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Project Tibet: Tibetan Children's Villages

People live history

By Jessica Koch

Tibetan populations maintain original ways

The territory of Tibet largely corresponds to the geological plateau of Tibet, which consists of 1.2 million square kilometers. It lies within the Himalayan mountain range; its elevation averages around 16,000 feet. Tibet is bordered by India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. The year 2220 B.C. marks the first line of communication between China and Tibet. The two countries engaged in an active interaction from that point on; sometimes in conflict, but chiefly at peace, the two allied themselves.

From 1912 to 1950, communist power in China busied itself in acquiring land. By 1949, Tibet was the last remaining territory eligible for involvement in this campaign. China faced an obstacle in the tangle of international politics that surrounded the small country. Tibet itself has historically lived under the rule of China and Britain and has sworn allegiance to each of the countries as well as to the ruler Kublai Khan. Communist forces successfully skirted the potentially dangerous anger of relatively powerful countries like India and in early October of 1950 it invaded Tibetan regions. Resistance through small Tibetan armies was futile. The end result was an agreement that abolished the idea of Tibet as a single entity in foreign affairs and granted it limited local government as a colony.

When Chinese armies began entering Tibet in 1949, the Tibetan government sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations to aid Tibet in resistance of the aggression. The General Assembly was advised by Britain and India not to take any action for the time being in order not to provoke a full-scale attack from China. Unfortunately by 1954, India began to withdraw all of its forces and influence from Tibet. It had conceded, along with many other countries, that Tibet was being progressively absorbed by China.

In 1931, the thirteenth Dalai Lama is alleged to have scribed the following: "Unless we can guard our own country, it will happen that the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the Father and Son... will be broken down and left without a name."

In 1956, Indian and Nepalese forces reported Tibetan uprisings and guerrilla activity against the Chinese regime. In the latter half of 1958 widespread anti-Communist guerrilla activity was reported in eastern Tibet. It was believed that the rebellion was provoked by attempts to institute so-called people's communes, similar to those established in other parts of China, in which people labored under quasi-military discipline in order to increase production.

The rebellion was not contained, and in March 1959 it flared into a full-scale revolt in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, fled to India at the end of the month and subsequently established a community of Tibetans there. The Chinese then crushed the revolt and made the Panchen Lama head of state.

On October 21 of the same year, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution deploring the suppression of human rights in Tibet.

The Tibetan uprising and consequent exile of the Dalai Lama marked the beginning of the modern era of the fight for Tibet. The world has struggled for more than 50 years with this difficult state of affairs. World powers have debated for a half-century how to handle this delicate situation between a Tibetan "David and a Goliath" power such as China.

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