Behind the Iron Curtain of China, the Tibetans watch helplessly as their identity is erased from the world by the Chinese Government. The people of the long forgotten country of Tibet are systematically oppressed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The global community is up in arms about the Russian invasion of Crimea and the current Russia-Ukraine war. However, they have erased Tibet’s plight and existence from their collective memories.
Recent reports by Tibet Press portrays the dire straits of the Tibetan people under Chinese governance. The Chinese government is forcibly asking Tibetan farmers to hand over their land and relocate to Han-Chinese settlements. Additionally, many Tibetans are being forced into re-education camps to relieve them of their Tibetan beliefs and identity. Tibetan children are required by law to attend boarding schools to ensure a permanent disconnect from their families’ political views. All of these requests and laws are sugar coated under the guise of developments of infrastructure, construction of dams, and re-integration of Tibetans in China.
The Forgotten Invasion of Tibet
In 1950, Tibet experienced a tragic turning point in history. China forcefully annexed the region of Tibet by launching a military invasion. Nearly 87,000 Tibetan people lost their lives during this act of aggression. Hence began the dark era in Tibetan history; where the Tibetan people faced systematic erasure of Tibetan culture, identity, and religious freedom. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aimed to exert control over Tibet, disregarding the aspirations and rights of the Tibetan people.
Tibet was home to 6 million people that celebrated their rich heritage and unique civilization.
However, China’s policies have led to a deliberate demographic alteration in the region. The Chinese government actively encourages the migration of Han-Chinese settlers into Tibet, thereby resulting in significant shifts in Tibet’s population composition. This influx of Hans into the Tibetan region is an attempt by the PRC to marginalize Tibetans, diminish their cultural influence, and dilute their distinct way of life.
Suppression of Religion: A Devastating Blow to Tibetan Identity
Tibetan Buddhism is the spiritual foundation of Tibetan society. The region was also home to a small minority of Muslims, Catholics and Protestants. However, China’s oppressive regime has targeted religious institutions, imposing strict regulations and surveillance. In 2021, the CCP required all religious clergy to swear allegiance to the party and socialism. It tracks the work done by all religious heads and writes performance reports on them. Since 2008 more than 160 monks and nuns have self-immolated in protest of CCP’s religious suppression.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reports the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and religious sites since 1950. The remaining monasteries, which were centers of spiritual practice and learning, face intrusive monitoring and control. The CCP refuses to allow the Buddhist communities to have any contact with the Dalai Lama. Religious leaders are silenced and sacred texts have been censored. The PRC leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to sever Tibetans’ deep connection to their spiritual and cultural heritage.
Enabling of the Chinese Accession by the World
The silent erasure of Tibet persists due to the complicity of world leaders. The West continues to prioritize economic interests over human rights and international law. Despite mounting evidence of China’s human rights abuses in Tibet, many governments and multinational corporations turn a blind eye to Tibet’s plight. This complicity emboldens the Chinese government to continue its repressive policies, perpetuating the suffering of the Tibetan people and undermining the principles of justice and freedom.
The repeated warnings on Tibet and its people by the UNO and Human Rights Organizations have been ignored by China. However, the PRC continues to have a significant say in the UN. The lack of gumption by the UN members strengthens the Chinese resolve to erase the existence of Tibet from world history.
India : the Last Hope and Refuge for Tibet
India has emerged as a beacon of hope and a steadfast supporter of the Tibetan cause. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan exiles have taken sanctuary in India. The secular policies of India have given Tibetans a way to preserve their cultural identity, practice their religion, and establish the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamshala. India’s open arms and respect for Tibetan culture serve as a shining example of compassion and solidarity in the face of adversity.
The PRC views India’s help to Tibetans as a grave act of rebellion. The stance of India on Tibet plays a pivotal role in the Indo-Chinese political arena. The Chinese consider India the friend of their enemy. They retaliate by making friends with Pakistan, who considers India as their enemy. The political combat zone in the Indian-Subcontinent is dominated by these relations and friendships. However, India continues to march to its own beat. It recognizes the accession of Tibet to China but also supports the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Indian government has repeatedly refused demands by the PRC to deliver the Dalai Lama as a political prisoner.
The Tibetan erasure orchestrated by China is a grave injustice that demands urgent attention and condemnation. The invasion, demographic shifts, and suppression of religion impact the remnants of Tibetan culture and identity negatively. India’s role as a place of refuge and its unwavering support for Tibet offers a glimmer of hope for its people. It is incumbent upon the international community to stand against China’s oppressive policies. The world must unite to enable Tibetans to reclaim their cultural heritage and their rights as a distinct and vibrant civilization.