Tibet is a region in South-east Asia and has an area of 2.4 million km2.1 The Tibetan plateau is spread majorly in China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. Since Tibet comprises of a quarter of China’s total area, it is usually referred to being a part of China. Mount Everest, which is the highest peak in the word also falls under this region. Tibetans are said to be direct decedents of the Qing dynasty that ruled China from 1644 to 1912. The natives of Tibet are estimated to be 7.8 million; while most of them are still living in China, 300 thousand of them have migrated to India, Nepal, USA and Canada.
Tibet was an independent region and was ruled by the 13th Dalai Lama. In the 1940’s China invaded Tibet and took over by assigning a new Dalai Lama. China recognizes only a third of Tibetan region to be Tibet and calls it the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Originally, the Autonomous Region meant that the region would fall under China and would be led by a person with Tibetan origin. Losang Jamcan was holding this post from 2013 to January 2017. Even though Losang Jamcan was the chairman of the TAR, the region is actually controlled by Chen Quan, who was secretary of the communist party. Che Dalha is the currently chairman of the TAR, who is also ethnically Tibetan but was born in a non-Tibetan province. Frequent debates have been sparked in recent times, with the Tibetan people arguing that the TAR isn’t autonomous at all.
In Buddhist and Tibetan tradition, the Dalai Lama is considered to be the supreme political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan state that represents Buddhist teachings and a messiah to the Tibetan people. In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army, crossed the Jinsha and defeated the Tibetian army. After that, the PLA drafted a non-negotiable agreement which was to be signed by Tibetan representatives. The current Dalai Lama – Tenzin Gyatso, who is also the 14th Dalai Lama was installed by the Chinese Communist Party while he was 15 years old. 2 This Dalai Lama who was still in his teenage was made to agree upon the 17 point agreement. 3 This agreement was meant to give Tibet the status of an Autonomous region, along with allowing the spread and blossoming of Buddhism in the region. In exchange Tibet was to allow Chinese military and government presence and also cut all ties with the KMT. You could read more about the KMT and People’s Republic which lead to the One China policy here.
Non-acceptance of the 17 point agreement:
Many Tibetans resisted the agreement and were of the opinion that their representatives did not have a say in the agreement and were forced to sign them. They further allege that the Chinese government forged official Tibetan seals that were pressed onto the agreement. Having a status of Autonomy meant that Tibet could be ruled by powers within itself, even though China had the ultimate authority. Tibetan people have since then felt oppressed and do not feel Tibet has been autonomous. They also felt that Tibetan culture was unique by itself and had to be governed as an independent state. Such ideology sparked a civil uprising in 1959, wherein the Dalai Lama and 80,000 Tibetans fled to the neighboring country of India. The 14th Dalai Lama still lives in India with his followers and campaigns for Tibetan freedom along with his agenda to spread Buddhism. It can be argued that the Dalai Lama is pushing more towards proper Autonomy of the region rather than independence, regardless of this there have been several protests against the Chinese government to “Free Tibet.”
The Panchen Lama and the Last Dalai Lama:
The Panchen Lama is the leader of second highest stature among the Buddhists. He is selected by the Dalai Lama. On 14 May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was chosen as the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama. Nyima was only 6 years old at the time and was kidnapped by Chinese authorities, 2 days after the announcement. He has not been seen ever since. After this incident, a child named Gyaincain Norbu was proclaimed to be the new Panchen Lama and was elected by the Chinese government. Norbu is despised by the Tibetans and is dubbed as a fake.
The Dalai Lama is of the opinion that he might just be the last Dalai Lama if Tibetan people aren’t given their political and religious freedom. After his death, there may not be any successor and the Tibetan people would cease the tradition of the Dalai Lama, rather than following a Lama who has been appointed by the Chinese government.
The move of the fake Panchen Lama by the Chinese is seen as an attempt to control the TAR which is currently without the physical presence of the Dalai Lama. There are also allegations that China is promoting mass migration of people from central China, to dilute the Tibetan culture. China has also set up many industries in Tibet and feeding on the regions resources.