I visited the Tibetan Museum in McLeod Ganj early this afternoon and it is a really wonderfully constructed place over two large rooms but really quite emotional to absorb. It tells the story of the Tibetan people from when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) marched into the country under the justification that it was part of China and that they were liberating the down trodden masses. China herself lost so much of her history, art, religion and culture during the cultural revolution, and it seems even more tragic that the previously cut-off land of Tibet should have suffered even more so under this regime. Over 6000 monasteries were destroyed, their libraries burned and idols broken, the ones left standing were turned into store rooms and the monks and nuns expelled. The country’s natural resources were plundered, forests stripped bare and areas turned into nuclear waste dumps. Over a million tibetans died in the following decades, forbidden to practice their religions, demonstrate against the chinese government or practice their traditional ways of life. As a result many fled to India, Burma and Nepal as refugees rather than remain in Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government fled over the Himalayas in 1959 and were granted refuge in Dharmasala and McLeod Ganj.
The following passage summarises things maybe a little more clearly than I can.
“If the matter of Tibet’s sovereignty is murky, the question about the People Republic of China’s treatment of Tibetans is all too clear. After invading Tibet in 1950, the Chinese communists killed over one million Tibetans, destroyed over 6,000 monasteries, and turned Tibet’s northeastern province, Amdo, into a gulag housing, by one estimate, up to ten million people. A quarter of a million Chinese troops remain stationed in Tibet. In addition, some 7.5 million Chinese have responded to Beijing’s incentives to relocate to Tibet; they now outnumber the 6 million Tibetans. Through what has been termed Chinese apartheid, ethnic Tibetans now have a lower life expectancy, literacy rate, and per capita income than Chinese inhabitants of Tibet.”
Lasater, Martin L. & Conboy, Kenneth J. “Why the World Is Watching Beijing’s Treatment of Tibet”, Heritage Foundation, October 9, 1987.
Maybe with the world’s eyes turned onto China for the Beijing Olympics this year and China’s growing place as a global power in the world’s economy will encourage pressure on them to improve thier Human Rights record and reach a compromise to ensure the future of the Tibetan people and culture.