's Republic, and that the Government of Tibet was entitled to repudiate the Agreement as it did on March 11, 1959.

According to various authors, the 1959 and 1960 ICJ reports date back to a time when that organization was funded by the CIA. A. Tom Grunfeld asserts that the United States took advantage of the Dalai Lama's leaving Tibet by prodding its clandestinely funded Cold War International Commission of Jurists to prepare propagandistic reports attacking China. In his 1994 book The International Commission of Jurists, Global Advocates for Human Rights, Howard B. Tolley Jr. explains how the ICJ was created and bankrolled by the CIA from 1952 to 1967 as an instrument of the Cold War without most ICJ officers and members knowing about it. The connection between the CIA and the early ICJ is also mentioned by Dorothy Stein in her book People Who Count. Population and Politics, Women and Children, published in 1995. She accuses the Commission of growing out of a group created by American intelligence agents whose purpose was dissiminating anti-communist propaganda. This contrasts with the official overview of the International Commission of Jurists, which is "dedicated to the primacy, coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights" and the "impartial, objective and authoritative legal approach to the protection and promotion of human rights through the rule of law" while providing "legal expertise at both the international and national levels to ensure that developments in international law adhere to human rights principles and that international standards are implemented at the national level."

Warren W. Smith, a broadcaster of Radio Free Asia (which was established by the US government), extrapolated a death figure of 400,000 from his calculation of census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" people. The Central Tibetan Administration claimed that the number that have died of starvation, violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million. According to Patrick French, the former director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign and a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, the estimate is not reliable because the Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. French says this total was based on refugee interviews, but prevented outsider access to the data. French, who did gain access, found no names, but "the insertion of seemingly random figures into each section, and constant, unchecked duplication." Furthermore, he found that of the 1.1 million dead listed, only 23,364 were female (implying that 1.07 million of the total Tibetan male population of 1.25 million had died). Tibetologist Tom Grunfeld also finds that the figure is "without documentary evidence." There were, however, many casualties, perhaps as many as 400,000. Smith, calculating from census reports of Tibet, shows 144,000 to 160,000 "missing" from Tibet". Courtois et al. forward a figure of 800,000 deaths and allege that as many as 10% of the Tibetan populace were interned, with few survivors. Chinese demographers have estimated that 90,000 of the 300,000 "missing" Tibetans fled the region. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) denies this. Its official toll of deaths recorded for the whole of China for the years of the Great Leap Forward is 14 million, but scholars have estimated the number of the famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million.

The Government of Tibet in Exile quotes an issue of People's Daily published in 1959 to claim that the Tibetan population has dropped significantly since 1959, counting the population of the Tibet Autonomous region but Qinghai, Gansu, and other regions inhabited by Tibetans, as the "Tibetan population". Compared as a whole to the 2000 numbers, the population in these regions has decreased, it says. These findings are in conflict with a 1954 Chinese census report that counted ethnic Tibetans. This is because in all of these provinces, Tibetans were not the only traditional ethnic group. This is held to be so especially in Qinghai, which has a historical mixture of different groups of ethnics. In 1949, Han Chinese made up 48.3% of the population, the rest of the ethnic groups make up 51.7% of the 1.5 million total population. As of today, Han Chinese account for 54% of the total population of Qinghai, which is slightly higher than in 1949. Tibetans make up around 20% of the population of Qinghai. Detailed analysis of statistical data from Chinese and Tibetan emigrant sources revealed errors in estimates of Tibetan population by regions. Although it may contain errors, data from the Government of Tibet in Exile was found to be in better correspondence with the known facts than any other existing estimates. With respect to total population of the whole Tibet in 1953 and 1959, the Tibetan side appears to provide numbers that are too high, while the Chinese side provides numbers that are too low.

On June 20, 1959 in Mussoorie during a press conference, the Dalai Lama stated: "The ultimate Chinese aim with regard to Tibet, as far as I can make out, seems to attempt the extermination of religion and culture and even the absorption of the Tibetan race...Besides the civilian and military personnel already in Tibet, five million Chinese settlers have arrived in eastern and north-eastern Tso, in addition to which four million Chinese settlers are planned to be sent to U and Sung provinces of Central Tibet. Many Tibetans have been deported, thereby resulting in the complete absorption of these Tibetans as a race, which is being undertaken by the Chinese."

Reprisals for the 1959 Tibetan uprising involved the killing of 87,000 Tibetans by the Chinese count, according to a Radio Lhasa broadcast of 1 October 1960, although Tibetan exiles claim that 430,000 died during the Uprising and the subsequent 15 years of guerrilla warfare, which continued until the US withdrew support.

In spite of claims by the Chinese that most of the damage to Tibet's institutions occurred subsequently during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), it is well established that the destruction of most of Tibet's more than 6,000 monasteries happened between 1959 and 1961. During the mid-1960s, the monastic estates were broken up and secular education introduced. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards, which included Tibetan members, inflicted a campaign of organized vandalism against cultural sites in the entire PRC, including Buddhist sites in Tibet. According to at least one Chinese source, only a handful of the most important monasteries remained without major damage.

In 1965, the area that had been under the control of the Dalai Lama's government from 1951 to 1959 (Ü-Tsang and western Kham) was renamed the Tibet Autonomous Region or TAR. Autonomy provided that head of government would be an ethnic Tibetan; however, the TAR head is always subordinate to the First Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, who was not a Tibetan. The role of ethnic Tibetans in the higher levels of the TAR Communist Party was very limited.

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 was a catastrophe for Tibet, as it was for the rest of the PRC. Large numbers of Tibetans died violent deaths due to it, and the number of intact monasteries in Tibet was reduced from thousands to less than ten. Tibetan resentment towards the Chinese deepened. Tibetans participated in the destruction, but it is not clear how many of them actually embraced the Communist ideology and how many participated out of fear of becoming targets themselves. Resistors against the Cultural Revolution included Thrinley Chodron, a nun from Nyemo, who led an armed rebellion that spread through eighteen xians (counties) of the TAR, targeting Chinese Party officials and Tibetan collaborators, that was ultimately suppressed by the PLA. Citing Tibetan Buddhist symbols which the rebels invoked, Shakya calls this 1969 revolt "a millenarian uprising, an insurgency characterized by a passionate desire to be rid of the oppressor."

Read more about this topic:  History Of Tibet (1950–present)

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