The Forgotten Land: Tibet

Contributed by Shivani Sethi

You've seen a dozen or so bumper stickers that read 'free Tibet', and you've scoped out Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet. But did you ever stop to think what all this hoopla for Tibet is really about? If you're like most young Americans, you haven't got a clue as to what the present situation in Tibet is. Living in a liberal country like the U.S., it is difficult for us to imagine what life would be like under a communist government. Since China has seized its power, Tibet has been the innocent victim of China's human rights violations.

Prior to the Chinese invasion in 1949, Tibet was an independent nation. The people of the land largely isolated by the Himalayas, had developed a unique culture based on the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism. The colorful and peaceful existence of Tibetan culture ceased after the Communist Chinese invaded the land of Tibet in 1949. Ten years later, the spirited and temporal leader of Tibet, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was forced to flee along with approximately 100,000 Tibetans during a morbid uprising which resulted in a bloody massacre of tens of thousands of Tibetans. The exiled Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama today reside in Dharamsala, India. Several Tibetan refugees have fled to India's northern city of Mussoorie. In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his continuous efforts at a nonviolent resolution with the Chinese and for his peaceful teachings in Buddhism.

China's control over Tibet has often been called 'the worst single human catastrophe since the Jewish genocide during World War II.' Over one-fifth of the Tibetan population has been killed as a result of China's atrocities. In 1989, gun shots were fired by the Chinese at several unarmed student protesters in Tiananmen Square. Nuclear waste has been dumped by China on to the Tibetan plateau. China has taken over Tibet in every way imaginable, causing the Tibetans to become minorities in their own country. Chinese is now the official language. Tibetans are frequently prohibited to enroll in schools. If they are admitted, they are educated in an attempt to make them 'Chinese' in their thinking process. Religious freedom has been abolished. Over 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed. The depletion of Tibet's natural resources and the extinction of wildlife are among China's environmental policy.

China's daunting shadow hovering over Tibet is no doubt intimidating but that does not mean Tibet is doomed to sink in a sea of innocence and suppression. Public awareness of China's heinous human rights violations must continue to increase. Lend your support to Tibetan support groups in your area. E-mail president Clinton at and express your opinion on the issue of China's human rights violations. Take a trip down to your local library and educate yourself on China's manipulation of Tibet by reading a book. You can take action against China's human rights violations. China's injustice must be discouraged.

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