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The Invasion, Occupation and Assimilation of Tibet by Communist China

Updated on April 28, 2014
Missing Link profile image

Missing Link is originally from rural Ohio. He currently lives in Hillsboro, OR. with his Wife and two Sons.

The Tibetans say the Chinese invaded Tibet for several reasons, the most important of which are as follows: 1) to have land in which they could expand their enormous population, 2) to rape Tibet of its natural resources, 3) to have a strategic place where they could build nuclear arsenals and dump nuclear waste, and 4) they claimed that historically Tibet was and had always been an integral part of China.

On October 24, 1950, Radio Peking announced that Chinese forces had "advanced into Tibet to free three million Tibetans from imperialist oppression and to consolidate the national defences of China's western frontier" (Barber 1970:154). This is the official reason the Chinese gave for sending troops into Tibet.

In May of 1951, the 17-point agreement was signed under which China agreed to let Tibet retain a form of autonomous rule and that the powers and status of the Dalai Lama would continue to be recognized as they had in the past. In return, Tibet surrendered control of its foreign affairs to China.

To this day, the Tibetans claim this treaty was signed under duress. In this "agreement", the Tibetan Governor surrendered the Lhasa cabinet, but under Tibetan policy, such an act could only have been done by a regent or by the Dalai Lama himself. The Tibetans involved told the Chinese that the agreement could not be valid unless it was affixed with a seal representing the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama, however, "a duplicate of the Kashak [name representing Tibetan government] seal was made in China and, as far as Mao Tse-tung was concerned, everything was legal" (Barber 1960:46, brackets mine). Under the seventeen-point agreement, the Chinese government also promised not to interfere with Tibet's religion and customs, a promise that was not long kept.

"Prior to the signing of the 17-point agreement, the Chinese tried to wrest away Tibetans' respect for the Dalai Lama by setting up the Free Tibetan Government under the rule of the Panchen Lama, the spiritual brother of the Dalai Lama and next to the Dalai Lama, the highest lama of Tibet" (Barber 1960:46). When the Panchen Lama died in China in 1937, the Chinese, of course, claimed to have found his reincarnation in China, a claim that was refuted by authorities in Lhasa. The Chinese sought to use the thirteen year old Panchen Lama for political purposes knowing the Tibetan people would not react violently to a "living Buddha" regardless of the dispute over his authenticity. On November 24, 1949, Radio Peking announced that the Panchen Lama "had appealed to Mao Tse-tung to liberate Tibet" (Barber 1970:153).

Slowly the Chinese started gaining control of Tibet. One of the first things they did was to strip the power away from as many Tibetan authorities as they could. Then, the Chinese "recruited" a large amount of laborers to help build roads and airstrips so the Chinese could have better access to Tibet. In a nation where one-third of the male population were monks, these attempts by the Chinese to modernize Tibet were surprising because the population of Tibet thought "the inner perfection of a man's soul was of more importance than asphalt on a road" (Barber quoting an observer 1970:48).

With so many Chinese entering Tibet, the problem of feeding all these people became a problem. As with other invading forces throughout history, the Chinese lived off Tibetan land and exploited the crops that were grown and emptied the granaries where food reserves were kept. When most of the food reserves were diminished, the Chinese took much of the country's gold and silver bullion so they could sell it elsewhere in return for food and for supplies which would enable them to more rapidly "liberate" Tibet. Not long after this, the Chinese printed their own currency and declared it legal tender.

In short, the Chinese broke many promises and utilized many forms of treachery in their "supposed negotiations" with Tibet. They enforced too much control until there were revolts and then the Chinese started killing the Tibetans. Any Tibetan who resisted in any way was termed a revolutionary. In the eyes of the Chinese, these people had to be reeducated so they could learn the "virtues and supremacy of the motherland." Often, the Chinese tried to reeducate the Tibetans through torture, threats, imprisonment, humiliation, etc. Those who appeared unable to be reeducated were done away with.

Many Tibetans resorted to guerrilla warfare but after several years of resistance, were crushed. The Tibetans were vastly outnumbered and technologically outclassed. Before going off to fight, it is reported that many Tibetan men killed their wives because Tibetan women at the time were "being forced to bear at least one Chinese child'" (Barber 1970:78). Many Tibetans were forced into a position were they would do anything to defend their country and its religious customs, even if they had to kill for them. The entire episode has been a tragedy of gigantic proportions, eerily reminiscent of what Anglo-Americans did to Native Americans. Under Chinese rule, 1.2 of an estimated 6 million Tibetans lost their lives and over 6,000 monasteries were destroyed.

"In the years after 1959 when the Chinese increased their role and presence in Tibet, one hundred thousand Tibetans became refugees in India, Europe, and America---fully ten thousand of them monks and lamas. In the following two decades one of the least-changed ecclesiastical states in the world, practically untouched by modernizing influences until the middle of this century, was rapidly dismantled in favor of a new society structured along religion-shunning Marxist-Leninist lines" (Robinson and Johnson 1982:136).

Those relics of Tibet that were spared were done so in order to attract tourists to Tibet. While most of the monasteries of Tibet were destroyed, the Potala, the Jokhang, and Drepung and Sera monasteries, among a few others, were spared. These structures are among the most famous in Tibet and as a result, many people desire to visit these places. The Chinese realized this and allow tourists access to these places.

I myself have been inside the five structures mentioned above and, while there, saw a few other tourists. I have also seen the piles of rubble from destroyed monasteries and Tibetan artwork, things which most tourists have not seen. Tourists were and are needed in Tibet in hopes they will pump large amounts of capital into the economy thus making the Chinese invasion of Tibet complete and secure. In March of 1959, lest he be killed, Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, was forced to secretly flee Tibet.

During the Chinese invasion of Tibet, relations between India and China became a bit strained. This is because Tibet served as a buffer zone between the border of Tibet and China and with this zone removed, the Indians feared they or their satellites were next. Also, with China attacking Tibet, they were also in a way attacking India. In persecuting the Tibetan Buddhists, the Chinese were persecuting India also because it was in India where Buddha delivered most of his teachings.

"On August 24, 1950, the Indian Ambassador in Peking stressed to the Chinese the Indian desire for a peaceful settlement of the recent disturbances in Tibet. The Chinese replied that Tibet was a part of China but that they would be more than willing to negotiate with the Tibetans. On September 20, 1956, Nepal and China signed a treaty in which Nepal recognized China's sovereignty over Tibet. As a strong message to the Chinese on April 9, 1959, the Indian Defense Minister, Mr. V. K. Menon, stated that Indians would defend their country if anybody should be unkind and transgress Indian territory" (Barber 1970:158).

Today, all that separates China and India is the small country of Nepal. If the Chinese would invade Nepal, I believe that serious tensions would arise between China and India. Widescale violence would be almost certain. Nepal is very much an Indian satellite.

As a result of China's invasion of Tibet, Nepal is now in a very unenviable position. "Tibet now represents an advance base of Chinese penetration into South Asia and a forepost of Chinese military power in that continent's strategic heartland" (Ginsburgs and Mathos 1964:208). Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet, China has shown an interest in the Indian territories of Kashmir, Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal. The Chinese takeover of Tibet is very important because whoever holds Tibet dominates the "Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all of South Asia within his reach and, with it, all of Asia" (Ginsburgs and Mathos 1964:210).

Since 1959, the Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India. Upon entering India, the Indian government under Nehru let His Holiness know that he could maintain religious rule but also let him know that they in no way would recognize any political status. While a Tibetan government in Dharamsala does exist, the Indians and most of the rest of the world deny its validity. In so doing, the rest of the world has recognized China as the present controller of what used to be Tibet.

Since his arrival in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama has constantly been working to make the world more aware of the Tibetan tragedy. His first priority has been to care for his people and to try his utmost to preserve Tibetan culture. Not many nations have heeded his pleas for help because they are afraid it will hurt their political relations with China. As a result, the Tibetans continue to live in exile while China slowly but surely obtains a firmer grasp upon Tibet.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama's work was finally done a bit of justice by him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately following this award, excitement shot through Tibetan communities all over the world. His receiving of the award reminded them and gave them hope that they would someday return to Tibet. I was in Dharamsala at the time and a nation was crying out while its people were dancing in the streets.

Some Bullet Comments/Statements

  • Tibet was an ancient, unique country and was independent and free for thousands of years. Tibet had its own borders, leadership, language, food, dance, currency, postal system, etc.
  • In modern history Tibet was a peaceful, Buddhist country and not a threat to anyone. It was a country overwhelmingly devoted to spiritual matters. Believe it or not, long ago Tibet was so powerful it was China that was afraid of Tibet.
  • Tibet was invaded while Mao was the leader of China. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful harmless Tibetans were murdered. Thousands of monasteries were blown up. The Chinese tried to kill the Dalai Lama but he escaped overland into India.
  • Tibet is now part of China because China took over this very special country by force. Tibet did not provoke the invasion in the slightest. I do not believe Tibet will ever be free again.
  • I was in Lhasa in 1989. It was under Chinese martial law. Chinese soldiers were on every street corner with automatic weapons. Tibetans were living in fear. All things Tibetan were confiscated at the Nepal border. Giving a Tibetan in Tibet a picture of the Dalai Lama at that time was considered a grave offense.
  • The most recent Panchen Lama, while still a little boy, was kidnapped by CCP and has never been seen since. He was abducted in 1995. A few years ago Beijing rolled out their own Panchen Lama which the Tibetans, of course, have rejected. I saw the dead body of the prior Panchen Lama at Tashilumpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet in the latter part of 1989.
  • The Chinese Communist Government has miseducated several generations of Chinese people. Many Chinese actually believe the Tibetans are the villains. Many Chinese believe the Dalai Lama is an evil slave master and some compare him to Osama Bin Laden...believe it or not. Many Chinese believe Tibet has always been part of China even though the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming and easily prove-able. Miseducation is perhaps the greatest evil of communism.
  • The Dalai Lama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, has won America's highest honor and, was voted by Time magazine as the most influential person in the world. All of the Dalai Lama's tapes and books are about love, compassion, peace, meditation, etc. He is the 14th Dalai Lama of the country of Tibet. Before the Dalai Lamas Tibet had kings.
  • What China did to Tibet is much, much worse than what Japan did in Nanking, China during WWII. A much larger percentage of the Tibetan population was wiped out per the Chinese invasion, Tibetans were scattered across the globe and, the entire country was lost. Chinese always recall the horrors of what the Japanese did in Nanking but care very little about what Mao did in Tibet. What China has done to Tibet--I cannot think of a more disgusting horror in modern history.
  • China has modernized Tibet but for the Han Chinese and not for the Tibetans. Beijing has long had a population transfer policy where Chinese are given benefits for agreeing to move to Tibet. The result is that Tibetans find themselves a minority in their own country.
  • China has spent billions trying to rewrite history and to sweep the horror under the rug.
  • Tibetans to this day are shot and killed by Chinese forces as they try to flee Tibet--see the link below.

I have just outlined the tip of the iceberg in this matter.


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    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 22 months ago from Oregon

      Thanks unverm for stopping by and for commenting! I do not know much about those other situations you refer to. Best wishes!

    • unverm profile image

      unverm 22 months ago

      I respect and appreciate all people under oppression like Tibet, Philistine, Turkistan and other people. Thank you very much for this sharing...

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 2 years ago from Oregon


      I am glad you commented and posted that link on this hub. I visited that hub of yours awhile back and commended on it.

      Thanks much, Leland

    • Hanavee profile image

      Brian Gray 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Please read this article. I hope it helps people understand that Tibetan cause.


    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 4 years ago from Oregon


      Two wrongs don't make a right, your argument is basically this:

      if Europeans came to America hundreds of years ago and killed many native americans then China today can invade, occupy and assimilate Tibet and kill as many Tibetans as they like. This is a childish argument though frightening in its implications.

      China has also been recently trying to take land belonging to the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.

    • profile image

      ERICKVALLELY 4 years ago

      So why is Tibet referred to as invasion, occupation and assimilation by communist China, but the united states is not an invasion, occupation, and forced assimilation on the native americans by capitalist white people? By the way, no one receiving $100,000 /yr from the CIA is "non violent".

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 5 years ago from Oregon


      Of course my hub is biased in favor of the Tibetans---they were the victims---they were the ones invaded and slaughtered and had many of their monasteries blown up, etc., etc. Chinese don't take equal blame for the Raping of Nanking do they? China was the victim in that regard so of course there is bias against Japan and in favor of China.

      Your comments per Tibet was not perfect I have heard many times. Of course Tibet was not perfect; so that means they deserved to be invaded and slaughtered? Your argument in this regard is horrendously flawed. Japan has problems so they deserve to be invaded? USA has problems so we deserve to be invaded. Given your logic China should invade and rape every country since all countries are imperfect and have problems.

      Tibet resembling Afghanistan Taliban---are you kidding? The two are nothing alike whatsoever.

      I stand by my belief that what happened to Tibet is the most disgusting thing to happen to a country in a long, long time. It was a mostly peaceful country not harming anyone or causing problems for anyone. They were devoted to peace and Buddhism. They were sheep for the slaughter to communist China. So many monasteries and great historical works of art, etc. destroyed by idiot Mao.

      At least you are a decent writer and not totally indoctrinated like so many other communist robots I've dealt with in the past.

      Take another look at the links I've provided.

      I studied this issue for many years and have been there done that so I know exactly and precisely what I'm talking about

      Because what China did to Tibet is so utterly disgusting I have little patience for the communist point of view...which is based on mis-education and lies.

      Thanks for your input. We just disagree that's all.

    • zorase profile image

      zorase 5 years ago

      Although the mistreatment of Tibetans in China is lamentable, your article is very biased and presents false information.

      The Dalai Lama received a Nobel Peace Prize because he advocated for Tibetan independence in a non-violent matter and was very diplomatic in approach, but this does not legitimize the Free Tibet Government. You over-romanticize pre-1950 Tibet. Tibet was a feudal, theocratic state with an oligarchical succession process. It was an empire that did its own share of subjugation, before it was vassalized and later absorbed by Qing China. A return to the old Tibetan state would deny Tibetans a right to democratic process. If Tibet should ever be freed, the "Free Tibet Government" should never have anything to do with it. Preservation of culture sounds nice on paper, but when you have such archaic traditions continued in politics, one gets something resembling Taliban Afghanistan.

      Tibet is also hardly the most tragic story in modern history. There were bloody conflicts, but the Chinese government never attempted genocide. The Tibetans are even offered minority privileges such as lower standards for civil service exams, university entrance, and lower tuition costs. (although these have been largely unsuccessful in producing better outcomes, much like Aboriginal privileges in Canada) Tibetan nationalism is brutally oppressed, but their lot is still better off than many others. The Kurds in Turkey are bombed endlessly, while the Palestinians are sealed off and starved by Israel. Lest we forget that there were actual attempted genocides in recent decades in Rwanda, Sudan, and the Balkans.

      It's all good to raise awareness about an issue, but when informing the public, it is important to be objective and not demagogic.

      Also, Nepal is its own sovereign country and one of the principled adherents to neutrality and the non-aligned movement. Calling it an Indian satellite is belittling and an oversimplification, and even though there aren't that many Nepalese, we still shouldn't do it.

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks Case1Worker!

      I appreciate your visit and kind words!

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      An excellent hub on a little researched subject- well done for bringing the facts to the eyes of the public