A pro-Tibet protester demonstrates outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, March 24, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar
CAIRO – 26 February 2019: China has banned froegn travellers from entering Tibet until April 1, 2019 over the few weeks leading up to and after the 60th anniversary of uprisings and protests in Tibet.
As it is expected that protesters will go out on March 10, the actual anniversary, China fears that foreign travellers will come in to support Tibetans against the Chinese state. Chinese authorities have not made it clear when the ban started, however, travel agencies are widely aware of said ban. The travel ban is also confirmed by Tibet Youth International Travel Service, the Tibet Visata and the Go to Tibet travel agencies.
Although the ban occurs on a yearly basis, this year, tensions have remarkably risen as a result of the 60th anniversary.
“March 10 is the 60th anniversary of an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, while anti-government riots occurred March 14, 2008, in the regional capital Lhasa,” explains AP.
Commenting on this, Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said in an emailed statement, “This most recent development is part of the overall policy of the Chinese government to restrict access to Tibet for independent observers in order to maintain an iron grip in the region while at the same time avoiding any form of external scrutiny.”
What’s the story?
Tibet, once an independent state, has now, forcefully, become a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This report is to educate the people who do not know about the current situation in Tibet. Equally, its aim is to portray the reasons, dilemmas, and offer recommendations to the turmoil, with the hope of making the situation better if not end it altogether.
When Tibet obtained its de facto independence, in 1912, both its political and socio-economical systems resembled medieval Europe. In order to strengthen Tibet, the thirteenth Dalai Lama attempted to modernize and enlarge the Tibetan army; unfortunately, many powerful monks and aristocrats opposed this idea, stating that it is against their religious beliefs; hence, they failed. Due to such opposition, the Tibetan army remained weak, making the 1949 Chinese attack easier for the Chinese.
In 1949, in an attempt to remain independent, Tibet expelled the Chinese delegation and then sent letters to the US State Department, Great Britain, and Moa Zedong, former chairman of the Communist Party of China, stating that it was ready to defend itself from the PRC troops ‘by all possible means’, explained McCarthy in 2006. Conversely, Tibet’s army was in no condition ready to defend itself or its country. Thus, after the negotiations failed, 40,000 PRC troops invaded and quickly overpowered the Tibetan army.
After the invasion, the Chinese government signed an agreement with the Tibetan leadership, which was referred to as the seventeen-point agreement, whereby the Chinese government was not to ‘alter the existing political system in Tibet’. However, time proved that this was not possible; as the Chinese seized every chance they could get to control Tibet. As a result, by 1959, refugees from Eastern Tibet filled Lhasa, leading to the growth of the resistance movement. Simultaneously, the public fear of the Dalai Lama being abducted spread, leading to more growth of the resistance army, and by the tenth March 300,000 Tibetans surrounded Potala Palace to protect him. Unexpectedly, they were met with violence; combat broke out that night and went on for two whole days. Many were killed, and others were captured. A week later, the Dalai Lama, along with several thousand Tibetans, sought refuge in the neighboring country of India. As a consequence of this uprising, the Chinese government claimed Tibet to be a part of China, despite the different cultures, languages, religions, and ways of life.
Tibet is located in the center of Asia, making it have a considerable geo-strategic position from demography, economical geography, and a physical point of view. Without Tibet, the Western part of China is in danger of invasion by neighbouring countries, explained the International Campaign for Tibet in 2013. Also, Tibet’s rich subsoil ethnic aspects and geopolitical nature pushed China to annex it. In addition, Tibet only received its independence after being purchased by China, for two million rupees, after the Chinese revolution in 1912, this is believed to be the main reason to why China invaded Tibet. In addition, when Tibet’s National Assembly wrote to the UN, there were no responses to stop the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Moreover, Tibet provides China with more land for the Chinese to occupy, more opportunities workwise, and most importantly, a dumping site for their nuclear waste, which is constantly posing a threat to people living in the regions.
The situation in Tibet is not admirable. The Chinese government has been working hard to persuade people of Chinese ethnicity to move to Tibet. There are, currently, more Chinese people living in Tibet that Tibetans; this is due to the numberless privileges that are given to any Chinese person living there. Meanwhile, there is discrimination against Tibetans, both in terms of employment and everyday treatment, stated the Cambridge Free Tibet Campaign in 2014.
Religion wise, China continues to suppress Tibetans through condemning and restricting the teaching and learning of Buddhism. They restrain the number of monks and nuns allowed in monasteries; this discrimination is against their culture Tenzin, 1996. Article 36 of the Chinese constitution states that citizens ‘enjoy freedom of religious belief’ and that the state is not allowed to interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs, however, in Tibet, which is ruled by the Chinese constitution, any pictures of or references to the, currently exiled, Dalai Lama are forbidden, according to the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China 2014 report. Additionally, monks and nuns are regularly subjected to ‘patriotic re-educational programs’, where they spend weeks reading literature denouncing the Dalai Lama, explains the International Campaign for Tibet report in 2014.
According to the International Campaign for Tibet (2014), the Chinese government continues to politically oppress Tibetans. They have no human rights; they do not enjoy the right to have the government listen to them since nearly everyone in a high position is Chinese. Failure to observe any rules, such as not interfering with how the country is run or teaching Buddhism in the Tibetan language, results in political imprisonment, where the prisoners undergo many human rights violations. Some of these violations are torture, denial of food and sleep, beating, and isolation; furthermore, many women undergo forceful abortion and sterilisation, explained Shakabpa in1983.
Most Tibetans, according to the BBC in 2013, think that the world have turned their head on China’s human rights’ violations. This has caused a form of extreme protest, which is self-immolation. This is where a person, usually a monk or a nun, sets himself or herself on fire, in order to symbolize to the world how much pain they are going through. Self-Immolation by Tibetans (2014), suggests that those who set themselves on fire do so in order to convey the idea to the world that they are going through more pain everyday just by living in Tibet, under the Chinese rule, than they are when they are on fire; the most common demand of self-immolators is to bring back the Dalai Lama. Today, there have been 145 reported cases of self-immolation, 40 of which have died; however, these are just the cases that have been officially announced.
Today, nations have forgotten about the situation in Tibet as they are racing to get a share of China’s 1.2-billion people’s consumer market; the nations are aware that any criticism of China on Human Rights violations in Tibet will cause an ‘economic freeze’, explains Lawrence in a 2013 book. As a result, nations have only managed to unify behind the UN’s international law, but none have decided to go ahead with a one-nation call in order to pressure China into complying with the UN’s international law. However, if all the nations unify and refuse to carry out any economical exchange or business transactions with China until their administrators listen to what the Tibetan people want, then China will be forced to listen to them because this ‘economic freeze’ will highly inconvenience them. This strategy could also be used to ensure that China approves of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and guarantee its protections are held, both, in China and in Tibet – including but not limited to: the right to freedom of religious belief.
On a more personal level, individuals should recognise their duty in helping out. This is why it is recommended that leaflets be given out in public areas in order to raise awareness and persuade people to take action. Individuals should volunteer for international campaigns, like the International Campaign for Tibet, or maybe do some fundraising activities like bake sales or sponsored runs. Individuals could also lobby Members of Parliament and Ministers in order to persuade them to take action by, along with the UN and several other countries, consolidate funds for Tibet. These funds should mainly be used to Tibetans with good medication and food, and also to ensure that Tibetan children are educated, as education is no longer easily accessible, according to research papers published in the early 2000s.
In 2010, Stokes 2010 argues that the conflict between the Chinese and the Tibetans can be resolved through reconciliation between the two. The harsh interrelation presently existing in Tibet should be changed and the factors that bring about emotional and psychological conflicts addressed, building a lasting coexistence. This can be achieved by finding a common ground between the Chinese business people and the Tibetans religious leaders since the leaders feel that the business people have no respect for their religion, according to a 2013 publication by Gray and Kurtis. Different parties, for example, the UK Foreign office should take the initiative of introducing this reconciliation process by creating a platform for the concerned parties.
Stokes in 2010 also points out that China must be forced to adopt good governance, if the conflict is to be resolved. The Chinese government must deal with the economic and cultural issues affecting the Tibetans. They must respect their diverse cultures and avoid discriminating against the Tibetans economically and grant them equal job opportunities and allow new economic developments to undertake in the region.
It is also safe to assume that since the conflict is between the Tibetans and the Chinese, Tibetans can be thought of as those who live in China, and those who are exiled; basically, those who want to be a part of China and those who are demanding independence. Then a third party intervention should take place, for example, by the UN, in order to offer Tibetans as a referendum to express their wishes.
So what now?
The Tibet issue is a major source of concern not only to Tibet and China but the whole world. From the current and historical situations, it is not easy to address the differences between these two parties. This paper examined some of the problems as a result of these conflicts and sought useful recommendations for them. To realize this, the international community needs to act with urgency. A failure might result to this issue escalating to levels beyond control. The UK government and the rest of the international community should help Tibet and China reconcile and bring the conflict to an end that will benefit the two states.