Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Current Status of Tibet

Tibet’s legal status

When Chinese troops first entered Tibet, it was generally accepted that Tibet met the conditions of statehood under international law; there was a people, a territory and a government that functioned in that territory, conducting its own domestic affairs free from any outside authority. Foreign relations were conducted exclusively by the Government of Tibet and countries with which Tibet had foreign relations are shown by official documents to have treated it as an independent state. Tibet maintained diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Mongolia, China, British India, Russia and Japan.

Tibet's independent foreign policy is perhaps most obviously demonstrated by the country's neutrality during World War II. Despite strong pressure to allow passage of military supplies through Tibet, Tibet held fast to its neutrality, which the Allies were compelled to respect.

Tibet was a de facto independent State when, under duress, it signed the 17 Point Agreement in 1951, surrendering its independence to China. As the provisions of the agreement were subsequently violated by China, the Government of Tibet was entitled to repudiate the agreement, as it did in 1959. Tibetans are now a people under alien subjugation, entitled under international law to the right to self-determination by which they freely determine their political status. The Tibetan people have not yet exercised this right, which requires a free and genuine expression of their will.

People, culture and religion

Even today, China sees Tibetan religion and culture as a threat to its authority. In 1994 and 2001, China called for an array of measures to wipe out the vestige of Tibetan religion. This includes the selection by Beijing of reincarnated Tibetan lamas (monks) including the Panchen Lama, the second highest religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama has been missing, along with his family, since 1995.

Forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, Tibetans must pledge their allegiance to the Chinese government. Failure to do so can result in imprisonment or other forms of punishment. Possessing an image of the Dalai Lama is illegal in Tibet.

Under the guise of economic development, Beijing encourages the migration of Chinese to Tibet. As a result, the remaining six million Tibetans in Tibet are outnumbered by Chinese, who receive preferential treatment in education, jobs and private enterprises.

The occupation of Tibet has seen the Tibetan language surpassed by Chinese. Local government policy is making the language redundant. Tibet’s education system is geared to the needs of the Chinese, with Tibetans suffering from prohibitive and discriminatory fees and inadequate facilities in rural areas. The deprivation of education has forced 10,000 Tibetan children and youths to escape to India for better educational opportunities.

Universal human rights

  • In 1998, China signed two covenants in the International Bill of Rights, but it is still far from implementing these in China and Tibet. Collective rights abuses continue to challenge the Tibetan people and the future survival of their unique cultural identity. Today, in Tibet:
  • Tibetans are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention. Any expression of opinion contrary to Chinese Communist Party ideology can result in arrest and long-term imprisonment.
  • Those imprisoned are often denied legal representation and Chinese legal proceedings fail to meet international standards.
  • Torture still prevails in Chinese prisons despite being in contravention of the United Nations Convention against Torture.
  • There are Tibetan political prisoners below the age of 18.
  • Disappearances, where a person is taken into custody and the details of his or her detention are not disclosed, continue to occur. More than 70% of Tibetans in the “TAR” (Tibet Autonomous Region) now live below the poverty line.

The environment

  • The illegal occupation of Tibet has been devastating for its environment and that of neighbouring countries. Today, in Tibet:
  • China’s economic development plans have seen over 46% of Tibet’s forests indiscriminately destroyed.
  • Deforestation has led to increased soil erosion and siltation of rivers, creating major floods and landslides.
  • Trophy hunting of endangered species is not monitored. As a result, there are at least 81 endangered species in Tibet.
  • Unregulated extraction of minerals such as borax, chromium, copper, gold, and uranium in Tibet is increasing rapidly.
  • Tibet has hosted at least 500,000 Chinese troops and up to one quarter of China’s nuclear missile arsenal.

China's Official Tibet Propaganda Strategy

The following Chinese government document was leaked in 2000 by an official in Beijing. It exposes China's orchestrated efforts to mute international criticism of its occupation policies in Tibet. It also reveals continued determination to villify the Dalai Lama. Tibet-related external propaganda and Tibetology work in the new era 12 June 2000 Translated from the original in Chinese

This conference is summoned to discuss our national Tibetology and external propaganda works on Tibet. The aim is to discuss how we, under the new situation, can make our Tibetology work more effective for external propaganda on Tibet. This is the first meeting to which we have invited you to discuss ways of improving Tibetology work from the point of view of external publicity. This is also the first meeting to discuss ways of improving our external publicity on Tibet from the perspective of Tibetology. At the outset, I, on behalf of the Central Government’s Propaganda Department and State Council’s Information Office, would like to ardently welcome the specialists and scholars to this meeting. I would also like to pay my respect to the specialists and scholars for their many years of efforts and exceptional achievement in Tibetology and external propaganda on Tibet.

External publicity on Tibet is an important element of our country’s external propaganda. It is also a very important element of our struggle against the Dalai clique and hostile western forces. We need to carry out result-oriented and pin-pointed research on Tibet issue. We also need to carry out diligent external propaganda on Tibet. These efforts are related not only to national and nationalities unity, but also to the open-door reform, progress and stability of our country. Therefore, this is the common responsibility of our propaganda department and cultural institutes.

Here, I would like to raise some points regarding the current situation of the struggle on the issue of Tibet and ways of improving our external propaganda on Tibet for the reflection of comrades.

The current situation of Tibet-related struggle:

The so-called issue of Tibet is the main pretext for western countries, including the United States, to westernize and split our country. Western countries, including the United States, want to topple our country and further the cause of their own social and value systems and national interests. In order to achieve this, they will never stop using the Tibet issue to westernize and split our country and weaken our power. The Dalai clique has never changed its splittist nature; it has never stopped its activities to split our country. Therefore, our struggle against the Dalai clique and hostile western forces is long-drawn, serious and complicated.

Presently, the struggle between us and the Dalai clique has taken a new turn. Since last year, western countries, mainly the United States, have started military intervention in the affairs of the Yugoslavian federation. This successful intervention in the name of ethnic religion led to a serious development of a new culture of interventionism, which, in turn, has resulted in an increase in the use of Tibet issue. The US Administration is employing a doubled-faced strategy, by which it combines the pressure for Sino-Tibet dialogues with open support to the Dalai. The US support for the Dalai clique is becoming ever more pronounced. The Dalai clique, by strengthening its unholy alliance with international anti-China elements and powers, combines clamour for dialogues with activities to internationalize the Tibet issue. It employs carrot-and-stick policy to openly oppose and split China. Indications of its renewed violent activities are becoming more apparent.

First: The Dalai clique has taken one full forward step to increase its activities to push for the internationalization of the Tibet issue. It does this in the following manners:

One: the Dalai attends international conferences in the guise of personal visits. He frequently visits different countries in the name of spiritual teaching. In this way, he advertises Tibetan independence and consolidates his base in Europe and the United States. At the same time, he increasingly infiltrates the developing countries of South America, Asia and Africa, and lobbies high-level UN human rights experts for their concerns on Tibet issue. The ultimate aim is to put the issue of Tibet once again on the UN table. The Dalai clique’s strategy is to split the Motherland, win political support and UN actions.

Western leaders cooperate with each other to offer ever more elaborate receptions to the Dalai and to upgrade the reception status for him. They make every possible effort to enhance the Dalai’s image and make him an international figure. During their high-level meetings and courtesy calls, they tell each other about the Dalai and make joint attempts to put pressure on our nation and gain the position of mediator for themselves. In 1999 the Dalai paid 17 visits to 14 countries, a record in the last few years. Most remarkably, his 1999-itinerary included—apart from the United States and Europe where he travels frequently—major developing countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa, such as Brazil, Chili, Argentina, South Africa, Israel, etc. This year the Dalai, more than ever before, has made efforts to visit southeast Asian countries like Thailand and South Korea around China through his contacts. The Tibet Support Group Conference, held some time back, openly proposed increasing the Groups’ effectiveness in Latin America and Africa. It is possible that they will make every effort to establish Tibet support Groups in many Asian countries.

Two: Organized splittist campaigns against China has accelerated with more openness and greater urgency. Over the past few years, the Dalai clique has taken advantage of anniversaries and UN-sponsored international conferences to repeatedly undertake varying commemorative campaigns and demonstrations in order to raise hullabaloo over Tibet issue in all directions. During every foreign visit of our leaders, last year, the Dalai clique, with covert incitement and help from western countries as well as Tibet Support Groups, interfered and created disruption through protest rallies. In this way, they gained the highest-level international platform and intervention. This year, the Dalai clique has made detailed plans to take advantage of every UN-sponsored international meeting to create publicity and generate pressure. In addition, the Dalai clique launched an unprecedentedly-strong campaign against China at the 56th UN Human Rights Commission.

Three: The Dalai clique has increased its activities to cement ties with other ethnic splittist forces and anti-China forces. In order to achieve the aim of Tibetan independence, the Dalai clique has strengthened interdependent ties among different domestic and international splittist and anti-China forces, such as the independence movements of Taiwan and Xinjiang, democracy movements, Falung Gong and conservative elements. In this way, the Dalai clique tries to create a united anti-China force. When Chen Shuiben was elected the new leader of Taiwan, the Dalai and the exile Tibet parliament sent congratulatory messages. Moreover, chairpersons of the exile government’s parliament and cabinet were sent to attend his induction ceremony. This year, the Dalai has made every effort to visit Taiwan. Just five days after the swearing-in ceremony of Chen Shuiben, the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan announced the establishment of Taiwan-Tibet Alliance. Moreover, in the name of external human rights relationship, the Taiwanese gave US$ 120,000 to the Dalai clique. Furthermore, the Taiwanese in Los Angeles decided to observe every June as the Tibet Foundation month. They made statements and collected donations, and invited the Dalai to give a talk. At the same time, relationship between the Mongolian independence movement, Xinjiang independence movement, democracy movement, anti-China Tibet Support Groups in different countries and the Dalai has strengthened. The third Tibet Support Group Conference, held in May, decided to set up an International Network of Tibet supporters. The conference revised the strategy of the Dalai clique and Tibet Support Groups.

Secondly, with one full forward stride, the Dalai clique has intensified the splittist campaign of Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai said that whether the Tibetan independence movement succeeded or not would depend ultimately on the Tibetans in Tibet. The best course, he said, is for all Tibetans to take the responsibility of their own development. In the last few years, the Dalai clique has openly focussed its splittist campaign on weakening China’s economic power and interfering in our nation’s economic relations with other countries. Since last year, the Dalai groups, with support from anti-China western forces, have undertaken campaigns to cut off the World Bank loan to our population transfer program in the Tulan county of Qinghai province, to disrupt PetroChina’s entry into the American stock market, to prevent our entry into WTO, to obstruct the granting of US permanent trade relations status to China, and to get people in different countries to boycott our goods. Under the pretext of environment and development issues, they submitted petitions, openly targeting our economic interests.

The action plan of the third Tibet Support Group Conference, organized not very long ago, was focussed on strategy. It openly proposed international campaigns to obstruct or completely stop the Chinese government projects and joint-venture foreign investments that do not benefit the people of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Also, in the recent years the Dalai clique, with the help of western non-governmental organizations, has deepened its infiltration into the western cultural and educational circles, thereby, establishing a broad base for Tibetan independence. By recruiting the youth, the Dalai clique gives Tibetan independence the nature of cultural grassroots level movement. At the same time, the Dalai clique has formed the so-called football club to infiltrate the international sports circle.

Thirdly, the Dalai clique’s activities have become more beguiling than ever before; they have intensified their pressure tactics through apolitical propaganda. Following the direction of the United States and other western countries, the Dalai clique has recently changed its strategy. During public gatherings, the Dalai portrays himself as a humble spiritual teacher and pretends to be seeking dialogues and autonomy. He lays pretence to non-violence and makes utmost efforts not to mix politics in his talks. He speaks on religion, ethics, culture, democracy, freedom and human rights. This has gained him unprecedented international support and solidarity.

One: In tune with the international trend for resolving conflicts through dialogues and discussions, the Dalai clique clamours everywhere for dialogues and puts public opinion pressure on our country.

Two: Since western countries recognize Tibet as an inalienable part of China, the Dalai states that he has given up independence in favour of autonomy. In this way, he mobilizes the public opinion in favour of joint intervention and pressure for dialogues.

Three: Waving the banner of democracy and human rights, the Dalai publicizes that he does not want to revive Tibet’s old social system. Instead, he expresses the need to have democracy in Tibet. By using democracy and human rights to gain western favour, the Dalai tries his best to westernize and split our country.

Four: The Dalai says all kinds of things in the name of religion and culture. He accuses our country of destroying the religion and culture of Tibet; he claims that he is seeking autonomy to protect Tibetan culture and religious freedom. Taking advantage of this opportunity, he tries to gain the solidarity and support of international community.

The Dalai makes public opinion about his own reincarnation. He shouts that his reincarnation will be born outside China in a free, democratic country. He has created the theory that a reincarnation can be born even while the lama is alive; the hidden agenda is the perpetuation of the long-drawn, complex issue of Tibet. At the same time, the Dalai clique infiltrates our country through a number of secret means, such as by using the religious issue. For example, he masterminded pressure tactics on the Shugden issue. He incited the Karmapa, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, to turn against his country and flee to the foreign country. In this way, he disrupts Tibet’s security.

The world media is monopolized by westerners. The Dalai clique’s long deceptive propaganda, having taken a lead, has a good standing in the world public opinion. In addition, they use modern media facilities like Internet, films, television, etc. to carry out massive propaganda in a number of imaginative ways. As a result of this, lies advocated and spread by them are considered as reliable facts on the issue of Tibet. The westerners’ powerful machinery for making public opinion has created a lot of misunderstanding about our country in the minds of foreigners. Similarly, there are lots of biased views. On top of this, the eastern and western views on human rights are different. Our value system is different from that of the west. Our historical development, religion, and level of economic development are also different from theirs. This makes our thinking different. Therefore, there are numerous reasons why we cannot afford to take lightly our struggle against the Dalai clique and our external propaganda work on the Tibet issue. We must take this work very serious. The coming period will be very crucial for our struggle against the Dalai clique. In a short time, it is difficult to reverse the present situation where the enemy’s fortune on the international arena is running high and ours low. Our struggle for the international public opinion will be more rigorous and complicated than ever before. Our external propaganda work on Tibet will be very difficult. Therefore, we must work hard and make improvements.

At the same time, we must know the overall benefit of our external propaganda on Tibet and favourable conditions for carrying this out.

First of all, reflecting the importance attached to this work by the Communist Central Government, President Jiang Zemin himself have in the recent years given systematic guidance on struggle against the Dalai and on external propaganda on Tibet. The Central Government has decided the major political strategies. Our most important political responsibility is to publicize our work in Tibet and to struggle for international public opinion.

The second condition is that Tibet is part of China. This is a fact accepted by the governments of all countries. Basically, ours is a just struggle against the splittists while the Dalai clique’s splittist campaign is unjust and has few friends.

Thirdly, Tibet is under the effective control of the Central Government. We have implemented the Party’s benevolent nationality religious policy in Tibet and made its people rich. The progress and development of Tibet is apparent to all. We have the truth and others support on our side. Therefore, we need not fear any ideology or argument. This is the most favourable condition on our side.

Fourthly, our political security, economic development, social progress, nationality unity, and ever-increasing international prestige are favourable conditions for the success of our works.

Fifthly, the Dalai is nearing his end, and the exile Tibetans’ internal differences are becoming more acute. Therefore, we have the time on our side.

Sixthly, we have had considerable experience in the field of external propaganda on Tibet. For the first time, we have formed a group of well-trained Tibetologists. More importantly, under the overall leadership of the Central Government, all our concerned agencies are able to struggle unitedly as one entity. All of these are new opportunities for strengthening and improving our external propaganda on Tibet.

B. Tibetology institutes and specialists must use their potential as this is an indispensable part of our external propaganda on Tibet in the new era:

Since 1991 the Central Government’s External Propaganda Department has organized a series of annual meetings to review, plan and organize our external propaganda work on Tibet. Our external propaganda against the Dalai clique and hostile western forces has continued to make improvements over the past decade. With the passage of time, our propaganda has become more effective, and target and goal clearer. We have formed a special group to carry out external propaganda and have succeeded in protecting our national interests and improving our image. We have made relentless efforts over the past decade to publicize Tibet’s progress and development. We have pin-pointed and exposed their, mainly the Dalai’s, crime, refuted their claims and created public opinion on Tibet issue. We have published two White Papers, entitled Tibet: Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation, and New Progress in Human Rights in Tibet Autonomous Region. In addition, under the direction of the Central Government’s External Propaganda Department, we have published over 500 news reports and made nearly 100 films and television programs, exposing the Dalai clique’s crime, which were distributed in over 100 regions. We have also published and distributed over 2 million copies of more than 60 types of Tibet-related information material, such as articles, translations, booklets, flyers, posters, etc. We have sent 23 groups of artistes to give performances at international cultural and experience-sharing fora in over 80 cities in over 40 countries. They have given over 400 performances to over 800,000 people. Different types of exhibitions from over 50 countries, including France, Italy, India and Australia, were held successfully. We have invited over 400 foreign delegations—consisting of over 2,000 journalists, in addition to government officials, members of upper and lower parliament houses and other dignitaries—for visits to Tibet. These programs were very effective in making the international community understand the true situation of Tibet, in clearing up the concerned foreign dignitaries’ misunderstanding on Tibet, in challenging the Dalai clique and hostile western forces’ rumours, and in undermining the influence of hostile international elements. In this way, we have made a fairly good beginning in building favourable international public opinion.

However, our propaganda has not progressed enough to meet the expectations of the Communist Central Government and requirements of the struggle on Tibet issue. And, it is out of tune with the reality of Tibet. We still do not have many avenues of external propaganda; our achievement is unsatisfactory. We have not been able to translate the truth and resources at our disposal into international propaganda advantage. Therefore, our voice in the international arena is still modest.

That is why the ninth meeting on Tibet-related external propaganda, held in the early part of this year, gave us a vision by proposing a study of changing times as a base on which to build a coordinated, idea-oriented, focussed and effective external propaganda to thoroughly expose the Dalai’s crime. It also proposed creating websites on the issue. We have made efforts to this effect too. One noteworthy part of our effort was the formation of the group of Tibetology institutes and specialists in tune with the trend of time. We have to channelize the truth, resources and huge contingent of Tibetologists at our disposal to obtain special results that are greater than ever before.

As you all know, since the end of the cold war, non-governmental organizations have proliferated and become an important force with influence on international relations and development. The world is known as a global village. Statistics show that there are now 30,000 non-governmental organizations, playing active roles throughout the world. Out of them, 1,500 are recognized by the United Nations. The number of western non-governmental organizations with connections to Tibet is extremely large; most of them serve the political interests of western anti-China forces and the Dalai clique. The Dalai forces and their voice dominate the non-governmental organizations with Tibet connections. Most members of these organizations are intellectuals and specialists. Books and commentaries written by them, as renowned grassroots level scholars, have strong influence on the western public and international fora.

Therefore, as stressed by the ninth meeting on Tibet-related external propaganda, we should maximize the use of our 50 Tibetology centres and 1,000 Tibetologists to carry out external propaganda work on Tibet. Under appropriate banners of non-governmental organization, they should form a national force of Tibetologists and participate in Tibet-related activities of international non-governmental organizations. Our Tibet specialists should make well-planned visits to foreign countries. Similarly, foreign Tibetologists should be invited to country for conferences on Tibet. In this way, we should promote cultural exchange, discussion, cooperation, and friendship with foreigners. We should enhance our influence on international Tibetologists. By means of cultural exchange, we should enhance our influence on western community and its opinion. By means of culture, we should promote effective struggle for favourable public opinion regarding our work in Tibet.

We should develop suitable research projects by using our Tibetologists, particularly those of Tibetan nationality, as well as our historical relics, cultural scriptures and other resources, which are not available to others. Specialists and scholars should work together and support serious research works on important issues in order to produce heart-winning scholarly arguments. Effective scholarly arguments must be made available for our external propaganda on Tibet. We should appreciate the unique value of renowned writers’ works for the promotion of external propaganda on Tibet. With far-sight, determination and proper planning, we should organize projects to publish foreign language books on the deeper issues that have wide interest, but are misunderstood, in foreign countries. We should participate in western intellectual activities and promote our views in the western community through their own intellectuals.

C) Tibetology work must produce maximum results in external propaganda on Tibet:

Westerners are waging a protracted and overall war on us on the issue of Tibet. This is a well-planned public opinion and psychological war. In this urgent war for our basic national interests and international prestige, comrades involved in ideological and scholarly works, particularly the specialists and intellectuals in this meeting, have a special role to play. For this, we need to have a long-term strategy and mental preparation. In addition, we need to plan and organize ourselves to fight each battle carefully.

The external propaganda on Tibet issue is a very complicated matter. The Dalai clique and hostile western forces have a history of several decades of anti-China activities and propaganda. As well as having complete experience and expertise, they command an army of specialists in this field. They have also developed a complete network of cooperation between nations, between organizations, between parliaments and governments, between governments and peoples, between grassroots level organizations, between media and governments, between non-governmental organizations and media, etc. In this way, they launch their campaigns under various guises and through different methods. In the struggle for public opinion on the issue of Tibet, our adversary is an organized international anti-China force. To counter this united force, we have to build an effective organization and network. The external propaganda struggle for public opinion should be treated as an important work, requiring relentless attention. We should launch a coordinated assault on different fronts.

In this overall struggle for public opinion on the Tibet issue, Tibetology institutes should become an effective army. In our Tibet-related external propaganda, we should use our departments of foreign affairs, information, security, law, nationality, religion, culture, etc. We need specialists with knowledge on our internal and external affairs as well as those with experience in undertaking campaigns. In addition, we need Tibetology scholars and professors from the academic departments of nationality, religion, philosophy, political science, law, history and archaeology. Effective use of Tibetologists and specialists is the core of our external propaganda struggle for public opinion on Tibet.

To sum up, the main responsibilities and potential of Tibetology research in our external propaganda on Tibet are to produce ideas, results, intellectuals, and confrontation strategies. To put it in another words, Tibetology research, in consideration of the needs of our external propaganda, must support our propaganda for public opinion by producing scholastic arguments, handy materials and consummate intellectuals for external propaganda. Tibetologists should develop confrontation strategies and approaches. They should produce effective articles, ideas and materials for external propaganda.

To begin with, Tibetology centres and experts must lend powerful scholastic arguments to our external propaganda and struggle for public opinion on Tibet-related issues. The basic aims of our external propaganda are to provide true information on Tibet, to counter the Dalai clique and anti-China western forces’ rumours, criticism and smear campaigns against our policies in Tibet and to foil their subterfuge to split the motherland. The development of academic research and knowledge on Tibet issue is an indispensable precondition and foundation of our external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. Academics have a responsibility to provide powerful, scholarly argument in support of our external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. The work of external propaganda on Tibet should be carried out politically, imaginatively and artistically. It should be built on the foundation of indepth, systematic research. If our argument were built on the foundation of unreliable scholarly research, our external propaganda would be like a lake whose source has dried up; it will never be effective. Propaganda’s aim is to convince people, win their hearts and influence them. Our external propaganda on Tibet should clear up the confusion of the so-called Tibet issue, created by the Dalai clique and hostile western forces. It should educate the international community to the truth of the so-called Tibet issue, and convince them of the real situation in Tibet and of the legitimacy of our policies in Tibet. On the issue of Tibet, the truth is on our side. The point is to use our imagination to explain the truth, expose their lies and win the hearts of the audience.

This is what we mean by imaginative and scholastic external propaganda on Tibet. The Dalai clique and hostile western forces use deception to create anti-China public opinion; they distort the facts. More importantly, they have created a culture of false arguments. If we want to separate truth and myth about Tibet and conduct an effective propaganda on our works in Tibet, we have to develop an intellectual argument on issues of nationality, religion, human rights and culture. Such an argument should be understandable and acceptable to the international community. Most importantly, it should be based on the foundation of indepth research, dovetailing China’s history and its present situation. As well as explaining Tibet’s history and present situation, the argument should drive home the benevolence of our policies in Tibet, and refute the disinformation of the Dalai clique and hostile western forces. The argument should prove that Tibet is an inalienable part of China, that the democratic reform was absolutely necessary, that the present autonomous arrangement for Tibet is the best and most effective way to protect the equality of nationalities and to guarantee the right of autonomy to the Tibetan people, and that the atheist Communist Party of China gives religious freedom.

If we do this, our external propaganda will be effective as we are confident that truth is on our side. Whether we are able to produce imaginative intellectual argument or not will depend on how diligently our Tibetologists work. In the last few years, our Tibetologist comrades have worked hard and made tremendous contribution to the unity of the Motherland and nationalities, to the preservation of Tibetan culture and tradition, and to the success of our external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. However, considering the need and situation of our external propaganda, our research on Tibetology is still inadequate and ineffective, and lacks confrontational edge.

Our research activities and their impacts are still a bit scattered. They lack the required organization and planning. There is much research on Tibet’s history, but little on the present situation and future development. There is much academic research, but little effort to use this to face the ground reality of international confrontation. There is much work on Tibet’s history, but little research to build an intellectual argument to carry out our external propaganda. Lots of research materials have been published in Chinese and Tibetan languages, but not enough in foreign languages to influence international opinion. We have not been able to influence the international public opinion. We do not have enough internationally-known Tibetan intellectuals. We do not have adequate intellectual arguments to carry out our external struggle.

Be that as it may, Tibetology research has its own characteristics and expectations. The entire Tibetology research need not concentrate on external propaganda work; one should not expect this. However, a section of Tibetologists should make considerable efforts to build an intellectual argument to meet the needs of our external struggle on Tibet issue. This is not only the need of external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet, but also an impetus to the development and modernization our Tibetology work. Imagine, how can our scholars and intellectuals face the challenge of international academic exchange if our academic research does not show concern for the real issue of Tibet and international debates on Tibet issue, if it does not challenge the lies promoted by the Dalai clique and hostile western forces, and if it allows the demonized image of Tibet, as created by western forces, to remain for long in the international community? If we are unable to project the true image of changing Tibet, how can we claim that we have the right to speak on the issue of Tibet on the international forum?

We must recognize this issue from the most important political perspective. We must diligently promote academic research to suit the needs of Tibet’s modern development and our external struggle. Such efforts should be built on the foundation of Marxist views on nationality, religion, culture and human rights. By working hard on the development of intellectual argument on Tibet issue, we should develop our own all-round perspective, our own basic intellectual argument, and our own material on Tibet issue. We should gradually develop a complete body of intellectual arguments, which has the potential to attack others and defend our position on the international forum. We should produce very powerful ideas and intellectual arguments to support our external propaganda work for public opinion on Tibet.

I call on you to discuss whether this can be adopted as the future objectives of our Tibetology work. Towards this end, the Central Government’s External Propaganda Department will give a considerable organizational support.

Secondly, our Tibetology institutes and specialists have become an effective army of external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. As a matter of fact, the very act of writing and publishing books by the specialists of our Tibetology institutes is for external propaganda and public opinion. We should not underestimate the contribution of scholarly works to our external propaganda for public opinion; westerners have a lot of respect for this kind of works.

As we know, it is only a few books that have made such a deep impression on western perspective on Tibet issue. In the past few years, the western media has continued to sensationalize the Tibetan issue. At the same time, there has been an increase in the publication of books on Tibet in the west. Currently, 900 Tibet-related titles are available on the internationally-known website, Out of this, over 163 are Dalai-related titles. Last year, Tsering Gyatso (sic, translator), a Tibetan in UK, published a book, entitled The Dragon in the Land of Snows, in London. This book became very famous and was clamoured as a surprising work. John Knaus, former CIA agent, published Orphans of the Cold War: America and Tibet’s Struggle for Survival. This book also created clamour for some time. The Dalai-related books, such as Art of Happiness, Ethics for the New Millenium, and Political Philosophy of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama became the US bestsellers in 1999. We cannot underestimate the negative impact of these books on our nation.

Tibetology has become the object of international attention in the 20th century. The scope of Tibetology is expanding internationally; Tibetologists are mushrooming; Tibetology institutes are also multiplying. There are more than ten Tibetology institutes in America and Europe. Some well-known universities have established Tibet study departments and specialized programs. Of course, all of them do not serve western political interests; some of them are serious academic institutes. However, generally speaking, the majority of western Tibetology institutes and Tibet-related organizations have connections with western government and the Dalai clique. Even if they do not have direct connections, they still have deep influence on western perspective and the Dalai clique. Their research on Tibet is politically biased and fraught with many mistaken views. A section of them serve western anti-China forces and the Dalai clique.

Under the pretext of research work on Tibet, they malevolently distort Tibet’s history and the Central Government’s policy in Tibet. The most famous of them is the Dalai-hired Michael van Walt of Dutch nationality. His work, The Status of Tibet, published in 1987, provides legal arguments in support of Tibet’s independence. This book is extremely famous in the western academic circle. Without any regard to our objection, the Dalai clique makes every attempt to include him as advisor of their delegation for dialogues with the Central Government.

Therefore, if we publish books and articles that are geared to meet the confrontational needs of our struggle against the Dalai clique and hostile western forces, they will serve as material for our external propaganda and as weapons for external struggle. Particularly, succinct and well-written works are as effective as missiles in the battlefield. However, such works should be factual with ability to strike the important views of foreign adversaries; the arguments should be clear and credible; sources quoted should be reliable; there should be footnotes and bibliographies. To sum it up in one sentence, they must be standard works, combining political and scholarly elements.

In the recent years, our Tibetologists have produced a fair amount of meaningful works. If we select some of them, make necessary adaptations, translate them into foreign languages and publish them, they will become effective tools of external propaganda. From now on, we will implement this in an organized manner. In the recent years, we have catalogued China’s books on Tibet and have also compiled annextures. To the outside world, we introduced all Tibetology works that had been produced from the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas since the establishment of our nation. This has received the acclaim of foreigners and produced sufficient benefits.

In addition, we must produce some well-designed need-based research projects and mobilize specialists to produce specialized research works with strong confrontational character and high academic standards. These works should be in foreign languages to answer the needs of foreigners. They should then be printed and published to form a section of exceptional materials for our external propaganda.

Thirdly, Tibetology institutes and specialists should promote exchange programs and make important contribution by explaining away the misunderstandings and convincing people with our viewpoints. As a rule, the western public does not trust government propaganda so much. They put a slightly more faith in the statements of grassroots level experts, intellectuals and scholars. Therefore, it is certain that Tibetologists and Tibetology institutes can make a tremendous impact in our external propaganda on Tibet.

Tibetology institutes—in the form of grassroots level institutes and in a well-planned, goal-oriented manner—should build connections with relevant foreign organizations and individuals, and organize exchange programs. At all fronts, they should build friendship and explain away misunderstandings. They should try to understand the manner in which foreigners create public opinion; they should propagate our government’s policy in Tibet and progress of Tibet. They should also clear misunderstanding and create greater awareness on our nation. They should work hard and attain success in changing foreign public opinion on Tibet issue.

From now on, the Central Government’s External Propaganda Department will annually organize well-planned, goal-oriented foreign visits by several groups of Tibetologists as a part of exchange program. We will also invite foreign Tibetology institutes and Tibetologists who are friendly to our nation. In addition, our Tibetology institutes should skillfully form a united international front of Tibetologists and organize conferences at appropriate times. At such conferences, we should build rapport with specialists and intellectuals, governmental representatives, officials of the United Nations and other international organizations, and with other reliable westerners, and discuss common issues. Gradually, we should create a favourable international forum.

If we do this, we will able to receive timely information. We will also able to raise our voice in time. Our experience shows that statements made by our specialists and intellectuals during their foreign visits bring good results. If we could encourage a considerable number of foreign specialists and intellectuals to speak on our behalf, we can achieve even better results. As a matter of fact, some of the western public opinions against our nation were made by the specialists of anti-China forces on Tibet. The best way to deal with these people is to let our Tibetologists, intellectuals and senior professors speak. Foreigners may readily listen to specialists and intellectuals, because of their non-governmental nature and reputation in academic affairs.

This task should be carried out for a long time. The seventh department of the Central Government’s External Propaganda Department will draw a plan and gradually make efforts towards this end. The concerned Tibetology institutes should make efforts to form cultural exchange groups in order to reach outside. We should nurture several groups of hard-working people, who, as well as understanding our government policies and strategies, have good knowledge of Tibetology and foreign languages, and have expertise in external propaganda work. This is the need of our external propaganda.

Finally, Tibetology institutes and specialists should be able to give useful advice for our external propaganda on Tibet and for our struggle to win the international public opinion. The struggle for the international public opinion on Tibet is long and complicated. It should be carried out frequently. If we want to triumph in every battlefield of this struggle, we must know both others and ourselves; we must have a long-term strategy and mastery in the art of confrontation and struggle. We have a very large number of Tibetologists. Some of them are fairly conversant with international affairs, others very much so with internal affairs, and still others are well-experienced in the struggle of external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. If they pool their expertise to a large extend and regularly make their expertise available to relevant departments, our external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet will be very successful. The Central Government’s External Propaganda Department must diligently implement the recommendations of the ninth annual conference on external propaganda on Tibet. It should inform the Central Government leaders of the outcome of research activities, trends of the international public opinion on Tibet, progress of our Tibetology work, current developments, and recommendations on external propaganda strategy; it should notify the concerned departments as well. In this way, we should translate the recommendations into concrete action.

In short, we should make every effort to convert the Tibetology institutes and specialists into an effective army of our external propaganda for public opinion on Tibet. All of you should speak frankly during this two-day conference. I hope we will be able to make joint efforts for external propaganda. I made these suggestions and recommendations to serve as a basis for your discussion. If you find any inadequacies, you should make open criticisms.

Thank you.

Population Influx into Tibet

Position Paper, September 2001

Reprinted from the International Campaign for Tibet

Today, one of the most serious threats to Tibet's identity is the influx of Chinese settlers. The influx is a combination of the direct transfer of Chinese residents by the government, government induced relocation, and spontaneous migration with indirect government support. This influx, which has its roots in early Communist directives, assimilates Tibet and Tibetans into China at a rate unseen in previous decades. The rate has now reached a point where the distinct identity of the Tibetan people and their ancient civilization are being overwhelmed, and Tibet's separate existence is in jeopardy.


In October 1950, when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet, only a handful of Chinese resided in what is today the Tibet Autonomous Region (T.A.R.). Eastern Tibet, now under the jurisdiction of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, was home to a small population of Chinese traders. Northeastern Tibet, which is now under the jurisdiction of Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, contained a sizable Chinese population confined to the northwest corner of the province.

By 1956, Beijing introduced demographic management policies aimed at integrating the Tibetan minority into the Chinese majority. The policies projected that the steady flow of Chinese into Tibet would enable rapid economic development and in turn raise the standard of living in the region. A strong economy would facilitate the future settlement of Chinese and provide greater political control. The first wave of immigrants was the PLA, thousands of whom stayed and raised families. And in the 1960s and 1970s, over one million Chinese prisoners were sent to Tibetan prefectures in Qinghai Province.

After Hu Yaobang, former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary, visited Tibet in 1980, Chinese authorities relaxed the flow of settlers, but by 1987, official policy renewed the influx of large numbers of Chinese into the TAR. Population transfers have since been intensified in order to assimilate Tibet into the Chinese economic system and to stabilize and develop Tibetan areas resisting communist authorities.


In the early 1990s, Beijing implemented significant administrative, infrastructure, and development projects to facilitate large scale Chinese migration to Tibet. Economic construction continues to relocate scientists, teachers, and students from Chinese technical schools into Tibet. In eastern Tibet, the process of the Chinese influx has been marked by the appropriation of Tibetan land for agriculture. Current strategies for economic growth and development rely on and significantly benefit the Chinese settlers. Lay-offs of Tibetans in favor of Chinese workers contribute to the growing unemployment and increased levels of poverty among Tibetans. Mineral extraction and hydroelectric, and irrigation projects also involve the influx of large numbers of Chinese workers.

Travel restrictions within the People's Republic of China and checkpoints on interprovince highways have been lifted. In lieu of softening regulations in China proper, Tibetans face identification checks and other harassment while moving within Tibet. In addition, regulations on private enterprises in Tibet are being eased and loans are made readily available to Chinese settlers. Tens of thousands of Chinese petty entrepreneurs and traders flock to Tibet from interior provinces in order to pursue private economic opportunities. Chinese migrants, who dominate commerce in urban centers such as Lhasa, are establishing markets, clothes shops, hotels, and restaurants as well as discos, karaoke bars, and brothels. The opening of rail links to Tibet from China would invariably speed the process of Chinese migration into Tibet.


The influx of Chinese to Tibet involves the active participation of the Chinese government. Authorities in Beijing offer an array of benefits, which encourage and facilitate Chinese migration and settlement in Tibet. These incentives are largely financial ones: higher wages, improved pensions, low taxes and land rates, assured employment for family members, quicker promotions, and hardship allowances for people living in remote areas. Annual wages are 87% higher in Tibet than in Chinese provinces. Other social benefits include better housing and longer periods of vacation. Benefits available to Tibetan employees are not as extensive as the benefits offered to Chinese employees. As a result, Tibetans are marginalized in the economic, political, and social spheres of contemporary Tibetan society.

The Party regularly recruits Chinese to skilled jobs as cadres, technicians, and scientists while assigning unskilled Chinese to work on construction sites, in factories, and as road workers. Tibetans have expressed anxiety about the government's active role in taking job opportunities away from Tibetans. They feel that the government prefers to employ Chinese immigrants and does not invest in educating and training Tibetans to compete with the Chinese.

The Chinese government repeatedly denies allegations that it practices a policy of population transfer into Tibet. Meanwhile, Tibetans are currently a minority in five of ten autonomous prefectures. Qinghai Province, 98.5% of which is designated as Tibetan autonomous areas, is now ethnically only 20% Tibetan.

Official sources understate Chinese presence in Tibet. Authorities have claimed that the total number of Chinese in the TAR is 80,837 (3.7% of the total population), compared to a Tibetan population of 2.196 million. Authorities recorded the total Tibetan population of all the areas with Tibetan autonomous status as 4.34 million. The non-Tibetan population in the same area was officially given as 1.5 million. Well researched and credible estimates put the actual Chinese population at no less than 250,000-300,000 in the TAR; and the total number of Chinese in all Tibetan autonomous areas as 2.5 to 3 million.

Official figures fail to record the non-registered floating Chinese population in Tibet. The floating population includes those who have maintained their household registration in a Chinese province and those who have not been in Tibet for more than one year. This population also includes the large number of settlers who have migrated to Tibet on their own volition and without legal registration. These settlers are often given preferential treatment for jobs and establish private shops and restaurants. Official Chinese population figures do not account for military presence in Tibet. A 1990 Party document estimated the number of military personnel in the TAR as 50,000, however other sources estimate the figure at between 100,000-200,000.


  • Revoke or amend regulations which establish economic incentives for Chinese in Tibet. • Provide education and training opportunities to Tibetans that will allow them to compete for and gain skilled jobs.
  • Enact and implement Chinese law that requires Tibetan to be the official language in the region.
  • Re-establish checkpoints on the roads in Tibet to determine whether people have authorization to live and work in Tibet.
  • Enforce residency as a requirement to reduce the floating population.
  • Limit the hiring of Chinese workers and experts and the period of time they can spend on projects in Tibet. Such regulations have already been enacted by Qinghai provincial authorities, but are not being implemented.


Wang Xiaoqiang and Bai Nanfeng, Poverty of Plenty. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

The International Commission of Jurists, "Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law," 1997.

National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, "Tibet: Issues for Americans," 1992.

The Alliance for Research in Tibet, Tibet Outside the TAR, 1996 (CD ROM).

DIIR, Dharamsala, "China's Railway Project, Where Will it Take Tibet?," 2001.

Religious Persecution

Position Paper, September 2001

Reprinted from the International Campaign for Tibet

Persecution of Religion in Tibet

Many aspects of Tibetan monasteries and nunneries are systematically controlled and restricted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The methods and the degree of control and persecution vary widely throughout Tibetan areas, with some regions experiencing more freedom than others.

China's top leaders have expressed deep concern at the continued popularity and rapid growth of Tibetan Buddhism. The CCP has publicly ordered a halt to further spread of religion in Tibet; in addition, authorities have launched a new wave of regulations subjecting monasteries and nunneries to greater scrutiny and control.


Since 1996, the Party has rigorously enforced a patriotic re-education campaign by sending "work teams" into monasteries and nunneries throughout Tibet. In the course of conducting patriotic re-education sessions, work teams seek to identify, expel or arrest dissident monks and nuns and ensure that Party principles prevail over any competing Buddhist doctrines. Monks and nuns are indoctrinated to oppose separatism; support the unity of Tibet and China; recognize the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama as the true Panchen Lama; deny that Tibet was ever or should be independent; and denounce the Dalai Lama.


From 1959 through the late 1970s, Chinese authorities methodically sought to destroy most aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, the Party intended to eradicate religious belief and practice in Tibet and committed acts of genocide. Over six thousand monasteries and temples were destroyed, dismantling the entire monastic system of Tibet. Tens of thousands of monks and nuns were executed, sent to concentration camps or sent back to their villages. All religious activity was banned.

In the late 1970s, the end of the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent easing of restrictions on religious expression ushered in a period of comparative leniency for religion. Tibetan monasticism re-emerged and individual religious practice gradually accelerated.


In 1994, the Third National Forum on Work in Tibet introduced more far reaching restrictions on religion. These guidelines included: stricter control over the monastic institutions; a ban on the re-construction of religious buildings except with official permission; limits on the number of monks and nuns per monastery; and the screening and re-education of the monks and nuns in order to register or deregister them. Renewed and more vigorous efforts were aimed at preventing Tibetan Communist Party members from displaying religious devotion. Furthermore, the Third Forum initiated an especially hostile and aggressive campaign against the Dalai Lama's authority; the CCP identified the influence of the Dalai Lama and the "Dalai clique" as the root of Tibet's instability.

A range of government structures have been erected in Tibet to keep religious practice under limits acceptable to Chinese leadership. The Democratic Management Committee,(DMC), set up in all monasteries and nunneries to implement Party policies and regulations, monitors regions distant from Beijing. DMCs act as the eyes and ears of the Party in monasteries and nunneries. In conjunction with ad hoc government "work teams," DMCs search for suspected dissidents in monasteries and nunneries. A number of monks and nuns have been expelled from their institutions and even arrested on the recommendation of their DMC. Many monks and nuns have faced imprisonment for possessing a picture of Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, or for refusing to formally declare his or her opposition to the Dalai Lama and his policies--actions that are now considered political crimes.

Other restrictions limiting religious practice in Tibet include: age limits for novice monks and nuns; numeric limits on monks and nuns in each monastery; interference in the choice of monastic and religious leaders; expulsions of monks and nuns involved in peaceful demonstrations; and restrictions on monks traveling outside their monasteries.


Approximately half of Tibetan prisoners of conscience are monks and nuns. At any given time, hundreds of monks are being held in jails, detention centers and prisons in Tibet. An overwhelming majority of detained monks and nuns are routinely and brutally beaten during their confinement, particularly during the initial phase of questioning. Torture often includes beatings, suspension by the arms, electric shock to the mouth and genitals, exposure to intense cold, and rape.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama identified a six-year-old boy to be the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most prominent figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Soon afterwards, Chinese authorities abducted the boy and his whereabouts still remain unknown. China selected a second boy to be recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama and ordered monks as well as Tibetan cadres to officially denounce the Dalai Lama for making his announcement. These actions signaled an attempt by Beijing to drive a new schism into Tibetan Buddhism and to consolidate control over the religious and temporal affairs of Tibetans.


Establishing religious freedom in Tibet requires deep structural and systematic reform of the Chinese political system. Initial steps must include:

  • Dissolve the Democratic Management Committee presence in Tibetan regions;
  • Halt the use of Work Teams in monasteries and nunneries;
  • Release religious prisoners of conscience, including the Panchen Lama; • Allow Tibetans to identify and install religious leaders of their own choosing;
  • Permit Tibetans to worship the Dalai Lama, and display his photo in accordance with tradition;
  • Abolish minimum age requirements for entering a monastery or nunnery.


    International Campaign for Tibet, "A Season to Purge: Religious Repression in Tibet." Washington: 1996.

    MacInnis, Donald E. (Ed), Religion in China Today. New York: Orbis Books, 1989.

    Panchen Lama. A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama. London, 1997.

    Schwartz, Ronald, Circle of Protest. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

    Ya Hanzhang, Biographies of the Tibetan Spiritual Leaders Panchen Erdenis. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1996

Report by the International Commission of Jurists

Excerpt from an authoritative International Commission of Jurists report, released December 1997 (excluding footnotes).


Executive Summary

This report examines the situation of the rule of law and human rights in Tibet, including self-determination and other collective rights; economic, social and cultural rights; and civil and political rights. Although the report discusses the entire period since China's invasion of central Tibet in 1950, its focus is on events of recent years.

The report finds that repression in Tibet has increased steadily since the 1994 Third National Forum on Work in Tibet, a key conclave at which senior officials identified the influence of the exiled Dalai Lama, the leading figure in Tibetan Buddhism, as the root of Tibet's instability, and mapped out a new strategy for the region. The Forum endorsed rapid economic development, including the transfer of more Chinese into the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and a campaign to curtail the influence of the Dalai Lama and crack down on dissent. The results of the Forum included: heightened control on religious activity and a denunciation campaign against the Dalai Lama unprecedented since the Cultural Revolution; an increase in political arrests; stepped up surveillance of potential dissidents; and increased repression of even non-political protest. Since the beginning of 1996, there has been further escalation of repression in Tibet, marked by an intensive re-education drive in the monasteries at which monks were told that they would be required to sign loyalty pledges or face expulsion, a clampdown on information coming from Tibet, the sentencing of a senior religious leader, and a ban on photographs of the Dalai Lama in public places. The eight year old boy designated by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second-most important figure in Tibet's Buddhist hierarchy, remains in detention. At the same time, Chinese leaders have begun a campaign against certain aspects of traditional Tibetan culture identified as both obstacles to development and links to Tibetan nationalism, an in 1997 labelled Buddhism as a "foreign culture."

These abuses of human rights and assaults on Tibetan culture flow from the denial of the Tibetan people's most fundamental right - to exercise self-determination. It is to maintain its alien and unpopular rule that China has sought to suppress Tibetan nationalist dissent and neutralise Tibetan culture. It is to colonise unwilling subjects that China has encouraged and facilitated the movement of Chinese into Tibet, where they dominate politics, security and the economy.


The autonomy accorded to the TAR and other Tibetan autonomous areas in the PRC Constitution and laws is limited, as most local powers are subject to central approval. The actual extent to which Tibetans control their own affairs is even more circumscribed, however, due to the centralized dominance of the Communist Party (CCP), and the exclusion of Tibetans from meaningful participation in regional and local administration. When Tibetans are in positions of nominal authority, they are often shadowed by more powerful Chinese officials. Every local organ is shadowed by a CCP committee or "leading group," which does not function in keeping with concepts of autonomy. The army and the police are dominated by Chinese. While Tibet has often been divided, Tibetan self-rule is also undermined by the current partition of Tibetan territory which separates most Tibetans among four Chinese provinces in which Tibetans constitute small minorities.


In 1959 the United Nations General Assembly called "for respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and for their distinctive cultural and religious life." In 1961 and 1965 the Assembly again lamented "the suppression of the distinctive cultural and religious life" of the Tibetan people. In 1991 the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the UN Commission on Human Rights was still "[c]oncerned at the continuing reports of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms which threaten the distinct cultural, religious and national identity of the Tibetan people." Today certain Chinese policies continue to erode or threaten to erode the distinctive elements of the Tibetan identity and culture. These policies include:

Population Transfer

Since 1950 there has been a large influx of Chinese into Tibet, resulting from several factors: government policy and programmes to transfer Chinese, particularly cadres and professionals, to the TAR and other Tibetan regions; government encouragement of voluntary migration; work units bringing ordinary labourers to Tibet for construction projects; and the market-driven migration of ordinary Chinese. New Chinese towns have been created. Tibetan urban centres have been sinicised. In eastern Tibet, Tibetan lands have also been appropriated for agriculture. Where Chinese have settled, they dominate commerce and are at the centre of development strategies. The 1994 Third Work Forum endorsed and accelerated the movement of Chinese to the TAR. Estimates suggest that Chinese now account for one-third of the total population of all areas with Tibetan autonomous status (compared to 6 to 10% in 1949) and for 12 to 14% of the population of the TAR (compared to 0.1%).

Tibet's Cultural Heritage

A key component of Tibet's unique culture was undermined in the early years of Chinese rule by the destruction of the monastic system. The Cultural Revolution continued that process with the physical destruction of Tibet's unique religious buildings and monuments and an assault on the cultural identity of individual Tibetans. By its end, Tibet's physical and material culture was visibly decimated; few of Tibet's thousands of monasteries survived. Since 1979 the Chinese government has allowed some cultural freedom in Tibet and many monasteries have been partially restored, but permitted cultural activities are restricted and purged of any nationalist content. Chinese modernisation since 1979 has destroyed much of the surviving traditional Tibetan secular architecture in urban areas. In Lhasa, many Tibetan houses have been demolished and entire neighbourhoods razed.


The predominance of the Chinese language in education, commerce, and administration, combined with global modernization, compels Tibetans to master Chinese and is marginalising the Tibetan language. Virtually all classes in secondary and higher education in the TAR, including such subjects as Tibetan art, are taught in Chinese. Recent measures - apparently following a Communist Party decision linking use of Tibetan language to pro-independence sentiments - include the shutting of experimental middle school classes in Tibetan in the TAR and a further downgrading of the use of Tibetan in education generally.


The pattern of development of Tibet, while materially beneficial in its transfer to Tibet of modern technologies of health care, transport and communications, has marginalized Tibetans, and excluded them from effective participation, which is an intrinsic aspect of development. The livelihood of most Tibetans, who live in small rural communities, has been neglected, receiving little of the Chinese investment. The relative poverty of Tibetans, the exploitation of Tibetan resources for China's development, and the settlement of considerable numbers of Chinese in new urban centres impact negatively on Tibetan communities.


In forty years, most Tibetan wildlife has been destroyed and much of the forest has been cut, watersheds and hillslopes eroded and downstream flooding heightened. The most extensive environmental impact of Chinese practice is the widespread degradation of the rangelands, resulting in desertification of large areas capable until recently of sustaining both wild and domestic herds. The extent of grassland deterioration has reached a point where, unless measures are taken soon, the long term viability of nomadic Tibetan civilization could be brought into question.


The Role of the Judiciary

A primary stated goal of the justice system in the TAR is the repression of Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule. A judiciary subservient to Communist Party dictates results in abuses of human rights in all of China, but in Tibet the problem is particularly severe due to China's campaign against Tibetan nationalism. The recent "Strike Hard" anti-crime campaign has enlisted the judiciary further in the campaign against "splittism." Many Tibetans, particularly political detainees, are deprived of even elementary safeguards of due process.

Right to Education

The Chinese government has made great strides in providing compulsory primary education to Tibetan children. The education system in Tibet, however, puts Tibetan children at a structural disadvantage compared to Chinese children. The exclusive use of the Chinese language as the medium of instruction in middle and secondary schools in the TAR, the low enrolment and high drop-out rate among Tibetans, the low quality of education facilities and teachers for Tibetans, the difficulties in educational access for Tibetans, as well as a TAR illiteracy rate triple the national average, are indicative of a discriminatory structure. Rather than instilling in Tibetan children respect for their own cultural identity, language and values, education in Tibet serves to convey a sense of inferiority in comparison to the dominant Chinese culture and values.

Right to Housing

The destruction of Tibetan neighbourhoods, the forced evictions of Tibetans and demolition of their homes, as well as preferences shown to Chinese in new housing reveal marked discrimination against Tibetans in the housing sphere.

Right to Health

The general availability of primary health care and the use of preventive medicine have resulted in important improvements in overall health levels in the TAR. Life expectancy of Tibetans has risen significantly, though it is the lowest of all groups in the PRC. The infant mortality rate of Tibetans, however, is three times the PRC national average and a serious problem of child malnutrition exists. The cost and poor quality of primary care and the shortage of trained village-level health professionals contribute to preventing Tibetans from achieving the highest attainable standards of health.

Arbitrary Detention

Tibetans continue to be detained for long periods without charge or sentenced to prison for peacefully advocating Tibetan independence or maintaining links with the Dalai Lama. The number of political prisoners in Tibet appears to have risen in recent years, to over 600. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has criticised China's use of broadly-worded "counterrevolutionary" crimes and called without result for the release of dozens of Tibetans detained in violation of international norms guaranteeing freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Most Tibetan political prisoners were arrested for peacefully demonstrating, writing or distributing leaflets, communicating with foreigners or the Tibetan government-in-exile, or possessing pro-independence material. Nuns account for between one-quarter and one-third of known political prisoners. In 1997 China replaced the "counterrevolutionary" concept with the equally elastic notion of "crimes against state security," adding an article specifically targetting acts "to split the nation."


Torture and ill-treatment in detention is widespread in Tibet. The use of electric cattle-prods on political detainees appears to be general practice. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment occur in police stations upon arrest, during transport to detention facilities, in detention centres and in prisons. The documented methods of torture against Tibetans include beatings with with chains, sticks with protruding nails, and iron bars, shocks applied with electric cattle-prods to sensitive parts of the body, including the genitals and mouth, hanging by the arms twisted behind the back, and exposure to cold water or cold temperatures. Women, particularly nuns, appear to be subjected to some of the harshest, and gender-specific, torture, including rape using electric cattle-prods and ill-treament of the breasts.

Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Executions

There have been no confirmed reports of shooting of peaceful demonstrators since the demonstrations and disturbances of 1987-89 when scores of Tibetans, including many peaceful demonstrators, were shot and killed. A number of unclarified deaths of political prisoners, including young nuns, have occurred in Tibetan prisons in recent years, allegedly as a result of torture or negligence. The imposition of the death penalty in Tibet - which was reportedly used 34 times in the TAR in 1996 - is devoid of the guarantees of due process and fair trial.

Freedom of Expression

Tibetans' freedom of expression is severely restricted. Expression of political nationalism is not tolerated. Neighbourhood committees identify dissenters and instill "correct thought." Tibetans are arrested and imprisoned, or sentenced to re-education through labour, for the peaceful expression of their political views. Information reaching Tibet from the outside as well as the flow of information out of Tibet is tightly controlled. Restrictions have intensified in recent years through the "Strike Hard" anti-crime campaign, the ban on public display of photographs of the Dalai Lama and the monastic re-education campaign.

Freedom of religion

The Buddhist religion is a significant part of the lives of the Tibetan people. There is, however, pervasive interference with religious freedom and activity in Tibet. Monasteries are under the purview of local government and Party bodies, Party work teams and police branches. Each is governed by a Democratic Management Committee (DMC).

Since the 1994 Forum, when the Party identified the influence of the Dalai Lama and the "Dalai clique" as the root of Tibet's instability, Tibetan Buddhism has been subject to intense scrutiny and control. Party dominance over the DMCs has been strengthened; a ban on religious construction without official permission and limits on the number of monks and nuns per monastery have been more strictly enforced; the screening for admission of monks and nuns has been tightened; and monks and nuns have been asked to denounce the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese government used the search for the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama to intensify its campaign to eradicate the Dalai Lama's religious as well as political influence. The senior monk involved in the selection process was detained and later sentenced, the Panchen Lama's monastery was purged and Tibetan cadres' and religious leaders' loyalty was tested by requiring them to denounce the Dalai Lama's interference in the Panchen Lama's recognition, and to accept the Chinese choice for Panchen Lama. A ban on the public display of photographs of the Dalai Lama was later followed by a sporadic ban on private possession of his photo. In 1996 a "patriotic education campaign" in the monasteries was initiated which continues to the present. Strengthened work teams were sent to major monasteries to conduct intensive re-education sessions among the monks, during which the monks were called on to denounce the Dalai Lama. Hundreds of monks were forced to leave their monasteries, while at least 90 others were arrested for disturbing the re-education process. Chinese troops shelled one monastery, killing one and injuring three.

Freedom of Assembly

Peaceful political demonstrations in Tibet are typically broken up in minutes, and their participants arrested and often beaten, as part of a deliberate policy to suppress any manifestation of pro-independence sentiment. In recent years even some economic protests have been violently suppressed.

Population Control

Although the Tibetan population is small and Tibetan territory sparsely inhabited, China limits the number of children which Tibetan women may have, though these limits are not as severe as they are for Chinese women. The limits, which vary from area to area, are enforced through mandatory fines, abortions and sterilisations, in violation of numerous legal rights and sometimes with adverse health consequences for women. "Unauthorised" children commonly suffer discrimination in access to schooling and other benefits and rights.


Central Tibet - that part of Tibet ruled from Lhasa - demonstrated from 1913 to 1950 the conditions of statehood as generally accepted under international law. In 1950 there was a people, a territory, and a government which functioned in that territory, conducting its own domestic affairs free from any outside authority. From 1913-1950 the foreign relations of central Tibet were conducted exclusively by the Government of Tibet. Central Tibet was thus at the very least a de facto independent State when in the face of a Chinese invasion it signed the "17 Point Agreement" in 1951 surrendering its independence to China. Under that Agreement, China gave a number of undertakings, including: promises to maintain the existing political system of Tibet, to maintain the status and functions of the Dalai Lama, to protect freedom of religion and the monasteries and to refrain from compulsory "reforms." These and other undertakings were violated by China. The Government of Tibet was entitled to repudiate the Agreement as it did in 1959.


Tibetans are a "people under alien subjugation," entitled under international law to the right of self-determination, by which they freely determine their political status. The Tibetan people have not yet exercised this right, which requires a free and genuine expression of their will.


The principal recommendation of this report is for a referendum to be held in Tibet under United Nations supervision to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people. Those eligible to vote in such a referendum would be Tibetans and other persons resident in Tibet before 1950 and their descendants, as well as Tibetan refugees and their descendants. The referendum would take place in the contiguous territories in which ethnic Tibetans historically constituted a majority and among the exile community. This exercise of the right to self-determination could result in the establishment of an independent state, a form of genuine internal self-government, continuation of Tibet's current status within China, or any other status freely determined by the Tibetan people.

Most of the other specific recommendations of this report flow from China's violations, spelled out in the report, of its binding obligations under international human rights law, and do not need to be enumerated exhaustively here. Some of the over-arching recommendations, however, include:

Recommendations to the People's Republic of China

  • Enter into discussions with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile on a solution to the question of Tibet based on the will of the Tibetan people;
  • Ensure respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people by ending the violations described in this report;
  • End those practices which threaten to erode the distinct cultural, religious and national identity of the Tibetan people. In particular, cease policies which result in the movement of Chinese to Tibetan territory.
  • Cooperate with United Nations mechanisms for the protection of human rights. In particular, facilitate meaningful and unrestricted visits to Tibet of the UN mechanisms on torture, summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial executions, violence against women, disappearances, arbitrary detention, and independence of the judiciary. Release those prisoners whose detention has been ruled arbitrary by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, and prisoners held for similar reasons. Implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance and allow him to conduct a meaningful follow-up visit with unrestricted access to the Tibetan people.
  • Ratify without reservations the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its optional protocols and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Allow unrestricted access to Tibet by independent human rights monitors.

To the United Nations General Assembly

  • Resume its debate on the question of Tibet based on its resolutions of 1959, 1961 and 1965.

To the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

  • Appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation of human rights in Tibet. To the United Nations Secretary-General
  • Using his good offices, appoint a Special Envoy to promote a peaceful settlement of the question of Tibet and a United Nations-supervised referendum to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people. To the international community
  • States and other international actors should refrain from taking a position on the legal status of Tibet until after a referendum is held in accordance with the recommendation made in this report.
  • Development assistance to Tibet should benefit the Tibetan people. To this end, it should ensure the participation of Tibetans in all stages of project design and implementation, respect Tibetan choices regarding the environment and development and not encourage the movement of Chinese to Tibetan territory.

To the Tibetan government-in-exile

  • Enter into discussions with the government of China on a solution to the question of Tibet based on the will of the Tibetan people;
  • Cooperate in the organisation of a United Nations-supervised referendum in Tibet and in the exile community to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people.

Tibet and the UN General Assembly

by Richard Nishimura

Reprinted from the International Campaign for Tibet

As the prospect of China’s 1949-50 invasion grew, the Dalai Lama, head of the Tibetan Government, made the first in a series of appeals to the United Nations and its members, requesting intervention on his country’s behalf.

Tibet at the UN General Assembly


A month after the People’s Liberation Army pierced the Eastern frontier of Central Tibet in October 1950, El Salvador responded to Tibet's plea, submitting adraft resolution to the UN entitled “Invasion of Tibet by Foreign Forces.” Its consideration, however, was suspended on the erroneous belief that Communist China would halt its advance and seek a peaceful accord with the Tibetans. That was not to happen.


By the time of the Tibetan National Uprising in March 1959, it was clear that China had no intention of abating its aggression. The Uprising and the Dalai Lama’s dramatic escape to India once again focused the world’s attention on Tibet. Later that July, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law, the first of several reports. It found that “evidence points to a prima facie case of systematic intention…to destroy in whole or in part the Tibetans as a separate nation and the Buddhist religion in Tibet.” Concern by the international community finally moved the General Assembly to act, and the first resolution on Tibet was passed in October of that year.


In 1961, Malaya, and Ireland, sponsors of the 1959 resolution, were joined by El Salvador and Thailand, in their request to include “The Question of Tibet” once again for consideration by the United Nations. Speaking before the General Assembly, Ireland’s representative asked “how many benches would be empty here in this hall if it had always been agreed that when a small nation or a small people fell into the grip of a major Power, no one could ever raise their case here; that once they were a subject nation, they must always remain a subject nation.”

Tibet’s case was bolstered by the ICJ’s second report Tibet and the Chinese People’s Republic. Upon examining Tibet’s legal status, and violations of human rights there, the report concluded that “acts of genocide had been committed”, and that “Tibet was at the very least a de facto independent State” before its annexation by the Chinese government in 1951. With the support of 56 member states, resolution 1723 (XVI) was passed in the General Assembly on December 20.


By 1965 conditions in Tibet remained bleak. A third ICJ report, Continued Violations of Human Rights in Tibet, was published the previous December. Based on accounts from Tibetan refugees fleeing to India, the report disclosed “a continuance of ill-treatment of many monks, lamas, and other religious figures, resulting in death through excessive torture, beatings, starvation and forced labour…” Following the report and the Dalai Lama’s appeal, the issue was reintroduced at the UN yet again by the 1961 sponsors, joined this time by Nicaragua and the Philippines.

India, speaking out for the first time, reminded the General Assembly that “ever since Tibet came under the strangle-hold of China, the Tibetans have been subjected to a continuous and increasing ruthlessness which has few parallels in the annals of the world.” The Philippines pointed out that 15 years after the “mock liberation of Tibet”, the People’s Republic of China had still “not identified the ‘aggressive imperialist forces in Tibet’”, and Thailand noted that the majority of states refuted "the contention that Tibet is part of China." Following these and other remarks, Resolution 2079 (XX) on the Question of Tibet was passed on December 18, 1965.

In short...

During the various General Assembly debates, several members spoke passionately, denouncing the Communist government’s aggression against Tibet as a violation of its independence. However, while two of the resolutions referred to the principle of self-determination, all three skirted the issue of Tibet’s status under international law, focusing instead on human rights violations.

To this day, the United Nations’ unfinished consideration of the question of Tibet remains one of the global body’s most notable and longstanding acts of omission.

  • For an account of Tibet & the UN see Michael Van Walt's "The Status of Tibet", 1987; Warren Smith Jr.'s "Tibetan Nation, 1996; Tsering Shakya's "The Dragon in the Land of Snows", 1999; His Holiness the Dalai Lama's "My Land and My People", 1977; and The Bureau of H.H. the Dalai Lama's "Tibet in the United Nations, 1950-1961".
  • See also the International Commission of Jurists' reports, "The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law", 1959; "Tibet and the Chinese People's Republic", 1960; "Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law", 1997.

Tibet and the United Kingdom

Reprinted from the Free Tibet Campaign, London


While current British foreign policy on Tibet includes pressing the Chinese Government on human rights abuses, overall Britain takes a soft approach due to considerations such as the future of Hong Kong and the strong desire for profitable trade with China. The British Government refuses to address the question of Tibet's status or to discuss the issue of Tibetan independence, claiming this is "not a realistic option" - an expedient approach based on realpolitik rather than one of principle or consistency.

Current British Position

The current British position on Tibet is described in a policy statement of October 1995, which begins: "Successive British Governments have consistently regarded Tibet as autonomous, although we recognise the special position of the Chinese there. This remains our view. We have stressed to the Chinese authorities the need for fuller autonomy in Tibet. However, we do not regard independence for Tibet as a realistic option as Tibet has never been internationally recognised as an independent State, and no member of the UN regards Tibet as independent." ('Government Policy on Tibet', a Statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Oct. 1995.) In fact, Britain did officially regard Tibet as being de facto independent for much of the first half of the 20th century - from a Tibetan declaration of independence in 1912 until the Chinese invasion and occupation of 1949-50. British representatives were stationed in Tibet from 1904 to 1947 to liaise with the Tibetan Government. .

The British Government now believes there is a pressing need for dialogue without preconditions between the Chinese authorities and the Tibetan people. (To date, Beijing has argued that Tibetan independence is not open to discussion.) However, Britain has done little to encourage the Chinese to come to the negotiating table, beyond "reminding" them of the British position. Furthermore, pressing for talks without preconditions while at the same time declaring "independence is not a realistic option" is surely self-defeating. .

The Government does not feel that the Dalai Lama has a political role, and his visits to Britain are held to have been purely of a "private and religious" nature. Moreover, the British authorities have declared "We have no formal dealings with the Dalai Lama's self-proclaimed government in exile, which is not recognised by any Government." ('Government Policy on Tibet'). .

Free Tibet Campaign believes that the current British position on Tibet not only contains contradictions which weaken the possible impact and effectiveness of British pressure, but also refutes and redefines the nature of Britain's historical relations with Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign therefore recommends that the British Government:

  • Confirm its past recognition of Tibet as being a de facto independent state.
  • Agree that it is for the Tibetan people to decide whether or not independence for Tibet is a "realistic option". The Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Relations with China said, in its April 1994 report, that human rights abuses in Tibet would only be prevented after a satisfactory conclusion to the issue of Tibetan self-determination.
  • Begin formal and open relations with the democratically elected Tibetan Government-in-Exile.


Relations up to 1950*

When the British ruled India, their interest in Tibet was to exclude the influence of any other state that might disturb India's Himalayan frontier, while becoming involved in Tibet as little as possible themselves. The ways of pursuing these objectives varied at different times. .

In the 19th century, Britain accepted the myth that Tibet was in a vague way part of the Chinese Empire, since this might help to exclude Russian influence. The Tibetans also used the myth to help them exclude influences from India that might threaten their culture and perhaps their integrity. In fact, China's influence in Tibet, which for a short time at the end of the 18th century was effective, vanished during the 19th century. In the 1880s and 1890s, British attempts to settle minor issues of trade and frontier alignment by treaties with China proved infructous, because the Tibetans would not recognise these treaties. Lord Curzon, as Viceroy of India, therefore tried to establish direct contact with the 13th Dalai Lama, who most unwisely refused to receive his correspondence. This deadlock became serious when Curzon believed unreliable information suggesting that Russia had obtained some influence in Lhasa. So the British Government reluctantly approved a small military expedition under Francis Younghusband, which fought its way to Lhasa in 1904. .

This inauspicious start in fact established good relations with Tibet, which were subsequently maintained. The Lhasa Convention of 1904 settled many outstanding issues. But a new Liberal Government in London went full circle in 1906, influenced partly by dislike of Curzon's imperialism and partly by moves then afoot, prompted by fear of Germany, for the formation of an entente between France, Britain and Russia. The Lhasa Convention was re-negotiated with China in 1906, and in 1907 an Anglo-Russian agreement, covering Persia and Afghanistan as well as Tibet, provided that both parties would deal with Tibet only through China. .

In the vacuum thus created, the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1906, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1910. The Chinese then started to infiltrate into Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and the tribal areas to the north of Assam. This set alarm bells ringing in Simla and London: what seemed to be needed was a buffer state against China as well as Russia. This was achieved when the Chinese emperor was deposed in 1911, thus breaking the personal link between the Dalai Lama and the Manchu Dynasty; when the Chinese troops in Tibet mutinied and were evacuated through India; and when the Dalai Lama, back in Lhasa, declared Tibet's independence in 1912. .

At a conference in Simla in 1914, British, Chinese and Tibetan representatives negotiated the Simla Convention, providing for Tibetan autonomy with Chinese suzerainty, and a complicated and unsatisfactory arrangement about the Sino-Tibetan boundary. The Chinese withheld acceptance of this convention. They were accordingly told that Britain and Tibet would regard it as binding between themselves but that China would have no rights under it. In addition, agreements were concluded at Simla between Britain and Tibet (the Chinese being neither consulted nor informed) on trade and a definition of the frontier between India and Tibet in the tribal territory to the north of Assam (the MacMahon Line). .

These arrangements were in breach of the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907, and a release to cover them was sought from Russia. This difficulty disappeared when in 1917, the Communist Government in Russia repudiated all the international engagements of the tsars, and when in 1921, the 1907 Treaty was cancelled by agreement. From 1910 onwards, the British Government treated Tibet as a de facto independent state with which treaty relations existed. From 1921 onwards, they were periodically represented by a diplomatic officer at Lhasa, and were permanently so represented from the early-1930s. In 1920, after a futile attempt to settle Tibetan issues with China, Curzon, then foreign secretary, told the Chinese Government that since 1912 Britain had treated Tibet as de facto independent, and would continue to do so. Britain was, however, ready to recognise China's suzerainty over Tibet, provided that China accepted Tibet's autonomy. This the Chinese never did, so the offer to recognise China's suzerainty remained contingent. Nor did the British regard the concept of suzerainty as limiting Tibet's ability to conduct her own external relations, or as more than a sop for saving China's face. The Tibetans never accepted the idea of suzerainty after China rejected the Simla Convention. .

In 1943, the Chinese foreign minister asked Anthony Eden how Britain regarded the status of Tibet, and was given an answer similar to Curzon's statement of 1921: that the British Government "had always been prepared to recognise Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous" (Memorandum from Sir Anthony Eden to the Chinese foreign minister, T. V. Soong, 05/08/43, FO371/93001). .

In the same year, the British Embassy in Washington wrote to the US Government, stating: "The Government of India has always held that Tibet is a separate country in the full enjoyment of local autonomy, entitled to exchange diplomatic representatives with other powers. The relationship between Tibet and China is not a matter that can be decided unilaterally by China, but one on which Tibet is entitled to negotiate, and on which she can, if necessary, count on the diplomatic support of the British Government along the lines shown above." With the transfer of power to the two new dominions of India and Pakistan, Britain¹s direct political concern with Tibet ended, along with the cessation of her responsibility for the defence of India. One might, however, expect any British Government to be concerned on general historical grounds at China's military seizure of Tibet in 1950, and her brutal treatment of the Tibetan people for four decades.

* Note: Written by Sir Algernon Rumbold, President of the Tibet Society of the UK 1977-1988, for Free Tibet Campaign.

Tibet and the United States

July 10, 2004

U.S. government policy on Tibet embraces three key objectives: (1) promoting dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama regarding the future of Tibet, (2) the safeguarding of Tibet’s distinct cultural, religious, and linguistic identity, and (3) the protection of all Tibetans’ fundamental human rights.

Historical Roots of U.S. Policy

The United States had limited involvement with Tibet prior to the second half of the 20th century, but interest grew as World War II unfolded in the Pacific theatre. U.S. planners assessed the possibility of using Tibet as a transit route to supply the war effort in China against the Japanese, but the Government of Tibet was averse to permitting entry and the formidable geographic barrier precluded effective overland travel.

At the time, the United States took no position on Tibet’s status under international law. It neither endorsed nor refuted China’s claim of suzerainty over Tibet, wary of undermining its ally in the midst of a Chinese civil war. In the sphere of trade relations, however, Tibet was conferred separate Most Favored Nation status. It was only revoked by Washington on July 14, 1952, following Tibet’s annexation by China under the so-called 17 Point Agreement.

Communist victory in China and the subsequent invasion of Tibet in 1949-50 prompted the United States to reconsider Tibet’s status and weigh the option of recognizing Tibetan independence.

While such recognition was ultimately thwarted by a confluence of geopolitical turmoil in the region, concern over China's military occupation and gross human rights violations led to CIA involvement in support of the Tibetan resistance. It would last from 1958-74.

Diplomatic initiatives were also undertaken during the 1950s and 60s at the United Nations. The United States supported the determined efforts by some of the UN’s smallest nations to confront China’s aggression against Tibet. In the General Assembly, resolutions were passed by clear majorities in 1959, 1961, and 1965 with both Canadian and U.S. support.

Political winds began to change in the 1970s however. As Nixon eyed normalization with Beijing, CIA aid to the resistance began to dry up. By 1974, support was terminated as part of the price Washington paid to normalize relations with China’s Communist rulers. By the time the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China in January 1979, the question of Tibet was abandoned altogether. Tibet faded from America’s foreign policy agenda for the next 15 years.

Congress Takes Notice in the 1980s

It was the United States Congress that eventually revived support for Tibet during the late 1980s. In a bid to internationalize support for a brokered deal with China's leaders, the Dalai Lama presented a 5 Point Peace Plan to the Congressional Human Rights Congress in 1987. It called for the transformation of Tibet into a zone of peace; abandonment of China's population transfer policy; respect for the fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people; restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment; and the commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet.

Renewed awareness about Tibet fostered a groundswell of bipartisan Congressional support. Since then, Congress has been vocal in according the country greater status in U.S. law. In 1991, a provision in Public Law 102-138 declared that “Tibet, including those Tibetan areas incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai, is an occupied country under the established principles of international law.”

Congressional activism prompted an initially wary Administration to act. In 1991, over strong Chinese objections, George Bush Sr. became the first U.S. president to meet the Dalai Lama. Under Bill Clinton's tenure, the Dalai Lama was invited to the White House 5 times, and has met with George W. Bush twice.

Recent U.S. Policy on Tibet

As a matter of official policy, the United States recognizes Tibet as part of China, but successive administrations have also increased their efforts to foster a process of dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama with a view to resolving differences.

Secretary Powell and the White House expressed an interest early in the Bush Administration’s term. Both have consistently urged China to respect the distinct “religious, linguistic and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people, and to respect fully their human rights and civil liberties.” The clear articulation of Tibet policy has been supported throughout the Administration, most notably by Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky who acts concurrently as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

According to the U.S. government's second "Report on Tibet Negotiations" (June 2004) submitted to Congress as mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002,

"Encouraging substantive dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama is an important objective of this Administration. The United States encourages China and the Dalai Lama to hold substantive discussions aimed at resolution of differences at an early date, without preconditions. We have consistently asserted that any questions surrounding Tibet and its relationship to Chinese authorities should be resolved by direct dialogue between the Tibetans and the Chinese. The Administration believes that dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives will alleviate tensions in Tibetan regions of China."

The report continued:

“the lack of resolution of these problems leads to greater tensions inside China and will be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States and other nations.”

Both the 2004 and 2003 "Report on Tibet Negotiations" were required by the United States Congress which passed the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. Passage of the Act was a culmination of longstanding congressional support for the Tibetan cauase. Provisions of the Act include the creation of a statutory mandate for the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues in the Department of State, the adoption of principles of responsible development for economic activity in Tibet, and a policy statement affirming U.S. commitment to promoting dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

Role of the Special Coordinator:

The Special Coordinator's central objective is to promote substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives with a view to resolving differences. The office also maintains close ties with the NGO community and the public. Consistent with the overall U.S. goal of promoting the protection of human rights, this office will advance this goal in Tibet and seek to assist in preserving the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of Tibetan people.

Creation of the Special Coordinator Position:

Prior to the creation of the Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a bill to establish the position of United States Special Envoy for Tibet was introduced in the 103rd Congress. Provision to create the position was also introduced as sections of the foreign relations authorizations bills in the 104th and 105th Congresses.

In each case, the legislation called for the Special Envoy to be given ambassadorial rank. Former Senator Pell, underscoring the need, stated that “a Special Envoy for Tibet would ensure that this important element of United States-China relations was continually reflected in policy discussions on a senior level.”

Trepidation by the Clinton Administration prompted a compromise, and on October 31, 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright named Gregory Craig, Director of Policy Planning, to serve as the first Special Coordinator.

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs (Dept. of State) currently fills the role in the Bush Administration, succeeding Julia Taft.

Other Aspects of U.S. Policy on Tibet

In recent years, the United States has also provided political and programmatic support to the Tibetan people. It has furnished humanitarian assistance to Tibetan refugees living in exile, and has consistently raised Tibet in bilateral talks with China and at the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Administration continues to criticize China's human rights violations and restriction of religious freedom in annual reports and at Congressional hearings, giving Tibet special attention.

>> Quotes by U.S. officials on Tibet

>> State Dept. Report on Tibet Negotiations (2004)*

>> State Dept. Report on Tibet Negotiations (2003)*

>> Tibetan Policy Act of 2002

>> State Dept. report on China's human rights practices in 2003

Tibetan Prisoners of Conscience

Position Paper, September 2001

Reprinted from the International Campaign for Tibet

The use of detention, arrest, imprisonment, and torture of large numbers of Tibetans continues to be an integral part of China's effort to suppress opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. Tibet's population accounts for around 0.2 percent of the total population of China. However, in 1995, according to Human Rights Watch, there were more known political and religious prisoners reported to be in jail than in the rest of China combined.

Independent international human rights observers have documented hundreds of political prisoners who continue to suffer in various prisons, labor camps, and detention centers throughout Tibet. There are many political prisoners in Tibet whose identities have never been confirmed by independent observers. The whereabouts of dozens of Tibetan dissidents remain unknown to their families and to the outside world.

Chinese authorities have taken aggressive measures to obstruct the flow of information from within Tibet to the outside world. For example, officials refuse to provide the names of political prisoners and respond to international inquiries with incomplete and deceptive reports.


During the anti-rightist campaign of the late 1950s, tens of thousands of Tibetans were sent to labor camps for criticizing communism or the Communist Party and for the ideological crime of "local nationalism." Thousands more were imprisoned because of their social or economic status during the revolts against Chinese rule, which swept Tibet from 1956 until 1959. During the Cultural Revolution tens of thousands of Tibetans were also sent to labor camps for aiding or sympathizing with the revolts. During and after the demonstrations of 1987-89, Tibetans were detained for long periods without charge or were sentenced to prison for peacefully advocating for Tibetan independence.


The number of Tibetan political prisoners has declined in recent years. During much of the 1990s, there were approximately 1,000 documented political prisoners in central Tibet. As of 2001, there were an approximate 300 documented political prisoners. Sentence expiry within prison and a climate of fear account for the decrease, which dropped almost fifty percent from January 1999 to January 2001. However, protest and political imprisonment have largely increased in the rural areas of central Tibet.

The majority of political prisoners continue to be monks and nuns. Yet dissenting young Tibetans, teachers, and lay people represent a new wave of Tibetan nationalism and face drastic, sometimes ferocious, punishment. Many Tibetan prisoners have been arrested without warrant, arbitrarily detained, or imprisoned on the suspicion of harboring or expressing anti-Chinese opinions. The rationale for arrest includes: printing political leaflets; forming "counter-revolutionary organizations" that endanger state security; espionage or passing information to the "Dalai clique;" shouting reactionary slogans; encouraging reactionary singing; hoisting or possessing the Tibetan flag; failing to reform; and participating in demonstrations.

Hundreds of Tibetans, including those detained for long periods without formal charges and those arrested for crimes of endangering state security, have been incarcerated with rare access to legal counsel. Chinese law allows administrative detention, or re-education, for up to three years without trial. Detention can also be followed by arrest, leading to criminal sentencing and imprisonment. The current average prison sentence is 8 years, 8 months. The longer sentences range between 12 and 19 years and are usually given to Tibetans in positions of leadership and people who spread ideas through writing or speaking. Sentence extensions for breaching prison discipline are regarded among prisoners as a major threat. In Drapchi prison 27% of the population is serving extensions that average 12 years, 6 months. Takna Jigme Sangpo, among the longest-serving known political prisoners in Tibet, spent a total of 32 years in prison by the time he was released in 2002.

Torture continues on a wide scale in prisons, detention centers, and labor camps throughout Tibet. A consistent pattern of torture used against political prisoners has been well established: most dissidents are beaten during arrest and initial detention and torture is incorporated with the intensive interrogation process in order to extract confessions. Common forms of abuse include: kicking and beating; applying electric shocks to sensitive areas such as the genitals and mouth; placing heated objects on skin; using self-tightening handcuffs; and placing prisoners in confinement cells and in extreme isolation for long periods. Gender specific torture includes subjecting women to humiliation and sexual abuse. More sophisticated forms of mistreatment, which leave no visible marks, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, are now used in place of more evident forms of physical abuse. The People's Armed police implement military style drills, which alternate from pushing prisoners to extreme physical exertion to long hours of holding awkward motionless positions. Medical care for prisoners is inadequate. Often, basic first aid for serious injuries or illnesses is unavailable. Since 1987, at least 37 Tibetans died in prison as a direct result of torture or mistreatment. One example, Ngawang Dekyi, a 25 year old nun serving six years imprisonment for participating in a demonstration in Lhasa, died on January 21, 1998 as a result of severe beatings by prison guards.


Hard line policies adopted at the 1994 Third National Forum on Work in Tibet have sparked marked discontent and threaten both monastic and lay society. Intensified security policies, such as detaining suspected dissidents repeatedly for short periods, are often used to intimidate possible organizers.

The prison system in Tibet, unlike the situation elsewhere in China, falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Security rather than that of the Ministry of Justice. This means that police investigations, demonstration control, monitor and arrest of suspects, and prison authority are in the hands of a single government agency. Police seldom produce the detention, arrest, and search warrants guaranteed by the People's Republic of China's (PRC) Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). There is no functional independence of the judiciary. Trials fail to meet international standards of justice. Defense and legal counsel are rarely provided to Tibetan dissidents and are not required by law. The 1997 revisions to China's CPL specifically ban human rights abuses during interrogation, yet torture continues as a regular means for extracting confession. Failure to "confess" and plead guilty inevitably ensures a longer sentencing. Courts at all levels are subject to close scrutiny and control by branches of the Communist Party. Guilt is virtually predetermined and verdicts are decided by party officials before the trials.


  • Release all prisoners who have been detained solely for their non-violent beliefs or activities.
  • Provide full details of prisoners whose information has not been made known to international observers.
  • Uphold international standards of criminal justice by safeguarding the defendant's rights.
  • Make publicly available legal proceedings and evidence upon which convictions have been based.
  • Conduct judicial reviews for those detained for allegedly violent or other criminal acts committed during demonstrations.
  • Investigate allegations of torture and make public the findings.


  • For the most recent trends in Tibetan political imprisonment, read a Special Report by the Tibet Information Network.
  • Amnesty International, "Persistent Human Rights Violations in Tibet," London, 1996.
  • Tibet Information Network (TIN), Hostile Elements, London, 1999 & Hostile Elements II, London, 2001
  • Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, "Behind Bars-Prison Conditions in Tibet," Dharamsala, 1998.

>>Help Free the Panchen Lama

>>Help Save Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tibet's Sovereignty & Right to Self-Determination

Reprinted from the Tibet Justice Center, and

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations

See the full report.

The Case Concerning Tibet

Tibet's Sovereignty and the Tibetan People's Right to Self-Determination



A. Tibet Was Fully Independent Prior To 1951 (immediately below)

B. The Tibetan People Are Entitled To Self-Determination (further below)

A. Tibet Was Fully Independent Prior To 1951

Tibet was an independent, sovereign nation when the armies of the People's Republic of China ('PRC') entered Tibet in 1950. Tibet at that time presented all the attributes of statehood. Even the PRC does not dispute that the Tibetans are a distinct people who in 1950 occupied a distinct territory. Tibet also had a fully functioning government headed by the Dalai Lama. That government, free from outside interference, administered the welfare of the Tibetan people through civil service, judicial and taxation systems, as well as through a postal and telegraph service, and a separate currency. The government controlled the borders and issued passports to its people, which were recognized internationally. It entered into treaties as a sovereign with other states, including Great Britain, Ladakh, Nepal and Mongolia. Tibet also negotiated as an equal sovereign with China and Great Britain at the Simla Conference of 1913-14.

The Seventeen Point Agreement of 1951, which the PRC claims resolved Tibet's status, is not a legally binding agreement. The Agreement was signed when armies of the PRC occupied large parts of Tibet, the Tibetan representatives did not have authority to sign the Agreement on behalf of Tibet, and it was signed under threat of further military action in Tibet. A treaty concluded under such circumstances is legally void and of no effect.

Once a state exists, it is legally presumed to continue as an independent state unless proved otherwise. The historical evidence not only fails to prove otherwise, but affirmatively demonstrates that Tibet has always been an independent state, despite periods during which it was influenced to varying degrees by foreign powers.

Tibet indisputably was an independent state before the 13th century. Tibet was the most powerful nation in Asia in the 8th century and entered a treaty with China in 822. For the next 300 years, there was no official contact between Tibet and China. In the 13th century, Tibet came under Mongol dominance several decades before the Mongols conquered China militarily and established the Yuan Dynasty. Tibet was not part of China before the Mongol conquest and during the Yuan Dynasty was administered separately by the Mongols through local Tibetan rulers, in contrast to China, which the Mongols ruled directly. The present government of China, therefore, cannot claim sovereignty over Tibet as a result of their separate dominance by a third power. Nor did Tibet lose its sovereignty during this period. The relationship between Tibet and the Mongols was a unique priest-patron relationship known as cho-yon. Tibet received protection from the Buddhist Mongol emperors in return for spiritual guidance from the ruling lamas of Tibet. The relationship involves a reciprocal legitimation of authority.

During Tibet's 'Second Kingdom,' from 1349 to 1642, Tibet was a secular kingdom free of both Mongol and Chinese control. Emperors of the Chinese Ming Dynasty nominally granted titles to certain Tibetan officials but exercised no effective control over Tibetan affairs or over the successive changes in the Tibetan government. Nor did the Ming Emperors exercise any effective control over the Dalai Lamas, who later took control of Tibet.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Dalai Lamas and the Manchu Emperors reestablished the cho-yon relationship. During the 18th century, the Emperor's protection was invoked four times under this relationship. The Emperors' representatives in Lhasa, the Ambans, initially served only as liaisons to the Emperor. In 1793, the Emperor purported to grant the Ambans power to exercise control over Tibet's external affairs, but this was presented to the Eighth Dalai Lama as a suggestion, not an exercise of Imperial power. Moreover, within a few decades, the Ambans exerted virtually no influence in Tibet and the Qing Emperors stopped providing the protection that was their side of the cho-yon relationship, effectively ending it.

Tibet formally expelled the last garrisoned troops of the Qing Emperor in 1911, an unmistakable act of sovereignty, and repatriated them to China in 1912. The Kuomintang Government invited Tibet to join the Nationalist Republic, but Tibet declined. The Nationalist Government attempted unilaterally to assert control over Tibet until 1918 and then again beginning in 1931, but failed. In 1949, Tibet expelled the last remaining Chinese representatives.

Tibet was an independent country at the time of the Chinese invasion in 1950 with a government headed by the institution of the Dalai Lama. The State of Tibet continues, despite the illegal occupation, through the existence and activities of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. The Dalai Lama remains the Head of State with executive functions organized under the cabinet, or Kashag. Under a draft constitution, legislative authority rests in an elected parliament, and an independent judiciary has been established. The Tibetan State therefore continues to exist, represented by its legitimate Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala.

B. The Tibetan People Are Entitled To Self-Determination

Even if Tibet had not been an independent nation in 1950, the Tibetan people would nonetheless be entitled to exercise their right of self-determination. International law recognizes the right of peoples to self-determination; that is, 'the right freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.' The Tibetans are unquestionably a 'people' to whom the right of self-determination attaches. They are entitled to choose independence from the PRC, autonomy with the PRC, or any other political status.

The Tibetans are entitled to exercise their right of self-determination as against the PRC's claim of territorial integrity because the PRC has not acted as the legitimate government of the Tibetan people. A government's legitimacy derives from a people's exercise of the right of self-determination and from its conduct in accordance with its obligation to protect and promote the fundamental human rights of all of its people, without discrimination. The PRC's government in Tibet was imposed on the Tibetans by force, not by an exercise of self-determination. Moreover, the PRC has persistently and systematically abused the human rights of Tibetans through repression of religion, population transfer, birth control policies, discrimination, destruction of the environment, involuntary disappearances, arbitrary arrest, torture and arbitrary executions. The PRC is therefore not the legitimate government of the Tibetan people and has no claim of territorial integrity to assert against the Tibetans' right of self-determination.

A balancing of the fundamental values of the international community also weighs heavily in favor of enforcing the Tibetans' right to self-determination. A non-militarized independent Tibet would enhance peace and security in the region by serving as a buffer zone between the two most populous nations in the world - India and China - who have only gone to war since the PRC stationed troops in Tibet along the Indian border. The Tibetans' exercise of self-determination will also promote the international values of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The PRC has openly and officially abused Tibetan human rights in an apparent effort to marginalize the Tibetans as a people. Only the exercise of self-determination by the Tibetans will restore respect for the Tibetans' human rights and fundamental freedoms.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank