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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Roof of the World bristles under Chinese administration

March 11, 2009

March 11, 2009

Beijing - Tibet, located north of the Himalayan mountain chain, is the highest region on earth with an average elevation of 4,900 metres and is also the focus of international attention as Tibetans struggle against Chinese rule.

The Buddhist kingdom, also known as the Roof of the World, developed into a monk-ruled theocracy in the 15th century with Lhasa as its capital and the Dalai Lama as its god-king, but it has been under varying influence from the Chinese empire.

Tibet declared independence in 1912 as China was shaken by chaos, civil war and foreign invasions after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in Beijing.

After the communists' victory over China's nationalist Kuomintang and the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1950.

Since then, the Tibetan people have been struggling against Chinese rule as the communist leadership broke their promises to respect Tibet's political system as well as the country's religious and cultural identity.

After a violent clampdown by China on a March 10, 1959, public uprising that erupted in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and political leader, and about 100,000 of his supporters fled into Indian exile on March 17, 1959.

In retribution, Chinese troops destroyed a large number of Buddhist monasteries, and many thousands of Tibetans died from torture, imprisonment and famine. China in 1965 created the Tibet Autonomous Region, which comprised half the territory of the historical Tibetan settlement areas. The remaining territory was added to adjoining Chinese provinces.

Today, an estimated 2.8 million Tibetans live in the autonomous region while 2.9 million are in the neighbouring Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces.

Authorities settled a large number of ethnic Han Chinese in Tibet, and now Chinese businessmen are also drawn to the isolated high-altitude region, which has made a mark on the tourist map.

Tibet's administration and economy are firmly in Chinese hands while many Tibetans there remain poor and reject their treatment as second-class citizens.
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