Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region of China)
When: 1959 – Present
Location: Western China
Estimated Dead: 100,000+
Displaced Persons: 500,000+
Current Conflict: The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is carrying out a campaign of cultural genocide against the Tibetan people in an effort to eradicate Tibetan culture. The government of the PRC has forcefully moved Han Chinese into the Tibet region, deported thousands of ethnic Tibetans, and violently suppressed Tibetan culture and nationalism since the Tibetan Uprising in 1959. These actions have been directed at subverting Tibetan culture with the ultimate goal of fully assimilating Tibet into China. Many Tibetans have been forcefully deported to other regions in China while some have been forced into exile to other countries. In addition, many Tibetan nationalists have been imprisoned, tortured, and executed.
Background Information: In 1951, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the PRC invaded the nation of Tibet with little resistance. A Tibetan delegation was sent to Beijing to negotiate with the PRC and returned with a plan known as the “17-point agreement.” Under this agreement, Tibet was incorporated into the PRC but was allowed a high level of autonomy and a gradual transition into Socialism. While the 17-point agreement itself was not aggressive or inherently oppressive, the Tibetan government claims it was forced to sign the agreement under the threat of further aggression. In addition, the group that signed the agreement was neither an official delegation nor was it allowed to contact the government in Lhasa (capital of Tibet) during the negotiations.
Over the next few years, relations between the Tibetan government and the PRC declined steeply. Opposition to Maoist programs leading up to and during the Great Leap Forward (an unsuccessful economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China (CPC) which took place from 1958-1961 and was a failed attempt to modernize China’s economy, also known as the “Great Stride”) turned violent as Tibetan monks and civilians attacked PLA troops stationed in Tibet. This opposition culminated into the Tibetan Uprising of 1959. Protesters took to the streets in March to declare Tibetan independence and demand an end to Chinese rule. The PRC government responded with brute force, killing over 80,000 people, including both civilians and members of the armed resistance. In the uprising, the fourteenth Dalai Lama as well as much of the Tibetan government fled the country, and established a government-in-exile in India.
Post-rebellion, the PRC government has violently suppressed Tibetan nationalism. During the Cultural Revolution (launched by CPC chairman Mao Zedong and during which anything considered feudal or bourgeois was to be destroyed), thousands of Tibetan nationalists were imprisoned and executed as Tibetan culture was seen as an affront to Chinese Communism. While the violence has relaxed since the death of Mao, Tibetan culture is still oppressed. Government schools in the Tibet Autonomous Region focus on teaching mostly Chinese subjects while millions of Han Chinese are being either forced or incentivized to move to Tibet. The process of fully integrating Tibet into China, known as Sinicization, is decimating Tibetan culture and threatening to wipe it out entirely.