Fifty Years after the Tibet Uprising
By Jin Zhong
The Tibet uprising was an armed conflict between Tibetans and the PLA that took place in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, on March 10, 1959. At midnight on March 17, the Dalai Lama fled from the Potala Palace into exile in India. The PRC later suppressed the Tibetans and their soldiers and announced that it had “smashed the revolt” on March 28. More than 4,000 members of the rebel army were captured. On the same day, Zhou Enlai dismissed the Tibetan Government and started the so-called three-year “pacification” and “democratic reform” campaign in the Tibetan areas of Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan. The authorities claimed that a few thousand rebels were “eliminated” and about 100,000 people went into exile.
The earth-shaking protest 50 years ago resulted in a split between the PRC and Tibet. On the one hand, the Beijing Government followed Mao Zedong’s directives by holding that “racial problems are indeed class problems” and launched Tibet into class struggle with the implementation of and ultra-leftist policies, disregarding the special characteristics of Tibet. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala, India. The aggrieved Tibetan people struggled for the survival if the Tibetan religion, culture and lifestyle. In the meantime, a charter was passed to implement an independent democratic and political system for Tibet. The Dalai Lama became a world-class religious leader and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, 30 years after Hu Yaobang came to power and corrected the mistakes of the CCP’s Tibet policy, Beijing confirmed March 28 as an official holiday marking Tibet’s “Serf Emancipation Day,” which is tantamount to resuming the stance it took against Tibetans 50 years ago. The response of the Government in Exile is that “the CPC takes such action to veil the failure of its Tibet policy.” In fact, following the Cultural Revolution, Beijing adopted a series of strategies to heal the relationship between Han Chinese and Tibetans. However, Tibetans will never forget March 10, Tibetan Uprising Day. Both the riot suppressed by Hu Jintao in 1989 and the rebellion in Lhasa before the Beijing Olympic Games last year occurred in March.
Even experts on Tibet issues in Beijing revealed the truth of the uprising 50 years ago in their publications. The cause of the event was directly related to the mania of the Great Leap Forward initiated by Mao Zedong. Anti-rightism, agricultural cooperatives and social upheaval challenged law and order in the Tibetan areas. In April 1958, in a rebellion in Xunhua County, the Panchen Lama’s homeland with a population of only 10,000, more than 500 Tibetans were killed and 2,500 were arrested. A large number of monks were forced to flee to Lhasa. This is the background of the March uprising. For more on how the event developed, readers may refer to the Panchen Lama's “Letter of Seventy Thousand Words,” which reveals how the CCP devastated Tibet’s religion and culture and the basic human rights of Tibetan. The Han people may flaunt their civilization, but the CCP with its “revolutionary culture” and “philosophy of violence” is never qualified to flaunt “The Three Represents.” The Chinese Communist government attacked the Tibetan people, turning Tibet into a “dark place” where monasteries were ruined and monks were humiliated. Moreover, their mistreatment of this ethnicity has never changed. Our special coverage of torture in this issue pulls the veil from this dark story.
Now years have passed; the Dalai Lama who fled into exile at that time is now 74, while Beijing has entered its Fourth Generation of leadership. However, people in the Fourth Generation do not understand why Tibetans remain so at odds with their Han Chinese rulers, and why neither the carrot nor the stick works on them; nor do they understand why the international community has over the decades continued to sympathize with and support the Tibetans in their fight to protect their freedoms and rights. Indeed, the government doesn’t even want to know the truth.
As Confucius once said, “A moral person never walks alone.” In the 60 years of autocracy under the CCP, a red hot sun has been shining over the “golden hill of Beijing.” Fortunately three stars of freedom continue to twinkle warmly in the distance. They are Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Tibetan Government in Exile. These three stars are undergoing a strenuous yet unprecedentedly effective experiment for China’s modern civilization. They are China’s hope and China’s tomorrow.
February 27, 2009, in Hong Kong
(Translated by Isabella Lam)