Tibetan National Flag

The Situation of Tibet


Until 1950 Tibet was a sovereign state. The Tibetans knew themselves to be a distinct people with their own language, culture, religion, history and customs. In 1950 Tibet was invaded by the army of The People's Republic of China. It is occupied by the Communist Chinese to the present day.

The Tibetan people were unwilling to accept Chinese occupation. Unrest escalated throughout the decade after 1950, culminated in the Tibetan Uprising of 1959. According to Chinese sources 80,000 Tibetans died in Central Tibet alone during and immediately after the uprising. It is estimated that since 1959, 1.5 million Tibetans have died as a direct result of Chinese incursion into the country.

During 1959 many thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, sought asylum in India. The exodus of Tibetans from Tibet continues to this day.

In 1960, after reviewing accounts of Chinese atrocities in Tibet, including the widespread use of summary execution, torture and general abuse that included the forced sterilization of women, the International Commission of Jurists found that the Chinese were committing genocide and the 16 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were being violated. According to the Commission the Chinese were guilty of "the most pernicious crime that any individual or nation can be accused of, viz. a wilful attempt to annihilate an entire people."

In the decades following 1959, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, there was wholesale destruction of Tibetan buildings and religious artifacts. All but 12 of more than 6,000 monasteries were destroyed. Many of them were used as target practice by Chinese artillery. A thousand years' worth of priceless Buddhist literature, religious paintings and artifacts were either destroyed or have fetched millions of dollars on the international market in an effort by the Chinese to raise foreign currency and to wipe out Tibet's rich heritage.

Today, more than 200,000 Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, live in exile in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Switzerland, the United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.

For further reading on Tibet's recent political history (until 1993) see The Tibet Dossier.


In the last decade the Chinese have stepped up their efforts to re-populate Tibet. Today, Tibetans are a minority in their own country -- there are now about 7.5 million Chinese to about 6.5 million Tibetans, and inducements of higher pay and other privileges continue to bring a stream of Chinese settlers into the country. The aim of this is to forcibly resolve China's territorial claims over Tibet by means of a massive and irreversible population shift. In May 1993, an official Chinese government document, leaked to the Tibetan Government in Exile, indicated that the Chinese authorities proposed another massive population transfer as one element in what they termed "a final solution" to their "Tibetan problem". In April this year (1996), the South China Morning Post reported official sources in Beijing as saying that a further 500,000 ethnic Chinese are to be moved into Tibet.

This large-scale population transfer has resulted in a 300 percent inflation rate in Tibet, a two-class society sharply divided along racial lines, and unprecedented unemployment among Tibetans.

Tibet, once a peaceful buffer state between India and China, has been transformed into a militarized zone. There are at least 300,000 Chinese troops stationed there at any time, as are at least one quarter of China's nuclear arsenal of 350 nuclear missiles at 5 different missile bases.

It is believed that approximately 3,000 religious and political prisoners are held in prisons and forced labour camps where torture is common. There are reports that Tibetan women are subject en masse to forced abortions and sterilization. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has described China's administration of Tibet as "more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world."

There are strong concerns, voiced internationally, that China is using Tibet as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. There were reports that China had made an offer to West Germany in 1984 to dispose of nuclear waste. The offer was not accepted. Recently Tibetan farmers have complained that "fertilizer" they have been forced to use on their fields is destroying crops and killing birds and animals.

Tibet's natural resources and ecology are being irreversibly destroyed. Wildlife, including the rare Tibetan snow leopard and the wild blue Tibetan sheep, has been decimated. Forests have been clear-cut and transported to China (since 1950, 68% of Tibet's forests have been felled, causing grave concern in Bangladesh and India, now both frequently devastated by flooding.)

China severely restricts the teaching and study of Buddhism, an essential core of Tibetan culture. The Communist Party regulates the admission of monks and nuns into the monasteries and "political education" is compulsory. Though for a period after the Cultural Revolution there appeared to be a liberalizing of the Chinese attitude to religious life, a new report released by the International Campaign for Tibet indicates that China has shifted its religious policy to actively suppress and restrict further religious growth. This involves measures to halt unauthorized rebuilding of monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, setting limits on the number of monks and nuns in all monasteries, enforcing restrictions on youths joining monasteries, prohibiting Tibetan Party members from practising religion, and strengthening the control of the government and the Communist Party over each monastery.

Last year the Chinese authorities reintroduced a ban, current during the Cultural Revolution but lifted in 1979, prohibiting pictures of the Dalai Lama from monasteries and temples. Recently this was widened to include schools and private homes and there are reports of house-to-house searches checking for possession of photographs of the Dalai Lama.

In 1995 the Chinese government kidnapped the six-year-old Gendun Chökyi Nyima and his parents, shortly after he had been recognized by the Dalai Lama as the latest reincarnation of Tibet's second most important spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama. In a resolution of July, 1995, the European Parliament called on China to release the family immediately. This family, like many other groups and individuals who have been detained without trial, remains unaccounted for.

The Chinese authorities meanwhile have appointed another child as the "recognized reincarnation" of the Panchen Lama. In January 1996, nine monks in Tibet were arrested for openly protesting against China's choice.


First presented by the Dalai Lama as part of an address to the US Congress's Human Right Caucus in September 1987, the Five-Point Peace Plan proposes that Tibet be given the status of a 'peace zone' and that the Tibetan people be granted self-determination in their own land. The Peace Plan is still current. The Chinese Government continues to ignore it, and to maintain its particularly repressive policy in Tibet, in the face of mounting international condemnation.)

The Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet proposes:

1. Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace;

2. Abandonment of China's population transfer policy which threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people;

3. Respect for the Tibetqn people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms;

4. Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste;

5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

For more about general information about Tibet and its culture, check out the Tibet Awareness site.

For more about Tibet and its political struggle, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile website is very extensive,
and the new TibetNet site is very informative and available in Tibetan, English, Hindi and Chinese.

To find a Tibet Support Group near you to join and help Tibet's cause, check the
Tibet Online's Global Directory of TSGs.

The material on these pages has been prepared from the press kit on His Holiness the Dalai Lama of the Visit Trust to NZ 1996, with additional material compiled by Ven. Sönam Chökyi, and was prepared for the web by Sönam Tenzin.
E-MAIL: All enquiries, comments and suggestions welcome.