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Why Tibet Should Be Independent And Why This Will Never Happen

Updated on November 6, 2009

A Long Time to Wait for Tibetan Independence

The independence movement for Tibet is extremely interesting in that it is one of the very few independence movements which gets a lot of coverage and support in the West. Its not often, for example, that you will see a ‘Free Kurdistan’ bumper sticker.

By comparison, Tibet has one of the most media-friendly independence campaigns, due to its pristine landscapes, its vital culture and the international recognition of the Dalai Lama. This is magnified by the brutality shown by the Chinese Army in clamping down on any form of protest within Tibet.

Within the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the historical argument for occupation is a mish-mash of historical claims and a denunciation of the pre-conquest Tibetan regime. Briefly, pro-PRC commentators note that Tibet has long been a ‘part’ of China and note some of the abuses and the relative backwardness of Tibet’s political system at the time of the 1951 conquest.

However, these arguments are unconvincing, not least due to Tibet’s lengthy period of independence from 1911 to 1951, but also due to the type of relations that prevailed between Tibet and China prior to 1911 as one of a client (but separate) state towards an imperial power. The argument that China helped to liberate the Tibetan peasants is also clearly nonsensical as the PRC pursued very few reforms in the first 10 years of occupation.

Even if the pro-PRC arguments were coherent and accurate, they are ultimately irrelevant. This is because it is vital part of democracy that groups of people be allowed to follow the principle of self-determination. Self-determination holds that peoples should be allowed to choose their own governments. It is a vital truth that peoples should have this democratic freedom and that might does not make right. Just as the Chinese were right in defending their country against Japanese invasion in the 1930s, so the Tibetans have a right to seek independence to protect their culture and way of life.

As clear-cut as this message is, it is unfortunate that it seems unlikely that Tibet will ever be free. There are several reasons for this:

Firstly, Tibet is significant strategically, despite its remoteness. This is because it occupies an area full of water which is vital for the PRC to maintain control, especially as water shortages seem more likely in the coming century.

Secondly, Tibet provides an important strategic buffer between China and neighbouring India and Pakistan.

Thirdly, giving independence to Tibet would open up serious problems for the PRC as it would weaken its hold on Xinjiang and promote full de jure independence demands from Taiwan. The PRC leadership is also worried about the effect Tibetan independence would have on other ethnic minorities within China.

As a recognition of this problem, even the Dalai Lama is only seeking political ‘autonomy’ for Tibet, not full independence. This is in the hope that a softer approach will be more amenable to China’s communist government. Unfortunately, the level of propaganda directed at the Dalai Lama and the hatred of him by ordinary Chinese resulting from this propaganda would make it very politically difficult to allow Tibetan autonomy.

Even if China were to become democratic at some point during the next century, these political facts would still remain the same. Any Chinese government would be loath to sign away 1.2 million square km of territory. Moreover, the sparsely populated nature of the region makes it difficult for an armed revolt against Chinese rule, given the breadth of Chinese military resources.

Sadly it seems as though the best Tibet can hope for is some form of autonomy in a future Chinese Democracy. Unfortunately for Tibet, democracy for China currently seems as far away as democracy for Tibet.


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    • profile image

      Prophet Mohammad 

      4 years ago

      Tibet will be free very soon! East Turkestan will be free very soon! Manchuria will be free very soon! Inner Mongolia will be free very soon! Those billions of Han tyrannies will face consequences. China's end is near and its going to be way more worse than USSR's end.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      For a persective that is a little bit more nuanced

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Only Tibetan people know how much they have suffer. When armies destroy your house, kill your loved ones, humiliate your religion n belief, when you are severely punished or even killed for speak up for basic right and is continuing for 60 yrs then you would know what freedom means and how important it is.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ok to be perfectly frank, please allow for some introspection. You all are going about how cruel and crazy the chinese are towards the Tibetans. I agree, they did some very horrible thingsc acts that are certainly condemnable. At the same time, don't think, however, that it was all bliss and sunshine before the chinese came. If you guys don't know, Tibet had a very harsh serfdom policy in place prior. A small minority of landlords owned the majority. They essentially were slave masters. They sold, exchanged, and man-handled these serfs. Guys, we are talking about a religiously associated slave system merely 70 years ago. My next point. If you are American you will have a better time understanding this. Recently North Carolina and Texas petitioned to secede. A few hundred years back, half of the states tried to secede. Nope both got crushed (one in a civil manner, the other in a violent manner). Now if you support secession and support freeing Tibet, you have my respect and attention. If you support freeing Tibet and not secession, you are a hypocrite.

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      6 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Excellent.I think the example of the Dalai Lama and his non-violent approach have been good for the cause of Tibet.But did you know that the C.I.A. sponsored a resisitance movement that used violence against the Chinese from the 1950's up till Nixon's visit to China?The west can always beat China with the Tibet issue and thus discredit China.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      THANK YOU!!

      I hope Tibet will be free soon^^

      FRee Tibet! China, ur time is coming soon! If u dont give Tibet back to Tibetans, there will be a problem++

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If groups of people are allow self-determination, then why didn't the West allow self-determination of hundreds of millions worldwide during their days of pillages, and even now, there are calls for independence among Native American tribes. Their voices are not heard. Can you address this overwhelming hypocrisy by much of the Western world especially Anglo-American?

      Why does a racial minority of European allowed 3 continents, Australia, North American, and Europe, where other are packed like sardines? European are a minority in the world population. If we are truly speaking of equality and justice, I fail to see the justice in former colonies of Europeans.

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 

      6 years ago from Oregon


      Thanks for a most excellent hub! I happen to know that you are right on! I wrote a hub on this topic also--please read. Yes you have had a few of the indoctrinated Chinese folks hit your hub but this was easily predictable. So very sad what happened to Tibet. Thanks again! Here is my hub by the way:

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If you Westerners are so keen to free Tibet, why don't you free the Basques, Mormons, and other groups that want independence in Europe and the US?

      No one respects hypocrites, especially those who can't repay China their debts or beg China for a bail-out.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      im part chinese and i would say china is corrupted. they brainwash their own people into thinking all of there actions, whether good or bad, are for the greater good. what they are doing to tibet is total humiliation. just like the nazis to the jews, tibetans are being wiped out as we know it.

    • profile image

      faulty towers 

      8 years ago

      LOL.. Chinese automatically assuming that the other person knows nothing about China.. I even get that doing business in China with the Chinese - whenever there's any disagreements, my Chinese partner always reverts to this being the reason for all problems.

    • Pseudonymous profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Renfen, for your information I have been to China twice. I would consider myself reasonably well informed as to what is happening in China.

      I see a lot of similar comments to yours by other Chinese people whenever anything to do with China comes up. You automatically assume the other person knows nothing about China and is totally ignorant of bias in the Western media (I will use that phrase even though it completely ignores the differences between different countries etc.)

      Tibet may be a part of China now but that has not always been the case and many Tibetans wish it wasn't. At various points in the past parts of China used to be controlled by Japan and other foreign powers (or 'great countries', to use your phrase), was that correct? Was that just?

      I believe that people should be free to choose who they are governed by, be they Tibetans, Chinese or anyone else.

    • renfen88 profile image


      8 years ago

      tibet is a part of China . China is a great country . many foreign media attempt to part China .they advertises the negative effects on China with the help of the those incidents. you are fooled totally . have you ever been to China ? how much do you know about China ?

    • Pseudonymous profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks for your comment Watch Tower. The west was never very likely to rock the boat against a nuclear-armed China, especially over Tibet. Tibet could yet be a flashpoint with nuclear armed India, though, if China diverts too much of the region's water away from South Asia to solve its water problems. Sadly, this kind of 'interest' from the outside world is entirely self-serving and unlikely to do the Tibetans any real good.

    • Watch Tower profile image

      Watch Tower 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      This is a very sad but true account for how things are, and those in the west that do have any sympathy to the Tibetan plight. The fact Tibet has no natural resource's besides it's water, makes it a country that will never truly get help from the west. Apart from the fact the U.S.A struggles with its current so called liberation efforts,In Iraq which was really a G.Bush Oil grab attempt. the region in many respects is worse off, due to the hopeful usurpers through gorilla warfare tactics and support from other middle Eastern states suppling weapons and bombs, and thus The USA as well as Britain no longer have a political leg to stand on , further More as the U.S.A is in debt now to China for Billions of dolors its not about to rock the Chinese boat,let alone take on the issue with the occupying rule of China in Tibet. As well as this, China moves Chinese communist citizens into Tibet with sole goal to bear children thus it is a systematic way of genocide by simply breding out any true Tibetan blood lines. there is little hope for tibet given the Main Former Chinese ruling Leader of power, we know was an uneducated and extremely stupid man. I point to two incidences. The first That all sparrows be killed, in belief that it would save the croups from being eaten,In doing this, it lead to one of Chinas greatest famine's as they killed off the very thing that was actually protecting the crops to my knowledge there is to this day are still no sparrows in China. Two the decision that iron was required and all good communists must smelt any iron, the bulk of which was pig iron there for useless. The crops were left untended and thus the second greatest famine was created. So any intellectual conversation about Tibet and its true right to Independence,and freedom from a power mad over bearing occupier has as much chance of success as one farting against thunder. Thanks for a most en-lighting hub


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