Join our Mailing List

"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The tragedy of Tibet

March 19, 2008

Tarini Mehta
Tuesday, 18 March , 2008, 10:22

In this exclusive article, Tarini Mehta of Friends of Tibet documents
Chinese repression on the Roof of the World, and wonders whether New
Delhi’s 'quiet surrender' to China bodes well for the subcontinent."Are
we simply going to stand by and watch while a great nation is
systematically plundered and destroyed?" she asks.

Over the past few days over a hundred Tibetans protesting Chinese rule
over their country have been killed. In the face of this crisis the
world has once again woken up to the reality of the Tibet issue. Can we
say that the age of colonialism has ended when there are nations still
controlled against their will by another?

Tibet, once a sovereign state with a unique system of government,
culture, language and religion was invaded in 1949 by 35,000 Chinese
troops. What followed was a large-scale massacre of the Tibetan people
and their traditions. Over 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed from
1949-79. And now while we watch more numbers will be added to the list.
It is also important to note that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which
China has ratified makes irrelevant China's claims to sovereignty over

Special: Blood on the Roof of the World

Perhaps only older generations of Indians can truly understand what it
feels like to be ruled by a foreign nation. We also just recently won
our freedom through a movement much like that of the Tibetans, and our
nation has been built on the ideals of freedom and democracy. Yet,
Tibetans are not allowed to protest against China in India.

Right now hundreds of Tibetans are held prisoner all over India. Their
crime? Demanding human rights and freedom. Tibetans are here only
because they are refugees, and their sole desire is naturally to return
to their homeland. The Indian Government should for the sake of justice
allow them to work to get their country back.

The case for the Tibetan movement becomes stronger when we see the kind
of life they live under Chinese rule. There is no freedom of assembly,
religion or speech. Tibetans cannot even carry pictures of their supreme
spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, for a simple crime such as this or even
just shouting ‘Free Tibet’ they are given long sentences in prison.
Torture is still used in prisons and labour camps in Tibet, even though
in 1988 China ratified the UN Convention against torture and other
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

In November 2005 the United Nations Special Reporter on torture visited
China and Tibet and confirmed that torture was still very widespread,
leading to a “culture of fear”. He vividly describes the kinds of
torture that take place:

“beatings; use of electric shock batons; guard-instructed or permitted
beatings by fellow prisoners; use of handcuffs or ankle fetters for
extended periods…submersion in pits of water or sewage; exposure
to…extreme heat or cold, being forced to maintain uncomfortable
positions…for long, deprivation of sleep, food…water; prolonged solitary
confinement; denial of medical treatment and medication; hard
labour…suspension from overhead fixtures from handcuffs…”

Many Indians feel sympathetic about the suffering of the Tibetans, but
ask why they should endanger themselves for another country. The fact is
that by ignoring the situation in Tibet, India is putting itself in
grave danger. China’s activities in Tibet since 1949 pose a grave threat
as problems in Tibet have major trans-boundary effects.

Nearly half of the global population depends on the rivers of Tibet for
survival and one of the most concerning projects being undertaken now is
the diversion of the Brahmaputra, which could cause major water shortage
in India and Bangladesh. China is also reported to have stationed
approximately 90 nuclear warheads in Tibet, and the Ninth Academy,
China’s academy for nuclear research located in Amdo, Tibet, has dumped
a large quantity of radio active waste in a haphazard, dangerous manner.

The potential for devastation will increase as China continues such
hazardous activities. One can only imagine the future crisis this will
create. Tibet acted as a buffer zone between India and China and now
that this is gone we are open to many dangers. It is in India’s interest
if Tibet is returned to the Tibetans and becomes a ‘zone of peace’ as
the Dalai Lama wishes.

Are we simply going to stand by and watch while a great nation is
systematically plundered and destroyed? Has our government ‘quietly
surrendered’ to China as George Fernandes points out in his press
statement released today. This issue is not merely a domestic matter
between China and Tibet, but as the International Commission of Jurists
point out “What is at stake is the very existence of Tibet as a member
of the family of nations, and this matter concerns the whole family of

Before it is too late let us take a stand on this issue, put pressure on
governments and support the Tibetan movement for freedom and justice.

The views expressed in the article are of the author’s and not of
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank