Tuesday, February 10, 2009
10 facts about Tibet
1. The invasion of Tibet began in 1949. Chinese occupation has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans, the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Tibetans.
2. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's political and spiritual leader, fled Tibet in 1959 to Dharamsala, India, followed by over 100,000 Tibetans and established the Tibetan Government-in Exile. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a steadfast dedication to non-violence, and the highest US civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, in 2007.
3. Tibet, before occupation, was a nation with an established sovereign government, currency, postal system, language, legal system, and culture. Prior to 1950, the Tibetan government also signed treaties with foreign nations. The Chinese government claims that Tibet has always been part of China, yet its invasion of Tibet resembles imperialist aggression that China accuses other powers of exhibiting.
4. The "Tibetan Autonomous Region" (TAR) is not Tibet, nor is it autonomous. The Chinese government has divided historical Tibet into one region and several prefectures and counties, with the TAR encompassing only the central area and some eastern regions of Tibet.
5. The basic freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly are strictly limited, and arbitrary arrests continue. There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet, enduring a commonplace punishment of torture.
6. The Chinese government increasingly encourages Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet, offering them higher wages and other inducements. This policy is threatening the survival of Tibetan people. Tibetans are becoming a minority in the TAR. Yearly, thousands of Tibetans still flee from Tibet, making the treacherous journey over the Himalayas into a world of exile.
7. Historical Tibet was a vast country, with an area roughly equal to Western Europe. Tibet is the source of five of Asia's largest rivers, which provide water for two billion people. Tibet's fragile environment is endangered by Chinese strip-mining, nuclear waste dumping, and extensive deforestation.
8. The Chinese government claims to have “developed” Tibet, with “developments” mainly benefiting the new majority Chinese, not Tibetans. China, neglecting education and healthcare, has spent millions of dollars building infrastructure; many roads, buildings, and power plants directly support heavy militarization, allowing China to maintain Tibet as a police state.
9. The Chinese government aggressively seeks foreign investment for its “Go West” campaign, with use of these international funds to develop Tibet as a resource extraction colony and consolidate regional control. Foreign investments in Chinese companies legitimise China's colonisation and exploitative projects that harm Tibet.
10. The United Nations and international community have done very little to address the core issue of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet. China represents an enormous market and cheap labour force, and its associated businesses have such a strong lobby that officials are reluctant to take substantive measures. Since western countries adopted policies of so-called “constructive engagement” with China in the 1990s, the human rights situation in Tibet has only deteriorated. In November 2008, the UN agreed with Free Tibet's report on torture, clarifying that it believes that torture is 'widespread and routine' in Tibet.