Dialogue  April-June 2009 , Volume 10 No. 4

Regional Autonomy for Tibet: a Viable Resolution of the Sino-Tibetan Conflict

Tenzin Lekshay


The contemporary Sino-Tibetan history began after the Chinese Communists acceded to power. Although the Tibetan Government enjoyed de facto independent status since 1911, the Chinese Communists occupied Tibet in 1951. Under the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) repressive rule over Tibet, the Tibetans have faced tremendous hardships, and Chinese tyranny for more than 50 years. Over 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of Chinese occupation and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed. The Tibetans have become a minority in their own land. The PRC has imposed socio-cultural injustice, political repression, religious condemnation, and economic disparity. The TGiE (Tibetan Government in Exile), under the leadership of the Dalai Lama has been pursuing a non-violent means of resolving the Tibetan issues. It is seeking genuine autonomy within the PRC.

I have chosen Tibet on the ground that Tibetan is a representative case of a minority that has been subjected to repression by a dominant majority, the Han. It is tied to a particular territory and seeks some form of autonomy from the central state apparatus in redress for the human rights violations it has endured. Accordingly, I will argue that regional autonomy for Tibet is a viable solution for the long-standing Sino-Tibetan dispute.

Concept of Ethnicity and its Application to Tibet

China claims that Tibet has been incorporated into a unified China for more than 1,500 years when the Tang Princess Wen Cheng married the Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo.1 But, the TGiE based in Dharamshala, India under the leadership of Dalai Lama challenges this historical distortion by the Chinese government, declaring that Tibet enjoyed de facto independence since 911.2 In 1950, soon after Chinese Communist Party (CCP), under Mao Zedong, acceded to power, Radio Peking announced that Tibet was a part of China and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet. The Government of Tibet had no other choice but to sign the infamous 17 Point Agreement, declaring Tibet to be incorporated into the Communist regime.3 Soon after that, Tibetans became one of the 55 ethnic minorities of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

 Before the Chinese invasion, the Tibetans were not aware of the concept of ethnicity. Tibet was an isolated, landlocked area composed of a fairly homogeneous group of people connected by a common culture, traditions, lifestyles, language and government. But after the Chinese invasion, the term “ethnicity” played a vital role in maintaining their national identity. Ted Gurr defines “ethnic groups” as a people who share a distinctive and enduring collective identity based on a belief in common descent and on shared experiences and cultural traits. They are also referred to as “communal” and “identity” groups.”4 Tibetans are clearly an ethnic group as defined by Gurr: They have a distinct culture, dress, religious beliefs, language and history. More importantly, Tibetans also have a strong national identity. In contradistinction to those groups whose belief in a shared history is largely mythical, Tibetan identity is moulded by its age-old traditions including Buddhism, language and over two thousand years of history. The Tibetan ethnic identity determined by their security, status, material wellbeing, and access to political power, has become highly salient.5 Tibetans are an ethnopolitical group whose ethnicity has had political consequences, including differential treatment of group members. As a result, political action on behalf of group interests has become more prominent.

 According to the Chinese white paper on Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China, China claims to be a united multi-ethnic state with a long history. The unification of China began during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). In 1951, China invaded Tibet and then assimilated Tibetan territories into different Chinese provinces. At present, China regards Tibet as comprising of only the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), while the TGiE claims that Tibet constitutes all three of the traditional provinces of Tibet.6 Two of these traditional provinces have been incorporated into four different Chinese provinces,namely, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu. Greater Tibet or “ethnographic” Tibet is broadly divided into one autonomous region, twelve autonomous Prefectures (including the autonomous regions which are shared with other nationalities), one Autonomous County and two Prefecture-level cities. Because China considers Tibet as being limited to TAR, and the autonomy granted to the Tibetans is only in name.7 

In the early twentieth century, Tibet has seen many political developments. The British Expedition led by Colonel Young Husband in 1904, Manchu’s invasion in 1911, the Declaration of Tibetan Independence in 1913 and occupation by the Chinese Communist regime in 1951.8 Great Britain had a special interest in Tibet but was cautious about recognizing Tibet’s de facto independence. Late Dr. Dawa Norbu wrote that the drastic shift in the balance of power in South Asia and Northeast Asia posed major difficulties in ensuring Tibetan autonomy. Because Tibetan autonomy did not enjoy protection by a great power in South Asia, its autonomy was at the mercy of China.9 

Tibetans, as members of an identifiable ethnopolitical group, suffer systematic differential treatment, which is often repressive in nature. Tibetans suffer economical, political, and social disadvantages relative to Han Chinese and other ethnic groups in China. Tibetans are defending and promoting their self-defined interests through political mobilization.10 The seven early warning indicators of acute ethnic conflicts identified by Vayrynen and Leatherman, including the degree of structural tension, territorial disputes, social unrest, cultural tension, government repression, influence of external actors and legitimacy of political governance, clearly indicate that ethnic conflicts in Tibet is now acute.11

 As a national people, Tibetans have lost their state status following the Chinese invasion of Tibet but they still preserve their cultural and linguistic distinctiveness. Tibetans are also seeking greater autonomy within the PRC. On the other hand, Tibetans also comprise a minority people, that is a group based on some combination of race, ethnicity, immigrant origins, economic status and religion. Though Tibetans are considered to be an ethno-national group, that is a people concentrated in a single territory, have a history of organized political autonomy within their own state, a traditional ruler, or a traditional government, Tibetans can also be considered minority people in so far as they have become a disadvantaged group in the PRC.12 

Whether understood as a national or minority people, Tibetans are at risk where the Chinese government exercises long term and pervasive political, economic and cultural discrimination. The ethno-political conflict in Tibet is largely caused by the Chinese government’s policy regarding Tibet. First, the PRC invaded Tibet, and then forcibly imposed communist style reforms, cultural assimilation and socio-economic discrimination. The Tibetans quest for internal self-determination since the 1950s has been crushed by the Chinese policy of containment.

The Dalai Lama has long been prepared to discuss autonomy rather than the complete independence of Tibet with the PRC authorities. Though there have been several channels of dialogue opened in the past between the PRC and TGiE on resolving the Tibetan issue, the matter still remains unsolved. The official Chinese position continues to be characterized by three points: Tibet was historically a part of China; the liberation of Tibet has been beneficial to Tibet; and international criticism over the PRC’s policies in Tibet constitute interference in the internal affairs of the PRC. Failing to find a compromise solution increases the chances that violence will erupt over nonnegotiable issues. Ironically, the right of national minorities to regional autonomy is enshrined in the Chinese constitution and the Chinese Regional National Autonomy Law (RNAL) respectively. In a sense, TGiE is asking that the PRC grant the Tibetans what is no more than its due under existing Chinese law. If the PRC implements its own law, Tibet will remain an inalienable part of China and peace and stability will be restored. According to Sisk, “constitutional provisions may not spell out the public policy strategies to ameliorate the effects of past discrimination or comparative inequality but make the important symbolic statement that the aim of the polity is to seek redistribution.”13

History of Tibet and its Relationship with China

Tibet has 2000 years of recorded history as a distinct culture, tradition, government and geographical entity. Traditionally, Tibet consists of three regions: Utsang (Central), Dotoe (Eastern) and Domey (Northeastern). The geographical boundaries of these regions are natural. Tibet is considered as “Roof of the World” with an average altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by India, Nepal and Bhutan in the south, China in the east, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the west and Mongolia and East Turkistan in the north.

Because Songtsen Gampo, the 33rd King of Tibet married Princess Wen Cheng, a daughter of the Chinese Emperor Tai-Tsung, the 1992 Chinese whitepaper on Tibet argued that Tibet was a part of China. The Chinese emperor, however, gave his daughter to the Tibetan king to reconcile with him as the emperor feared that Songsten Gampo might attack him. The successors of Songsten Gampo engaged in war many times with Chinese emperors and on at least two occasions, defeated China. The Tibetan defeat of the Chinese led to the peace treaties of 783 A.D. and 821 A.D. Indeed, the stone pillar in Lhasa erected in 823 A.D. along with pillars in Chang’an and at Guge Meru bore witness to Tibet’s victory.14 The inscription on the pillar stated: “This solemn agreement has established a great epoch when Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet and Chinese in the land of China.”15

 After the assassination of the last monarch in 842 A.D., Tibet disintegrated into princely states without any centralized authority for more than 400 years. In 1247, Godan Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, vested Sakya Pandita with the authority to rule over the thirteen Myriarchies of Tibet.16 Later, Kublai Khan gave Phagpa, nephew of Sakya Pandita, the authority to rule over the three regions of Tibet. At that time, Emperor Du-Dzong of the Sung Dynasty ruled China. Chinese official documents explicitly referred to Tibet as being part of China since the 13th century.17 Historical fact contradicts that claim. By 1279, the Mongol Khanate had conquered the whole of China and established a central government under the title of Yuan Dynasty. Well before Kublai Khan had unified and conquered China, he had already vested in Phagpa the authority to rule over Tibet. Hence, the Chinese had no valid claim to Tibet.

Since the time of Kublai Khan until the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the relationship between the two states was politico-religious and was termed a priest-patron relationship. Both parties had mutual responsibilities to each other. Tibetan lamas played the role of priest and attended many Chinese courts as the religious leader. As patron, Chinese emperors, acted as Tibet’s protector. However, Tibet fought many wars without Chinese involvement, such as its war with the Indian Kingdom of Jammu in 1841, Nepal in 1856 and British India in 1904. After the Nationalist government toppled the Qing Dynasty of China in 1911, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama repatriated all Manchu and Chinese officials based in Tibet to China and declared the independence of Tibet in 1913. Many western scholars believed that Tibet enjoyed the de facto status of an independent state from 1913 to 1951. During that period, the Tibetan government administered its own internal affairs with the creation of a postal service and its own currency, national anthem, national flag and national treasury.18

Tibet under Communist China

 Communist China invaded Tibet to “liberate” it soon after the communists acceded to power in 1949. China claims that it liberated Tibet from feudalism, serfdom, the Kuomintang, and foreign imperialists.19 However, “liberation” was just a means of acquiring full control over Tibet. The Tibetan government was compelled to sign the 17 Point Agreement in 1951, which purports to safeguard the Tibetan people. In general, before 1954, China confined its policy to foreign aid rather than foreign conquest. But in 1955, Mao introduced a reform “High Tide of Socialist Transformation” in almost all minority nationality areas. In Tibet, the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region was instituted to effectively transfer political authority to the Chinese Government. The 17 Point Agreement promised to enable Tibet to exercise its right to national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in accordance with the nationalities policy laid down in the Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). China, however violated its promise that the political system of the Tibetan government under the leadership of Dalai Lama would remain unchanged.20

After his visit to China in 1954, the Dalai Lama first learned of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region, which consisted of 51 members, of whom all except five were Tibetans. The Dalai Lama was appointed as the Chairman and the Panchen Lama as the Vice-Chairman of the committee and their main task was to prepare for the regional autonomy of Tibet. All the members of the committee were subject to the approval of the Chinese government. This constituted an infringement of the 17th Point Agreement to which the Chinese government had agreed.21

The peaceful coexistence of the Han and Tibetans under the 17 Point Agreement did not last long even though Mao Zedong initially adopted a policy of moderation towards Tibet. Mao’s integration theory was intended to gradually transform Tibet.22 Hence, Mao’s government encouraged the pursuit of cordial relations between the Han Chinese and Tibetans by emphasizing the improvement of the conditions in Tibet. At first, they refrained from repressing the Tibetan culture and religion. Moreover occupying People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was required to be fair in buying and not permitted arbitrarily to take even a needle or thread from the people. This rule of conduct was supported by a strict behavioral code. When democratic reforms were adopted in Sichuan in late 1955, the Tibetan rebellion turned into a bloody uprising. This uprising continued to build a momentum until the 1959 uprising in Lhasa.23 Fearing that China might attempt to assassinate him, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee the country and took up asylum in India along with approximately 80, 000 Tibetans. He denounced China for oppressing the Tibetan people and repudiated the 17 Point Agreement by accusing the Chinese government of failing to implement the autonomy it had promised to Tibet.

Status of Tibet :

 The TAR, established in 1965, is one of the five autonomous regions in China. In safeguarding the right of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities, the Chinese Constitution as well as the RNAL include detailed provisions guaranteeing all nationalities political, economic and cultural autonomy. Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution, adopted in 1982, states that the PRC protects the lawful rights and interests of minority nationalities, and upholds and develops the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China’s nationalities. Discrimination against or oppression of any nationality is legally prohibited. But as a matter of fact, there are substantial injustices occurring in Tibet. The huge economic disparities between the Tibetans and the Han Chinese immigrants in Tibet, and its consequential effect on the Tibetan culture and traditions, has aggravated the intercommunal conflict between Han Chinese and Tibetans and has led to intercommunal violence.24 The recent burning and looting of Chinese shops, banks, markets and government offices in Lhasa is a clear indication that the conflict in Tibet is not directed only at the Central Government but also at the Han Chinese immigrants in Tibet.25

 Regional National Autonomy Law (RNAL) states that “Regional National Autonomy” means that minority nationalities, under unified state leadership, practice regional autonomy in areas where they live in concentrated communities and may set up organs of self-government for the exercise of their autonomy. Regional national autonomy embodies the state’s full respect for and guarantee of the right of the minority nationalities to administer their internal affairs and its adherence to the principle of equality, unity and common prosperity for all of its nationalities. But it is paradoxical to pair “autonomy” with “unity” where “unity” is contradictory to a guarantee of self-governance without any inference from the state in the minority’s internal affairs. Unity emphasizes integration and oneness, thus it necessarily undermines the very essence of autonomy.26 

Due to the political sensitivity of autonomy, which is often interpreted as a challenge to the unity of the motherland, TAR has been granted only very limited autonomy. This has raised issues of human rights violations, including religious persecution, deprivation of socio-economic benefits and the threat of the loss of cultural identity as a product of the Chinese Government policies. Taken together, these human rights violations are making the Tibetan cultures vulnerable to extinction.27

 Studies of ethnonational conflicts show that a national people demands for independent statehood from the governing elites are unlikely to be accommodated. Accordingly, substate autonomy is a political demand that is more likely to be granted.28 The Dalai Lama has called for the preservation of the Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism, and Tibetan identity. These are the main criteria of his “Middle Way Approach.” He has not demanded that the Chinese Government grant Tibet full-fledged independence.29

Political Right to Autonomy:

 As a constitutional matter, the Tibetans have an equal right to participate in the administration of state affairs and to vote and stand for election. Moreover, Article 114 of the Chinese Constitution empowers members of the ethnic nationality to head the administration of the autonomous region, prefecture and county in which they reside. Under the provisions of the RNAL, Tibetans should be “equitably” represented in the government. But, “equitable” is too abstract to define. This is particularly the case where the requirement that the government head must be a member of the ethnic group does not extend to the CCP, which holds actual power in China.

 Tibetans have been deprived of their right to political participation. The Chinese government ensures that Tibetans are under-represented. The TAR has existed for more than 40 years but no Tibetan has yet been installed as the Party Secretary of the TAR. Despite the relevant provisions of the Chinese Constitution and claims of Chinese leaders regarding the treatment of Tibetans, the violation of the political rights of Tibetans continues to be an obstacle to trusting the CCP. Ethnic and communal groups are still clearly subjected to discrimination.30

Socio-Economic Rights:

Tibet, like other ethnic areas, experienced a substantial increase in autonomy rights after reforms began under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Hu Yaobang, then the General Secretary of the CCP, was concerned with improving the political, social and economic welfare of the Tibetan people. He promised to implement regional autonomy by reducing the number of Chinese officials stationed in Tibet. He also promised to develop educational policies that would strengthen Tibetan culture and education. He introduced tax cuts to aid in promoting and establishing businesses in Tibet and formulated economic policies based on regional differences. An investigation team led by Hu Yaobang and Wan Li admitted that the Tibetan living standard was much lower than in any other part of China and worse than any other autonomous regions.31

Clearly, speeding up socio-economic development is key to regional ethnic autonomy. However, in the drive to economic modernization, Tibetans have been underprivileged and have become a victim of many economic policies carried out by the central government. This is a significant source of ethnic tension.32 After the PRC occupied Tibet, it faced a devastating nation-wide famine in 1960-1962 for the first time in Tibet’s recorded history. The famine was caused by a large incursion of Chinese PLA stationed in Tibet. The land reforms introduced by the Chinese government led to extensive crop failures, destabilization of the economy, and huge inflation. The result was the death of 340,000 Tibetans.33 

The Tenth Panchen Lama in his capacity as the Vice-Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region, had documented the conditions of the Tibetans under Chinese rule in his “70,000 Characters Petition.” It focused mainly on religious freedom, improved education, and acceptance of Tibetan as the official language. It was regarded as fiercely critical of Chinese policy in Tibet. In January 23, 1989, he made an important public speech during a religious ceremony at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, where he confronted Chinese Government policy. He stated, “If we compare the price of the sacrifice Tibetans have made with the development that we have seen, my feeling is that the value of our sacrifice has been far greater. Our sacrifice far outweighs our development.”34 Dorjee Tsering, then the governor of TAR, also complained that the PRC had not taken much interest in the Tibetans. Both Tibetan ethnopolitical leaders had adopted a conventional political strategy in pursing their national interests by using their official positions in Tibet as a platform for their lobbying activities.35 

Initially, the Central Committee United Front Work Department claimed that China had spent RMB 72,300,000,000 in Tibet from 1952 to 1983 for various projects including industrial projects, transport and communication development, education and renovation of monasteries.36 But the aforementioned funds hardly benefited Tibetans. During General Secretary Hu Yaobang’s visit to Tibet in 1980, he was so shocked to see the suffering of the Tibetan people that he publicly admitted that the party had let the Tibetan people down. The life of the Tibetan people had not been notably improved. He expressed concern about the misuse of the Central Government’s funds by saying that the all the monies had been thrown in the Yarlung river.

The central government’s projects had been mostly political in nature rather than concentrating on economic development benefiting the Tibetans in the TAR. In 1984, 43 development projects were launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the TAR in 1985. Many of those funds were allocated for hotels, theaters and commercial ventures. Similarly in 1994, 62 development projects worth of US$29 billion were launched in connection with the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the TAR in 1995.37 Nearly US$13 million were spent on a celebration of that anniversary of the TAR. The remaining funds were mostly spent on heavy projects like hydropower, railways and roadways. It is estimated that Golmud-Lhasa Railway budget was around 26.2bn Yuan (£1.8bn). Tibetan people in the diaspora saw the opening of Golmud-Lhasa Railway as a plot to invade Tibet for the second time. The Dalai Lama regarded the railway as a tool of “cultural genocide.”38 It has been reported that Golmud-Lhasa Railway has been used to transport nearly 5,000 to 6,000 Chinese to Lhasa daily and the number of returnees are significantly less than the numbers of those who arrived in Lhasa.39 

Tibet is strategically important to the security of China. The construction of railway was mainly to serve a political need rather than the developmental needs of the Tibetan people. On July 29, 1998, the Tibet Daily reported a speech by Ragdi, deputy Party Secretary of TAR who declared: “Tibet holds a crucial status in the overall order of China’s political, economic, and cultural development, being one of China’s key defense outposts and strategic points, so speeding up the economic and social development of the Tibetan region, to preserve its united and stable order, is of key significance to national security.”40 Jiang Zemin forthrightly acknowledged the political importance of the railway as it increases Chinese economic migration into Tibet, thus further diluting the Tibetan population. The TAR’s Communist Party Chief, Zhang Qingli, similarly remarked that the railway “presents a precious opportunity to ensure the country’s lasting order and stability.” Clearly, the railway ultimately threatens Tibet’s cultural survival. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to conclude that this is precisely the intent of the PRC authorities.

 In 1987, when Deng Xiaoping visited United States, he stated, “Tibet cannot develop on its own... It should seek help from fraternal provinces and municipalities (in China)... We need to get large numbers of Han comrades in Tibet so that they can impart scientific and technological know-how, share their scientific management expertise, and help Tibet train scientific, technological, managerial personnel to speed up its economic development.”41 China has further claimed that economic development leads to an increase in employment opportunities for the Tibetans while also serving the policy of population transfers. The empirical evidence does not support these claims. For instance, as to the railway project itself, out of the 38,000 railway-related jobs open to workers, only few Tibetans were employed. In short, the arrival of many Chinese immigrants distorted the labor opportunities within the Tibetan economy, favoring Chinese settlers over Tibetans.42

Further, education is supposed to be compulsory in China but the schools in the Tibetan countryside were built and maintained by the villagers without any financial assistance from the government. Despite assertions from the Government that there would be no tuition fee for primary education in TAR, rural schools still imposed high non-tuition fees to run the schools. Rural families toil under a heavy financial burden to educate their children as a result.43 

Restrictions on Religious practice and Belief and the Preservation of Tibetan Culture

Timothy Sisk warns that ethnic violence is likely to occur if multiethnic states expropriate power, resources and symbols to the exclusion of some groups within the state. State sponsored policies designed to create inequality and discrimination often provoke ethnic conflicts.44 Clearly, the PRC has implemented discriminatory policies that provoke violence in Tibet.

The Chinese authorities have destroyed more than 6,000 monasteries and learning centers. Only a few monasteries have survived. They served as storehouses to keep the remnants of metal statues to be used for reproduction and as a symbol of patriotism. Political campaigns, patriotic re-education and surveillances of the monasteries have been regularly implemented. The right of Tibetans to practice their religious belief is threatened by the restrictions that have been imposed on monks and the monasteries where they reside. Moreover, the numbers of monks in the monasteries have been restricted and they have to abide by government-imposed regulations. This clearly constitutes “cultural discrimination” which Gurr defines as “a restriction imposed on the group in pursuing their cultural interests or expression of their cultural values.”45

 The inheritance of Tibetan culture has been hampered by restrictions on practicing Tibetan Buddhism. Since Buddhism is ingrained deeply in Tibetan culture, its persecution is considered a direct threat to Tibetan culture. Similarly, the Tibetan language, traditional dress and costumes, songs and dances have been Sinicized through the imposition of Chinese characters, designs, attires, tunes and steps respectively. China has successfully changed the Tibetan names of cities, towns, village, mountains, rivers and even the streets into Chinese characters. For example, Tibet was previously referred to as Bhod, but now it has been changed to Xizang, which means Western Treasure.

According to Gurr, race, religion, language, or a common homeland are some of the basic elements of ethnic identity. Further, he says that race in multiracial societies, is almost always a primary marker of group identity.46 The suppression of Tibetan culture has made the issue of Tibetan ethnocultural identity highly salient and might prove a critical predictor of future violence.47

 Consistent with Gurr’s findings, on March 10, 2008, monks from Drepung and Sera monastery, TAR, Detsa monastery, Tshoshar TAP, Qinghai, and Lutsang monastery, Tsolho TAP, Qinghai held peaceful protests in their respective areas to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising day, demanding religious freedom in Tibet. The protest started soon after People’s Armed Police (PAP) beat monks from Lhasa Ramoche Temple on March 14, sparking major unrest in Lhasa. The Chinese officials fear that the incident will escalate to other parts of Tibetan areas and challenge the long-term stability of Tibet. Unlike Lhasa, most of the demonstrations were peaceful and spread over many of ethnic Tibetan areas. There is a conflicting report of death tolls presented by the Chinese government and the TGiE. The Chinese government claimed that 22 innocent people died during the riot, but the TGiE put the death toll at 200.48 The protestors were heavily suppressed by the PAP leading to mass arrests.49 Chinese State Councillor, Meng Jianzhu, also head of the Public Security Ministry, has visited Tibet and called for strengthening the “Patriotic Reeducation Campaign” in the monasteries.50

Ecological and Environmental Protection:

Tibet is in fact a “Western Treasure” of 126 different minerals with a significant share of the entire world’s reserves of gold, chromite, copper, borax and iron.51 Tibet has 15,000 natural lakes and research figures show that rivers originating in Tibet sustain the lives of 47 percent of the world’s population and 85 percent of Asia’s total population. Tibet’s forests covered 25.2 million hectares and Tibet has two major oil deposits namely, Tsaidam Basin in Amdo (Qinghai) and Chang Thang. Tsaidam Basin has oil reserves of 42 billion tons and natural gas reserves of 1,500 billion cubic meters in 22 deposits. Because of its vast ecological and natural resources, China was inclined to invade Tibet to exploit its rich resources while purporting to be acting in the interests of the modernization and development of Tibet.52 

Ever since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Chinese government has predominantly engaged in exploiting and extracting the rich natural resources of Tibet, which has consequently led to widespread environmental destruction. Excessive deforestation, uncontrolled mining, water pollution and nuclear waste dumping have resulted in the degradation of grasslands, extinction of wildlife, desertification, floods, soil erosion and landslides.53 This irreversible damage is a cause of great concern not only for the Tibetan people but also for the whole world.

Severe floods now frequently occur not only in Tibet but also in China, India and other Asian subcontinent countries due to the continual deforestation taking places at the source of the rivers.54 For instance, in summer 1998, a devastating flood of the Yangtze River killed between 3,656 and 10,000 people and affected the lives of l,240 millions with 5.6 million homes destroyed. It also destroyed 4.8 million hectares of crops and 64 hectares of farmland in China.55

 China sees the Tibetan plateau as its largest forest zone. It has established some 70 state logging enterprises, which have cut a total of 120 million cubic meters of wood from the forest of eastern Tibet (Sichuan). It is reported that China succeeded in reducing Tibet’s forest cover from 25.2 million hectares to 13.57 million hectares between 1950 and 1985. In August 1998, the central government’s State Council ordered 151 forestry enterprises to halt all logging on the upper reaches of the Yangtze and the Yellow River in Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai.56 The Chinese reforestation scheme has so far been ineffective. It has been estimated that the ratio of trees felled to trees planted is 10:1 and the total reforested areas in the southwestern region is as low as 12.7% of the actual deforested area.57

The Golmud-Lhasa railway has had environmental implications as well. Hen Ji, a researcher at the Institute of Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing, said that with the construction of new railway to Lhasa, the increased number of tourists threaten to make Qinghai Lake vanish in less than a decade. Less than a month after its opening, the Chinese Railway Ministry spokesman, Wang Yongping, told the Beijing News that the Golmud-Lhasa railway has become unstable because the foundations are sinking into the softening permafrost soil.58

The Chinese government has recently realized that the ecological disturbance inside Tibet has had devastating impact on China and has planned to establish a series of “eco-system protection zones” and forest reserves in the TAR to curb environmental degradation in the region. The plan is part of China’s efforts to strengthen eco-security, said Zhang Tianhua, deputy director of the regional Environmental Protection Administration. Beijing is expected to allocate 38.7 billion Yuan, which is equivalent to US$4.84 billion to support the protection of the environment in Tibet between 2006 and 2020. The budget will also fund programs like the recovery of degraded grasslands, desertification control and the settlement of herdsmen. Though the government announced its intent to protect the Tibetan ecosystem, the strategy it intends to employ has yet to be announced.59

The Dalai Lama has been deeply concerned about the rapid degradation of the fragile ecological system in Tibet. The protection of Tibet’s environment has been an integral part of his Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet.

Human Rights Violation in Tibet:

In China, human rights merely concentrate on the right to subsistence and calls on the right to live and develop as the most urgent demand of the Chinese people.60 China maintained that human rights are essentially an issue within the scope of sovereignty of a country and often discard criticism of its human rights performance as “interference in internal affairs.” So, China’s sovereignty and security comes before human rights. In Tibet, the right to existence and development were used to argue that the Tibetans are enjoying basic human rights.61 But the Tibetans are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression and travel. Human rights conditions in Tibet remain dismal. TCHRD based in India, indicated that the human rights situation in Tibet has worsened in 2007 with threefold increased in arbitrary arrests and detentions.62 However, the Chinese government has undermined the current human rights crisis in Tibet by refusing to acknowledge that it was a human rights problem.63 Tibetan people’s rights to express their views are condemned as a crime to sabotage and to split the motherland. In 1991, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minority Rights adopted a resolution entitled “Situation in Tibet” which shows concern for the continuing violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms which threaten the distinct cultural, religious and national identity of the Tibetan people.64 It was reported that China uses different means of torturing political prisoners in Tibet, such as beatings, electric shocks, deprivation of food and drinks, exposure to cold, handcuffing or shackling for long periods, and denial of medical treatment.65 Currently, there are 119 known Tibetan political prisoners, of which 43 are serving terms of more than ten years. 66

Middle Way Approach of the TGiE

TGiE (Tibetan Government in Exile), under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, is pursuing the Middle Way Approach to resolve the Tibetan issue. Until 1979, there was no direct communication between the Chinese government and the TGiE. This led the exile government to pursue a policy of complete independence for Tibet. However, in 1978, the Dalai Lama agreed to talk on Tibetan issues other than independence. Around that time, the Dalai Lama told the BBC that Deng Xiaoping had invited him to visit Tibet and that he had declined, saying that he would not undertake such a visit until he was certain that the six million Tibetans were happy and contented under Chinese rule.67 The Chinese had miscalculated when they believed that the Tibet could be politically integrated and culturally assimilated into China. The Chinese government was apparently overconfident and operated under the misimpression that there was no real issue of Tibetan independence except as a product of the manipulations and exploitation of foreign imperialists. China attempted to alter Tibetan national identity by defining Tibetans as not a nation but only a minority nationality of the Chinese nation.68 

 The Dalai Lama is primarily concerned with the welfare of the Tibetan people. He stated that, “If the six million Tibetans in Tibet are really happy and prosperous as never before, there is no reason for us to argue otherwise.”69 Later in the following year, he was more explicit in expressing that “the core of the Tibetan issue is the welfare and ultimate happiness of the six million Tibetans in Tibet.”70 The move from the demand for complete independence to genuine autonomy has served as the roadway to negotiation.71 Dawa Norbu, a well known exiled Tibetan scholar, gave credit to Deng Xiaoping for his bold initiatives in launching the Sino-Tibetan dialogue.72 

The Chinese leadership’s intent was misconstrued. It had narrowed down the welfare concept into an economic paradigm. Accordingly, Jiang Ping told the Tibetan delegates to concentrate on the question of “Tibetan happiness” which was explicated by the Dalai Lama in 1978 and 1979. He informed them that the Chinese government had improved the living standard of the Tibetan people and had brought an overall development to Tibet.73 Warren Smith, a Tibetologist, felt that the “happiness” approach by the Dalai Lama was not the main issue, rather it was the Tibetan identity which was crucial for the dialogue to proceed.74 

The Middle Way Approach was initially adopted by the Dalai Lama and was later approved by the Tibetans in the diaspora through democratic participation as a means to resolving the Tibetan problem.75 In 1987, the Dalai Lama delivered his Five Point Peace Plan at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington DC. He asked for the earnest negotiation of the future status of Tibet in order to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict. After he failed to get a favorable response from the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama later proposed a referendum in 1996 and 1997 on the theory that the Tibetan people should decide the fate of Tibet. A preliminary opinion poll was conducted in which more than 64% of the total opinion letters received expressed their support for the Middle-Way Approach, or whatever decision the Dalai Lama took in response to the changing political situation in China. To this effect, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE) adopted a unanimous resolution on September 18, 1997, in favor of the Middle Way Approach. The Dalai Lama responded that, “The Middle-Way Approach is the most realistic and pragmatic course to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully. This approach meets the vital needs of the Tibetan people while ensuring the unity and stability of the People’s Republic of China.”76 Taking into account the opinion of the Tibetan people and a unanimous resolution passed by the TPiE, this policy was adopted.

 The Chinese leadership remained more concerned with the past history. The PRC continues to claim that Tibet is historically part of China. It claims that Tibet was a part of China prior to the “liberation” of Tibet in 1951. The invasion of Tibet was based on the ideological claim that it was motivated by anti-imperialism. The Chinese leaders are therefore paranoid about the slightest implication that Tibet was ever an independent state in the past. For them, it was merely a stage in the realization of the Communist Revolution wherein the benefits of Communism were spread to the entirety of its domain.77 In contrast, the Dalai Lama is primarily focused on the future prospects of preserving Tibetan culture, religion and Tibetan identity whereby Tibetans can live happily with the Chinese. Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, emphasized that the Middle Way Approach represents the Dalai Lama’s commitment to focus onto the future, instead of the past, to find a solution that will provide maximum autonomy for the Tibetan people and bring peace and stability to the PRC and the entire region.78

 After several rounds of talks in the 1980s, the formal dialogue ceased in 1993 due to the lack of political will on the part of Chinese leaders. The Dalai Lama persisted in engaging in a dialogue. The Dalai Lama tried to seek an informal channel of communication with the Chinese officials and thereafter succeeded in holding three rounds of meetings. But in 1998, all the communication came to an end. Repressive policies in Tibet soon followed. However, in 2002, meetings with Chinese officials concerning the China’s policy in Tibet resumed and, since then, the Tibetan delegations were allowed to visit various places in Tibet and China.

One of the ideological differences between the Dalai Lama and the PRC is that the TGiE demands democratic reforms in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, in his 1988 Strasbourg Proposal, proposed that, “The whole of Tibet including all the three provinces should become a self-governing democratic political entity founded on law by agreement of the people for the common good and the protection of themselves and their environment, in association with the People’s Republic of China.”79 Since China has a communist regime, the proposal is unacceptable for them. They suspect, as Sha Zhou has written that, “such sentiment would be expected from a western political figure but is an absurdity coming as it does from a representative of feudal serfdom. By such statements, the Dalai Lama is attempting to sing the praises of the western capitalist system and negate socialism.”80 If the One country-Two system approach to Hong Kong and Macau, both of which were previously part of democratic countries that have since been incorporated into China worked, it can probably work in Tibet. China should look into this option for Tibet as these facilities are provided for by the Chinese constitution.

 Further, the issue of not only a democratic Tibet, but also a democratic China has been discussed to resolve the Sino-Tibetan problem. Xu Mingxu wrote that a united China based on democratic ideals will make genuine autonomy for Tibet possible by taking appropriate policies on ethnic autonomous governance towards the Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities.81 Interestingly, democratic transitions have contributed to the negotiated settlement of a number of ethnopolitical wars.82 Chinese dissidents and scholars have shown their solidarity with the Dalai Lama’s proposal of genuine autonomy within the PRC.83

 Another hindrance to negotiation is the reunification of the areas in which the Tibetan populaces actually live, which include those places in Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu. Sisk stated that “conflicts in which groups claim exclusive title of territory for control or access are generally perceived to be more intractable than those in which there is a high degree of interdependence and integration.” He summed up by saying that conflict over territory is usually a zero sum game.84 

There has never been any consensus among the Chinese leaders over the issue of the dimensions of Tibetan territory. In 1981, Hu Yoabang told Gyalo Thondup, elder brother of the Dalai Lama, that “this is a new idea which needs to be considered.” Ulan Fu, then the Vice President of PRC, also supported the Tibetan demand, when he recalled that in 1951, the late Zhou Enlai assured the Tibetan delegates that, in compliance with the 17 Point Agreement, the question of reunification of inner and outer Tibet would be separately looked into.85 However, Xu Mingxu argued that the Dalai Lama’s claim for “Greater Tibet” is too greedy and it would be more realistic if the Dalai Lama limited his demands for genuine autonomy to the territory of TAR.86 

Self-determination does not necessarily mean secession. The Chinese policy of assimilation and integration only exacerbates tensions between China and Tibet. Many events like the recent demonstrations and protests that occurred in Tibet, have escalated into ethnic conflicts. In order to de-escalate the conflict, Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen emphasized that “the task entrusted to the delegation was two fold: First, to re-establish direct contact with the leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive atmosphere enabling direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach towards resolving the issue of Tibet.”87 The prenegotiation, or “talks about talks” explores a potentially positive outcome by creating conducive environments for direct negotiation.88

After the Dalai Lama was conferred the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the international support for Tibet has increased all over the world. Resolutions have been passed in different countries and actions have been taken to mobilize support for the Tibetan cause.89 Many governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals empathize with the Tibetan plight and have appealed the PRC to talk with the TGiE. The international solidarity movement for Tibet has played a significant role in trying to restore Tibet’s engagement with the Chinese government. Sisk has noted that ethnic conflicts are often internationalized as a result of cross-border kinship ties, diaspora politics, humanitarian concerns and environmental fallout.90 Clearly, this has been the case with regard to Tibet.


 The concept of unity and stability is the focal issue for the Chinese Government. It is the prime reason that they have maintained their iron grip in Tibet. Even though there were several talks in the past, the principle position on Tibet remains unchanged. The ongoing visits of the Tibetan delegations since 2002 witnessed the fundamental differences between China and TGiE.91 For example, China demands as a precondition to negotiations that the Dalai Lama must accept that Tibet is an inseparable part of the PRC. Moreover, they forcefully reiterated that His Holiness must accept Taiwan’s status as a province of China. The difference over the unification of greater Tibet (3 traditional province of Tibet) remains the strongest challenge for the negotiation. Sisk’s view that the territorial dimension of ethnic conflicts tends to be a zero sum game, it does not have application to the Tibetan case. In the Tibetan case, the Tibetans are seeking a territorial autonomy within the PRC, which is facilitated by the Chinese Constitution. This is not a case of secession but rather a regional autonomy. Hence, the PRC is loosing no territory, merely permitting the Tibetan government unified control on issues specifically threatening the Tibetan culture, language and religion.

China has condemned Dalai Lama for disguising his demand for an independent Tibet by proposing genuine autonomy. Since 1979, the Dalai Lama has consistently advocated the Middle Way Approach in resolving the Tibetan issues. Gurr claims that the authenticity of leadership may be most critical factor for the mobilization process in an ethnopolitical conflict, where the leader is perceived as representing the most essential values and aspirations of the group.92 An authentic leader is also essential to successful negotiations as his followers are more likely to accept the outcome.93 In the Tibetan case, the Dalai Lama is a seasoned leader who seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetans. Gurr’s conception of authenticity of leadership does not apply to the Tibetan case in so far as he argues that authentic leaders can lose legitimacy, if they lose power. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is not based on the wielding of power but rather on his moral authority both among Tibetans and in the international community.94 

China believes that the best way to avoid the question of Tibet is by playing the waiting game. Hardliners maintain that the Dalai Lama is the head of the serpent and once his head is chopped off, the Tibetan issue will die off simultaneously. But liberal leaders and many Chinese scholars believe that the Dalai Lama is the key to resolving the issue of Tibet and once the Dalai Lama dies, the resolution of the Tibetan issue will be much more complicated. China should not take the risk of losing the Dalai Lama. He is the key to reaching a resolution on the Tibetan issue because he alone possesses the moral authority to negotiate on behalf of the Tibetan people.

Presently, the Chinese government is pursuing a hard line strategy that makes the Tibetan plateau the least “autonomous” region of China. As a result of large-scale development projects in Tibet, Beijing is increasingly controlling Tibet while depriving Tibet of the benefits of regional autonomy. During Hu Yaobang’s tenure as a Party Secretary, Wu Jinghua, then TAR Party Secretary promoted cultural liberalization in Tibet. Weng Meng, Minister of Culture under Hu Yaobang, argued that traditional culture could be channeled in useful ways to promote modernization.95 Gurr argues that, “combination of disadvantages and overtly discriminatory policies gives power incentives for action because the combination focuses their resentment on the agents of discrimination.”96 The approach of cultural liberation had the potential for diffusing tensions in Tibet since this was the very matter with which Tibetans are most concerned. However, after the western development project was implemented, many Han Chinese settled in Tibet to better their economic situation. The result has been more open opposition and greater disorder. The Chinese policy of modernization adopted since 1980 could not legitimize Chinese rule in Tibet.97 Economic and social liberalization has allowed autonomous social forces to reemerge and inevitably has had the unintended effect of reviving ethnic nationalism. Fa Mingfu, then chief of the Communist Party’s United Front Department, stated that the consciousness of the Tibetan minority, their sense of pride, nationalism and self-respect was getting stronger. Indeed, ethnic tension in Tibet has been growing as a result of economic injustice and social discrimination against persons of Tibetan nationality. The fear of Chinese immigrants becoming the dominant social force in Tibet is overwhelming to Tibetans. The current situation is not dissimilar from what had happened in the Basque Country in the 1950s. The Basque Country was dominated by the Castilian- speaking immigrants, which had the effect of eroding the Basque language and culture.98 But later, with the formation of new democratic Spain, the Basque were granted the full autonomy that had also been granted to Catalonia and Galicia.

 The ideological differences between Tibet and China lie at two extremes. China must know, however, that past history is not subject to change. Chinese leaders should focus on the future. Although Gurr argues that there is no model charter for autonomy arrangements, in the case of Tibet, the issues of education, language rights, religious freedom, environment and control of land and resource have to be delegated to the Tibetans. The Chinese government must address the Tibetan problem, which involves six million Tibetan people seeking the right to preserve their culture, tradition and identity.99 The concern of such a large number of individuals cannot simply be ignored.

China must move forward by negotiating with the TGiE within the lifetime of Dalai Lama. At present, the Dalai Lama is the legitimate leader of Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet. China needs to understand the fact that the Dalai Lama has the credibility to decide upon the issues and the ability to mobilize Tibetans in support of the outcome of any negotiations with the Chinese government.100 The international pressure on China is also mounting. There is huge support for the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach. The Tibetan nonviolent struggle was structured by the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of compassion. The commitment of the Tibetan people to the Dalai Lama should be considered while resolving the issues. As a matter of fact, it is beneficial to the Chinese to act swiftly to resolve the Tibetan issues within the lifetime of present Dalai Lama. If they succeed, the institution of the Dalai Lama can aid in maintaining unity and stability. The Dalai Lama has been advocating non-violent actions and his concept of Genuine Autonomy seeks to fulfill Chinese demands for co-existence and unity between Tibetans and Chinese.101 

China has to be sincere in their negotiation in resolving the Tibetan issues by forgoing the waiting game. Waiting on the Dalai Lama’s death might prove futile as it may cause future instability in China. Hu Jintao has the chance to build his legacy by resolving the Tibetan issue. He is the only Premier to date who has also served as the Party Secretary of the TAR and knows much about the problems of Tibet. If Hu Jintao solves the Tibetan problem during his tenure, this will be his greatest contribution to his “harmonious” socialist state. The Dalai Lama, in his recent appeal to the Chinese people after the riot in Tibet on March 27, 2008, stated that he respects President Hu Jintao’s policy of creating a “harmonious society.” But he argues that it can only be founded on the basis of mutual trust and an atmosphere of freedom, including freedom of speech and the rule of law. If these values are embraced, many important problems relating to minority nationalities can be resolved.102

With the growing international pressures on China, along with the frequent and sustained mobilization, Tibetans are more likely to win concessions and greater access to power over their own affairs.103 It is hopeful that the ongoing talks and confidence building measures started in 2002 will move forward to a successful negotiation.

In resolving the ethno-national conflicts, a rapprochement between the Chinese government and the TGiE could lead to a negotiated settlement like that of Canada’s Inuit who won control of their territory without any acts of violence.104 The suppression of Tibetan people will incite more violence and social disorder in Tibet. As Gurr says, negotiation should begin as early as possible in the conflict, before positions become hardened by protracted warfare.105 The Chinese government needs to revise its policy on Tibet and must arrive at a successful autonomy arrangement before events get out of their control. The Chinese leadership have to act more realistically to resolve the Tibetan issues. In the recent days, Tibetans from all over Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora raised their grievances against the Chinese government, which utterly shows that repression has not led to a rapprochement between Tibet and China. In order to achieve a long-term peaceful solution, genuine autonomy for Tibetans is the most viable solution to the Sino-Tibetan crisis.


    1  Tibet- its ownership and human rights situation, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, September 1992, http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/tibet/9-1.htm , (accessed on March 23, 2008).

    2  Tibet-Proving Truth from Fact, The Department of Information and International Relations, TGiE, Third, updated edition 1996, pp. 16; ICJ,

        Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law , December 1997, p. 43; Verdict of the Permanent Tribunal of People (Session on Tibet, Strasbourg, November 1992) claims that Tibet was, before 1949-1950 an independent state for the purposes of international law, Tibet: The Position in Internatioanal Law, Serindia, London, 1994, p.147.

    3  The first point of the 17 Point Agreement stated “The Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland- the People’s Republic of China”.

    4  Ted Gurr, People vs. States, Minority at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington D.C., 2004, p. 5.

    5  Ibid, p. 6.

    6  Horowitz says that territorial boundaries help shape the level of group identity that emerges as most salient. Ethnic Groups in Conflict, University of California Press, 2000, p 66.

    7  Deepa Khosla, “Tibetans: Dim Prospects for Settling a Protracted Ethnonational conflict”, in Ted Gurr’s People vs. States, Minority at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of peace, 2000, p.212.

    8  Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political Hisotry, Potala Publications, 1988, pp. 205-314.

    9  Dawa Norbu, China’s Tibet Policy, Curzon, 2001, p. 176.

  10  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 71.

  11  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 22.

  12  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 17.

  13  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 65.

  14  Tsepon Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History of Tibet, Potala Publication, 1988, p. 49.

  15  “The Three Dharma Kings of Tibet,” http://www.tibet.com/Status/3kings.html (accessed on March 25, 2008).

  16  Thirteen Myriarchies (Trikor Chuksum) consist of areas including all the three traditional province of Tibet.

  17  China’s Tibet: Facts and Figures 2002, http://www.china.org.cn/english/tibet-english/lishi.htm (accessed on March 25, 2008).

  18  Mevyn Goldstein, “On Modern Tibetan History: Moving beyond Stereotypes,” in McKay, A, Tibet and Her Neighbours: A History, Hansjorg Mayer, 2003, p. 217.

  19  Michael C. Davis, Ò The Quest for Self-Rule in Tibet,” Journal of Democracy - Volume 18, Number 4, October 2007, p. 166; China, Tibet and Chinese nation, http://www.index-china.com/index-english/Tibet-s.html (accessed on March 26, 2008).

  20  ICJ, Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law, December 1997, p. 50.

  21  The Dalai Lama, My Land and My People, McGraw Hill Book company, 1962, p. 125.

  22  Chen Jian, “The Tibetan Rebellion of 1959 and China’s Changing Relations with India and the Soviet Union,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Summer 2006, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 63.

  23  Melvyn C. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, University of California Press, 1997, p. 53.

  24  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 65.

  25  “China makes arrests in Tibet crackdown,” March 21, 2008, http://au.news.yahoo.com/080314/2/165ke.html (accessed on April 10, 2008); Standing firm with China, April 07, 2008, http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=105285 (accessed on April 10, 2008).

  26  Dr. Lobsang Sangay, “China’s National Autonomy law and Tibet: A Paradox between Autonomy and Unity,” Harvard South Asian Journal, October 04, 2006, http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=14112&t=1&c=4 (accessed on March 29).

  27  Group discrimination refers to political, economic and cultural restrictions that are invidiously imposed on ethnic groups. Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 106.

  28  Ibid p. 195.

  29  Dawa Norbu, China’s Tibet Policy, Curzon, 2001, p. 316.

  30  When the state systematically limits the exercise of political rights or access to political positions with comparison to other groups in the society, Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 111.

  31  Yang Zhong Mei, Hu Yaobang: A Chinese biography, M.E. Sharpe, 1988, p. 142.

  32  Donald Horowtz, Ethnic Groups in conflict, University of California Press, 2000, p. 101.

  33  Free Tibet Campaign, http://www.freetibet.org/info/facts/fact1.html (accessed on March 30, 2008)

  34  International Campaign for Tibet, www.savetibet.org/campaigns/pl/10th.php, (accessed on March 30, 2008).

  35  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 27.

  36  Jiang Ping, deputy director of the CCP Central Committee United Front Work Department Beijing spoke on Central Government’s fund in Tibet, Gist of the Chinese views as mentioned in Dawa Norbu’s article, “China’s Dialogue with the Dalai Lama 1978-90, Prenegotiation state of Dead End?” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 64, No. 3, Autumn, 1991, p. 359.

  37  “PC Leaders’ Stress on Development in Tibet in Half Past Century,” People’s Daily, July 18, 2001, http://english.people.com.cn/english/200107/18/eng20010718_75259.html (accessed on March 30, 2008); Tibet’s March Toward Modernization, Information Office of the State Council of PRC, November 2001.

  38  “Next stop, Lhasa,” Fortune Magazine, June 12, 2006, p. 154; “The railway in the clouds,” Telegraph, January 07 2006. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/30/wrail30.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/06/30/ixnews.html, (accessed on March 27, 2008).

  39  “Tibet sees record influx of tourists in first five months,” Xinhua, News Agency, June 19, 2006, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200706/20/eng20070620_385823.html, (accessed on March 28, 2008); “Lhasa overpass opens on eve of tourist boom,” Xinhua News Agency, April 30, 2007, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-04/30/content_6049723.htm, (accessed on March 28, 2008); “Qinghai-Tibet railway to handle 1.6 million passengers this year,” Xinhua News Agency, December 20, 2007, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-12/20/content_7286398.htm, (accessed on March 28, 2008); “Qinghai-Tibet Railway to Transport 4,000 More Tourists Each Day,” Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2006, http://english.gov.cn/2006-05/21/content_287030.htm, (accessed on March 28, 2008).

  40  “Development and Stability,” Tibetan Bulletin, Sept-October 2005, Volume 9, Issue 5, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/tibbul/2005/0910/focus2.html, (accessed on April 10, 2008).

  41  Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Annual Report 2003, p. 59.

  42  Tibetans Fear Strangulation by Rail: Many in Lhasa worry that the line China is building will transform their culture and bring more inequality to an impoverished region. Los Angeles Times, Oct 29, 2003.

  43  Tibetan Center for Human Rights an Democracy, The Next Generation: State of Education in Tibet Today, 1997.

  44  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 18.

  45  Ted Gurr, People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 118.

  46  Ibid, p. 67.

  47  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 14.

  48  Two Killed at Pro-Tibet Rally in China, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/187712.html, (accessed on April 11, 2008).

  49  China arrests over 2300 Tibetans in Tibet, Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), April 05, 2008, http://www.tchrd.org/press/2008/pr20080405b.html, (accessed on April 11, 2008).

  50  Chinese State Councillor visits Tibet, March 25, 2008, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-03/25/content_7856554.htm, (accessed on April 11, 2008).

  51  Xinhua News Agency, April 06, 2006 reported that Yulong copper mine in the TAR has an estimated 6.5 million tons of reserves. It will produce 50,000 tons to 100,000 tons of electrolytic copper every year after two phases of construction.

  52  The Dalai Lama, My Land and My People, McGraw Hill, 1962, p. 224.

  53  Elmar R. and Gabriella J. Reiter, “Tibet: The last Frontier, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society,” Vol. 62, Issue 1, January 1981, p 8.

  54  “Asian Disasters Blamed Partly on Shrinking Forests Deforestation Leads to Floods”, World Tibet Network News, Friday, August 28, 1998, http://www.tibet.ca/en/newsroom/wtn/archive/old?y=1998&m=8&p=28_1, (accessed on March 29, 2008).

  55  Tibet 2000: Environment and Development Issues, DIIR, TGiE, 2000, p. 37.

  56  “Logging Bans in Tibet,” World Tibet Network News, January 27, 1999, http://www.tibet.ca/en/newsroom/wtn/archive/old?y=1999&m=1&p=27_2, (accessed on March 29, 2008).

  57  Daniel Winkler, “Deforestation in Eastern Tibet: Human Impact- Past and Present, Development, Society and Environment in Tibet,” Proc. 7th Sem. Intern. Assoc. Tibetan Studies (IATS) 1995 - Austria, Vienna (1998), pp.79-96.

  58  “Yaks threaten China’s ‘miracle’ train line,” The Guardian, Friday, July 28,2006, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jul/28 china.jonathanwatts, (accessed on March 30, 2008).

  59  “Ecological safety zones being established in Tibet,” June 12, 2006, http://in.china-embassy.org/eng/zgbd/t257600.htm, (accessed on March 29, 2008).

  60  “Progress in China’s Human Rights Cause,” Information Office of the State Council, PRC, Beijing, March 1997, http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/prhumanrights1996/15-1.htm (accessed on April 11, 2008).

  61  New Progress in Human Rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Information Office of the State Council, PRC, Feb. 1998, http://www.china.org.cn/e-white/last/l-2.htm, (accessed on April 11, 2008).

  62  Human Rights situation in Tibet, Annual Report 2007, TCHRD, 2008, p. 5.

  63  “China: Tibet Not A Human Rights Problem; Protests Continue,” VOA News, 12 April 2008, http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-04-12-voa11.cfm, (accessed April 13, 2008).

  64  UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minority Rights, Resolution 1991/10, Geneva, August 23, 1991, http://www.tibet.com/Resolution/un91.html (accessed on April 10, 2008).

  65  Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law, International Commission of Jurists, Dec. 1997, p. 247.

  66  Human Rights situation in Tibet, Annual Report 2007, TCHRD, 2008, p. 5.

  67  Tsering Wangyal, “Sino-Tibetan negotiations since 1959”, in Barnett/Akiner, Resistance and Reform in Tibet, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1994.

  68  Warren Smith, “The Transformation of Tibetan National Identity”, in McKay, A, Tibet and Her Neighbours: A History, Hansjorg Mayer, 2003, p. 207.

  69  His Holiness the Dalai Lama, collected Statements, Interviews and Articles, Information Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, 1982 p. 51.

  70  ibid, p. 59.

  71  Ted Gurr argued that the ethnonationalists are more likely to regard autonomy as an acceptable alternative to independence, People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, P. 196.

  72  Dawa Norbu, “China’s Dialogue with the Dalai Lama 1978-90: Pre-negotiation state of Dead End?” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 64, No. 3, Autumn, 1991, p. 352.

  73  ibid, p. 359; Jiang Ping is a legal scholar in China. He was the President of China University of Political Science and Law, and a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

74 Warren Smith, “The Transformation of Tibetan National Identity,” in McKay, A, Tibet and Her Neighbours: A History, Hansjorg Mayer, 2003, p. 207.

  75  The Middle-Way Approach: A Framework for Resolving the Issue of Tibet, DIIR, TGiE, August 2006.

  76  Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Thirty-Ninth Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, 10 March 1998, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/ohhdl/statements/10march/1998.html (accessed on March 30, 2008).

  77  ibid, p. 356

  78  Statement of Special Envoy Lodi Gyari at Brookings Institution, Washington DC. November 14, 2006,, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/diir/sino/sstd/envoystat.html#9, (accessed on March 30, 2008).

  79  Strasbourg Proposal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Address to the Members of European Parliament at Strasbourg, June 15, 1988, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/diir/sino/imptshhdl/sp.html, (accessed on March 30, 2008).

  80  Sha Zhou, “What is it Behind the Dalai Lama’s Plan?” Beijing Review, Febraury 19-25, 1990, p.23.

  81  Xu Mingxu, Complete autonomy: The best approach to peaceful resolution of the Tibet problem, Journal of Contemporary China, July 01, 1998, pp. 369-370.

  82  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 204; Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. ix

  83  Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation, by 30 Chinese Dissidents on March 22, 2008, http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=20056&article=China+dissidents+call+for+direct+dialogue+


        (accessed on March 25, 2008);What the Chinese scholars say about Tibet, http://www.tibet.com/China/index.html (accessed on March 26, 2008).

  84  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 18.

  85  Dawa Norbu, “China’s Dialogue with the Dalai Lama 1978-90: Prenegotiation state of Dead End?” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 64, No. 3, Autumn, 1991, p. 358.

  86  Xu Mingxu, “Complete autonomy: The best approach to peaceful resolution of the Tibet problem,” Journal of Contemporary China, July 01, 1998, p. 375.

  87  Address of Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen at the 4th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, Edinburgh, 19 November 2005, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/diir/sino/sstd/envoystat.html#7 (accessed on March 26).

  88  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 24.

  89  Resolutions on Tibet, http://www.tibet.com/Resolution/index.html, (accessed on April 01, 2008).

  90  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 19.

  91  Statement of Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Kasur Lodi Gyari, Head of the Tibetan Delegation, for the Fourth Round of Meetings with the Chinese Leadership, Dharamshala, 7 July 2005, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/diir/sino/sstd/envoystat.html#6, (accessed on April 01, 2008).

  92  Ted Gurr, People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 78.

  93  Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 82-83.

  94  Ted Gurr, People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 78.

  95  Solomon M. Karmel, “Ethnic and the Struggle for Order: China’s Policies in Tibet,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 68, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996, p. 486.

  96  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 71.

  97  Warren Smith, “China’s Tibetan Dilemma,” Fletcher World Affair, 77, 1990, p. 83.

  98  Monstserrat Gubernau, “Spain: Catalonia and the Basque Country,” Oxford University Press, Volume 53, Number 1, 1 January 2000, p. 56.

  99  Timothy has written that, “Until there is a significant changes in the current bias against the dissolution of multiethnic states, the grievances of ethnic groups will haveto be accommodated with the political institutions of existing countries

        Timothy Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 2.

100  ibid, p. 66.

101  The Middle-Way Approach: A Framework for Resolving the Issue of Tibet, DIIR, TGiE, August 2006, http://www.tibetgov.net/en/diir/sino/std/imwa.html, (accessed on April 01, 2008).

102  The Dalai Lama, “An appeal to the Chinese People,” http://www.dalailama.com/news.220.htm, (accessed on April 01, 2008).

103  ibid, p. 74.

104  With the establishment of Nunatsiavut in 2005, all the traditional Inuit lands in Canada are now covered by land claims agreement providing for regional autonomy.

105  Ted Gurr. People vs. States, Minorities at Risk in the New Century, United States Institute of Peace, 2002, p. 196.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati