Arizona Friends of TIbet
About Tibet

Tibet: An Endangered Land and People

Tibet - mapTibet was a sovereign nation for two thousand years, inhabited by six million people sharing a distinct language, culture and history. In 1950, the People’s Republic of China invaded and occupied Tibet in violation of international treaties and laws. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s head of state and spiritual leader, tried for eight years to resolve the situation through dialogue and persuasion, until 1959 when a Tibetan uprising was brutally crushed by the communists Chinese. The Dalai Lama fled to India with his government and tens of thousands of Tibetan citizens.

Granted asylum by the Indian government, the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, which continues to help Tibetan refugees and to work for a non-violent end to Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Current Situation – The current situation in Tibet remains tense. Under Chinese occupation, human rights abuses, religious repression and environmental destruction are everyday occurrences. The policy of population transfer, which encourages Han Chinese to settle in Tibetan areas, threatens to destroy the unique Tibetan culture and way of life. The situation only becomes worse without your awareness.

Key Issues:

Invasion & Repression:
Tibet was an independent country in control of all its foreign, military and domestic affairs prior to China’s invasion. Since that time, more than 1.2 million Tibetans – one-sixth of the population – have died as a direct result of Chinese occupation. Tibet now accounts for one quarter of China’s land mass. China continues its authoritarian, oppressive rule over Tibet, denying the Tibetan people their fundamental human, social, political, economic and religious rights.

Human Rights Abuses
Tibetans have no freedom of speech or assembly, no political autonomy, no access to self-determination, little religious freedom and there are ever increasing accounts of arbitrary arrests, political imprisonment and torture. Currently, hundreds of Tibetans are held as political prisoners in jails and labor camps across Tibet. Documented methods of torture include beatings with chains and sticks with protruding nails, iron bars, shocks with electric cattle prods, hanging by the arms twisted behind the back, and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Religious Oppression:
In 1997 Chinese leaders labeled Buddhism a “foreign culture.” Tibetan Buddhism is subject to intense scrutiny and control by local government, police and Party bodies. Monks and nuns are asked to denounce the Dalai Lama, and his photos are banned. Arrest and imprisonment are common occurrences for maintaining ties or loyalty with the Dalai Lama. Monks and nuns account for the majority if prisoners incarcerated in Tibet and include 12-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama as the incarnation of the Panchen Lama.

Environmental Damage
The preservation of Tibet’s environment is critical to Asia’s natural resources and wildlife. Under Chinese occupation, Tibet has suffered severe clear-cutting of it’s forests, strip mining of its minerals and uranium deposits, damming of its major rivers and dumping of toxic and nuclear wastes across the plateau. Tibet is the largest timber reserve at the disposal of China. Today, barely half of Tibet’s ancient forests remain. It is widely held that such deforestation in responsible for the destructive floods that recently swept through China, India and Southeast Asia.

Cultural Destruction
Since the Chinese invasion, more than 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed, with less than 40 standing today. Many religious artifacts and cultural icons have been looted and destroyed, while most of Tibet’s traditional literature has been eradicated. Chinese is taught as the first language in Tibetan schools and is required for most employment and higher education opportunities. In Lhasa, many Tibetan houses and entire neighborhoods have been demolished, making way for Chinese developers.

Population Transfer & Birth Control Policy
Deliberate population transfer policies have been introduced in Tibet to dilute and assimilate Tibetan language and culture. Chinese workers are offered wage incentives, better living conditions and employment, and exemptions from China’s strict “one child” policy. Tibetans now make up less than half the population. Tibetan women must seek permission from authorities before becoming pregnant or risk severe penalties, including forced sterilization and abortion, or economic sanctions as great as three times their annual income. Tibetans are a minority in their own country.