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60 Years of 1959 Tibetan Uprising

  • 21 Feb 2019
  • 5 min read

Recently China has banned foreign tourists from visiting Tibet until April, 2019.

  • The restriction is imposed due to security reasons ahead of the 60th anniversary of 1959’s uprising against China on March 10.

Tibet

  • Tibet is a region on the Tibetan Plateau in Asia, spanning about 2.4 million km2 – nearly a quarter of China’s territory.
  • It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups.
  • Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres. The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain, rising 8,848 m above sea level.

Tibet Uprising of 1959

  • From 1912 until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, no Chinese government exercised control over what is today China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
  • Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they regard as China's rule imposed after the People's Liberation Army occupied TAR in 1950.
  • The Dalai Lama’s government alone ruled the land until 1951. Tibet was not “Chinese” until Mao Zedong’s People's Liberation Army (PLA) marched in and made it so.
  • This has often been described by the Tibetan people and third party commentators as “a cultural genocide”.
  • The unsuccessful Tibetan Uprising of 1959, in which Tibetans rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the Chinese government, led to the fleeing of the 14th Dalai Lama to India.

Aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising

  • Since the 1959 Uprising, the central government of China has been steadily tightening its grip on the Tibet.
  • In Tibet today, there is no freedom of speech, religion, or press and arbitrary detainments continue.
  • Forced abortion, sterilisation of Tibetan women, and the transfer of low-income Chinese citizens threaten the survival of Tibetan culture.
  • Although China has invested in infrastructure improvements for the region, particularly in Lhasa itself, it has also encouraged thousands of ethnic Han Chinese to move to Tibet resulting into demographic shift.
  • The 14th Dalai Lama, continues to head the Tibetan government-in-exile from McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala, India which coordinates political activities for Tibetans in India.
  • Dalai Lama advocates increased autonomy for Tibet, rather than full independence, but the Chinese government generally refuses to negotiate with him.
  • Periodic unrest still sweeps through Tibet, especially around important dates such as March 10 to 19 - the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising.

Sino-Indian Conflict Over Dalai Lama

  • Apart from the border disputes, another major irritant for China has been over the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a spiritual status in India.
  • China considers Dalai Lama a separatist, who has great influence over Tibetans. It must be mentioned that Dalai Lama gave up his support for Tibetan independence in 1974, and only wants China to stop repression against the community.
  • Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to provide all assistance to the Tibetan refugees to settle in India until their eventual return.
  • The Government of India has built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care, and scholarships. There are a few medical and civil engineering seats reserved for Tibetans.
  • While India’s role in the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees has been criticised by China, it has drawn praise from international bodies and human rights groups.
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