Tibet Facts 1
Key Facts on the Chinese Occupation
Selection of important events, dates, facts and figures
China's invasion of Tibet by 35,000 troops in 1949 was an act of unprovoked
aggression. There is no generally accepted legal basis for China's claim
China undertook, by the 1951 Agreement, not to interfere with Tibet's existing
system of government and society, but never kept these promises in eastern
Tibet and in 1959 reneged on the treaty altogether.
China has renamed two out of Tibet's three provinces as parts of the Chinese
provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan, and renamed the remaining
province of U'Tsang as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
There is no evidence to support China's claim that TAR is autonomous: all
local legislation is subject to approval of the central government in Beijing;
all local government is subject to the regional party, which in Tibet has
never been run by a Tibetan. Some 20% of TAR Communist Party cadres are
The influx of Chinese nationals has destabilised the economy. Forced agricultural
modernisations led to extensive crop failures and Tibet's first recorded
Reprisals for the 1959 National Uprising involved the elimination of 87,000
Tibetans by the Chinese count alone, according to a Radio Lhasa broadcast
of 1 October 1960. Yet Tibetan exiles claim that 430,000 died during the
Uprising and the subsequent 15 years of guerrilla warfare, which continued
until the US withdrew support.
Exile sources estimate that up to 260,000 people died in prisons and labour
camps between 1950 and 1984.
100,000 Tibetans fled with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal
ruler, in 1959. Local reports state that up to four a day still try to
escape across the borders into Nepal and India. The Nepalese authorities
have been turning refugees over to the Chinese; at least 18 escapees were
forcibly repatriated on 13 December 1991.
Religious practice was forcibly suppressed until 1979, and up to 6,000
monasteries and shrines have been destroyed.
The Indian Government reports that three nuclear missile sites, and an
estimated 300,000 troops are stationed on Tibetan territory.
The International Commission of Jurists concluded in its reports,
1959 and 1960, that there was a prima facie case of genocide committed
by the Chinese upon the Tibetan nation. These reports deal with events
before the Cultural Revolution.
Chinese replaced Tibetan as the official language. Despite official pronouncements,
there has been no practical change in this policy. Without an adequate
command of Chinese, many Tibetans find it difficult to get work in the
Secondary school children are taught all classes in Chinese. Although English
is a requirement for most university courses, Tibetan school children cannot
learn English unless they forfeit study of their own language. Many children
are sent away to China for education. In 1992 there were 10,000 such children
in China, cut off from their own cultural heritage.
Resettlement of Chinese migrants has placed Tibetans in the minority in
many areas, including Lhasa, causing chronic unemployment among Tibetans.
In 1990, the Chinese admitted there were 44,000 Chinese in Lhasa and around
80,000 in the whole of the TAR. But independent observers believe the figure
is in fact far higher.
Up to 60 fully-laden timber trucks an hour are leaving Tibet on the two
major roads to China, according to tourist film shot in September 1988,
thus signalling deforestation and environmental damage, in contravention
of UN Resolution 1803 (XVII) 1962, which establishes the right of
peoples to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.
Unarmed demonstrators have been shot without warning by Chinese police
on five occasions between 1987 and 1989. Amnesty International believes
that "at least 200 civilians" were killed by the security forces during
demonstrations in this period. There are also reports of detainees being
Some 3,000 people are believed to have been detained for political offences
since September 1987, many of them for writing letters, distributing leaflets
or talking to foreigners about the Tibetans' right to independence.
Detailed accounts show that the Chinese conducted a campaign of torture
against Tibetan dissidents in prison from March 1989 to May 1990. However,
torture is still regularly used against political detainees today. Such
prisoners are held in sub-standard conditions, given insufficient food,
forbidden to speak, frequently held incommunicado and denied proper medical
The Chinese have refused to allow independent observers to attend so-called
public trials. Prison sentences are regularly decided before the trial.
Less than 2% of cases in China are won by the defence.
All attempts to discuss Tibet are bedevilled by the Chinese redefinition
of the country's borders since 1949. Here the term Tibet is used to refer
to the three original provinces of U'Tsang, Kham and Amdo (sometimes called
Greater Tibet). When the Chinese refer to Tibet they invariably mean the
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which includes only one province, U'Tsang
(the TAR was formally inaugurated in 1965). In 1949 the other two provinces,
Amdo and Kham, were renamed by the Chinese as parts of China proper and
became the province of Qinghai and parts of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.
This information was compiled by Tibet Support
Group, UK 9 Islington Green London N1 2XH England.
Additional material was added by the Australia Tibet
Council PO Box 1236 Potts Point NSW 2011 Australia.
For more information contact your local Tibet support
group. (February 1996)
to the Index of Tibet Fact Sheets.