'Tibet is a human rights issue as well as a civil and political rights issue. But there's something else too - Tibet has a precious
based on principles of wisdom and compassion. This culture addresses what we lack in the world today; a very real sense of inter-connectedness. We need to protect it for the Tibetan people, but also for ourselves and our children.'
- Richard Gere, Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet
For centuries Tibet, a vast high altitude plateau between China and India, remained remote from the rest of the world with a widely dispersed population of nomads, farmers, monks and traders. Tibet had its own, . In 1949, following the foundation of the Chinese Communist state, the People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet and soon overpowered its poorly equipped army and guerilla resistance.
Tibet is important to China for strategic and economic reasons and because of the Communist Party's imperialist ambitions. In China today, it is a serious offence to say that Tibet is separate from China.
In March 1959, Tibetans rose up against the Chinese occupiers. The uprising was brutally crushed and the Tibetan leader, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, escaped to India, followed by more than 80,000 Tibetans. Tens of thousands of Tibetans who remained were killed or imprisoned. Untold numbers, but at least hundreds of thousands, of Tibetans have died as a direct result of - through starvation, torture and execution.
Marginalisation and exclusion
Fifty years after China's invasion, Beijing is intensifying its control over Tibet and its approximately six million Tibetans.
Tibetans are facing increasing marginalization as their economy becomes integrated with China and its population of 1.3 billion. They are losing out under the 'Western development' strategy, a massive campaign launched in 1999 to improve infrastructure in China's thinly-populated west, including Tibetan areas of China. The Chinese government has constructed a railway across the Tibetan plateau to Tibet's capital, Lhasa, which will increase the numbers of Chinese commercial migrants into Tibet, resulting in the further militarization of the region and accelerating the exploitation of Tibet's natural and mineral resources
China's fast track economic policies in Tibet, based on a political agenda, are directly linked to the repression of the Tibetan people. They are the most serious modern threat to the survival of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity.
The Chinese government claims that it is pouring money into health and education to benefit Tibetans. But the majority of Tibetans who live in rural areas do not have access to adequate or affordable health care and are still suffering from easily treatable conditions such as malnutrition, diarrhea, pneumonia, or even the plague.
Education facilities and opportunities for the Tibetan children are minimal and many Tibetan parents cannot afford schooling So they send their children into exile to study at Tibetan schools in India. Often education that is available in Tibet suppresses Tibetan religious or linguistic identity.
Religion and culture
Approximately 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and their contents were partially or fully destroyed from the period of the Chinese invasion and during the Cultural Revolution
The repression of Tibet's culture and religion continues today. Tibetan Buddhism is an integral element of Tibetan national identity, and measures used to implement Chinese government religious policy have been harsh.
China, which promotes atheism, aims to undermine the Dalai Lama's influence in Tibet and maintains strict control over monasteries and nunneries. Political campaigns or "patriotic re-education" require forced denunciations of the Dalai Lama, and there are restrictions on religious pilgrimages. Obtaining a religious education remains extremely difficult or impossible in Tibet.
Tibet's religious heritage has made a profound impact worldwide and has a unique contemporary relevance. The Dalai Lama has pioneered a dialogue with scientists on human consciousness, drawing on ancient Buddhist texts, and Tibetan Buddhist lamas teach across the globe.
The tradition of peaceful co-existence in pre-occupation Tibet among Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims serves as a model of religious tolerance, and the Dalai Lama's efforts to promote interfaith understanding continues to this day.
Over the past 50 years, Tibetans have expressed their resistance to Chinese rule through the assertion of their cultural and religious identity. Following the Cultural Revolution, they rebuilt monasteries and temples in Tibetan communities. Today, Tibetans worship at secret shrines to the Dalai Lama, express their dissent through pop music or poetry and protect their Tibetan identity by keeping their language and traditions alive.
The Chinese government severely restricts the rights of Tibetans to exercise human rights as provided in the Chinese constitution, including the freedoms of speech, press, association, and religion. Reading an autobiography of the Dalai Lama or talking about freedom to friends in Tibet can be classified as 'endangering state security'.
endure harsh prison conditions, including torture, deprivation of food and sleep, and long periods in isolation cells.
"When they were torturing us it was literally as if they were trying to kill us. Prison guards would hit and beat with all their strength. Once after we all shouted 'Long live the Dalai Lama' they started to kick and beat us so much that the ground was covered in blood."
- Ngawang Sangdrol, 28, paroled in 2002 after 11 years in prison for peaceful protests
With an average elevation of 14,000 feet, Tibet is the highest country on earth. Tibet's fragile high-altitude environment is increasingly endangered by China's exploitative policies.
This matters to the rest of Asia and the world. Five of Asia's great rivers have their headwaters in Tibet and nearly half the world's population lives downstream. Deforestation in Tibet has already been linked to severe floods in the lower reaches of the Yangtze in China.
The high plains, forests and mountains of Tibet are home to rare and endangered wildlife such as the snow leopard, blue sheep and Tibetan antelope (chiru). Due to extensive resource extraction, poaching and unsustainable development, these ecosystems and many of their species are now endangered.
The forced settlement of nomads is wiping out a unique way of life, increasing poverty and contributing to grassland degradation.
Richard Gere, Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet, is the well-known American movie actor. He is also a practicing Buddhist.
The Chinese Maoist-Communists followed an insane policy toward Tibet. Mao Zedong had some of the most confused ideas about life and the planet and his fellow human beings. In a nutshell, he believed everything must be kept off balance and in a fight. He would change policies just to upset things — just for its own sake. How he managed to gain such a following remains a mystery in the West.
Frankly, he was just so aggressive against Western imperialism that the people rallied behind him at the time. One might equate him with Winston Churchill to whom the British people turned to wage war but put out once peace ostensibly returned. In China, Mao had consolidated too much power and authority to be put out after the Western imperialists had been driven away.
China is treating Tibet much the way the Israelis are treating Palestine. China is creating "facts on the ground." Apparently, China has imported so many Han Chinese (a Chinese tribe) that reportedly they now outnumber the indigenous Tibetans 2 to 1 in some areas. However, nation-wide, they are still a small percentage of the population at around 7 to 8%, claim the Chinese. One might also look at Kosovo where the Serbs are a tiny minority and are therefore now said by the Western powers to no longer own Kosovo. Of course, if Kosovo and Tibet are seen in the eyes of the West as places that by rights ought to be at a minimum autonomous, then that would apply as well to Taiwan (Nationalist China) but also to Palestine.
What about the Kurds and Kurdistan, do they deserve a nation-state? What about French-Canadians separatists in Quebec, don't they have an equal right to nation-state status? Don't the Basques in Spain also have that right? What about the Republic of Lakotah in the U.S., is it legal? Is it legitimate? It is every bit as, and even more, legal and legitimate than the current state of Israel.
You see, the problem is one of inconsistency. Inconsistency is also known as hypocrisy, which Jesus warned against so perfectly.
Where have the Tibetans gone wrong as well? Well, they fought with violence and not whole truth alone. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism is subject to various interpretations concerning pacifism. Jesus was clear about always turning the other cheek and never fighting back while never caving in either. The Buddha apparently didn't take such a stand.
China's treatment of Tibet is reprehensible. It is backward, and it will backfire. Why are the Chinese being so hardhearted? Why are they being so short-sighted? They are rushing toward greater ruination. They must repent or fall lower than ever. We don't wish this on the Chinese people. We don't wish it on any people, any nation, tribe, family, or individual.
As Christians, we don't believe the Buddha was more enlightened than is Jesus. In fact, we know he wasn't. Nevertheless, we do not hold with coercion. If the Buddhists choose to follow the Buddha rather than the Christ, that is their error that no Christian may force them to avoid. That said, sin is relative, as Jesus so clearly stated to Pontius Pilate telling him he had the lesser sin. The Buddhists in general are far from the worst sinners. They aren't out machine gunning people. They don't drop nuclear bombs on others. They aren't imperialists trying to colonize the world by force of arms. They certainly aren't materialistic pigs against whom Jesus warned.
What the world needs is peace, love, and truth. It needs a giving and sharing economy. It needs to banish greed, violence, and depravity (all harm) from all hearts. It needs unselfishness. It needs universal repentance and atonement. It needs forgiveness and mercy. It needs beneficence. It needs land redistribution to bring forth organic, environmentally sound farms growing real food for all and at no charge. It needs all things consistent with this spirit. It needs redistribution accomplished outside the fallen government of the divided house. We don't want coercive taxes to attempt to bring forth. That's hypocrisy. It hasn't worked, and it never will.
The system today is rigged. It's a false-hearted scheme that has the masses duped and literally hypnotized in many cases. It is an inherently divided house that can not stand. It is constantly falling down, as the recent subprime Ponzi scheme has so amply demonstrated and as so many booms and busts in the past also make clear. The false-hearted system is in constant need of patching and propping up here and there while whole sections continue crumbling to the ground crushing untold lives faster than the ostensible repairs can be made. The system contains the seeds of its own destruction. Absolutely nothing can be done to fix it. It can only be junked. It can only be displaced by goodness. The people must take on a new spirit. They can not put new wine in old skins or they will lose the new wine.
That is the problem with all the reform efforts of the self-styled liberals and progressives. They are trying to prop up and patch the system to hold what it can not by virtue of irreconcilable differences within the population. The U.S. limited, representational, democratic, republican form of government is coercive by nature. No amount of separation of powers, branches, or checks and balances will fix it. Coercion doesn't sufficiently change hearts. It simply engenders counter-productive competition for power and control.