A pseudo-radical movement dedicated to returning Tibet to theocratic feudalism. It is extremely anti-Chinese, often quotes outdated statistics to prove its false claims, and is championed by various limousine liberals, such as the Beastie Boys. They are very annoying, especially when you are Chinese, been to Tibet, and stop by their stall to question their sources. They are prone to violence when that occurs, and will call their accusers to be communist torturers. In my experience anyways.

The movement only argues the legality of the Chinese takeover, knowing full well that any other argument will fail. They conveniently ignore the flagrant abuses of the peasantry under the buddhist theocracy, which included (that's right, boys and girls, monks can be mean too), beatings, tortures and murders. Other than that, they are content to use sharecropping (read: rob and steal) from the peasants. But hey, who cares about the damn peasants? As long as China leaves, everything will be all fine and dandy!

The origins of this movement are unknown, but I suspect them to be the following:

The Free Tibet movement often mixes the human rights abuses of other parts of China and claim that only Tibet suffered from them. Need I mention 35 million people died in the Great Leap Forward, alone? By claiming that XXXX people died in Tibet in those years confuses the issue greatly by making it seem everyone else in China was living in comfort. Or is it only bad if Tibetans suffer and not the Han Chinese? Maybe we should free Mongolia too. How about Xinjiang? Why not Shanghai? I'm suffering in Shanghai at this very moment. Free Shanghai! Free Shanghai!

Sorry for that.

In any case, this movement conveniently ignores some very concrete facts about Tibet and bugs the hell out of everyone. Their anti-communist hatred of China is false (see Pseudo-Communism) and the reason they want Tibet to be free is because they don't like China and buddhism is oh so "in" these days.

See also Little known facts about Tibet.

TAFKAH: You still don't get it. I am in NO WAY condoning the wrongs of the Chinese government. I am however saying that the Chinese occupation was ultimately a lot better than the alternative. And if the Free Tibet people get their way, the common people of Tibet will be subjected to more misery than ever before.

And no, I'm not paid for this. I'm not even a Chinese citizen. See also Dispelling DMan myths.


TAFKAH, go read The brutality of Red China.

I would ignore DMan, especially considering he was banned for being a prick, but I might as well just point out a couple of his more obvious fallacies before getting into the body of my writeup.
  1. Argumentum ad hominem: All the 'facts' above about those in the Free Tibet movement have precisely nothing to do with the validity of their cause.
  2. The straw man fallacy: those in the Free Tibet movement are not demanding a return to a feudal theocracy. That, from my atheist anti-authoritarian perspective, would be worse. The Dalai Lama has already drawn up a constitution for a democratic Tibet, but it's so much easier to put people down if they seem to have a belief in the value of oppressive regimes. I will not do this to DMan. Honest.
What follows is an article I have just submitted to our student newspaper, it was written mainly to promote the cause of Students for a Free Tibet, a campus club of which I am secretary. The bands mentioned towards the end of the piece are all Christchurch bands and I will node their details after the party.


When I read George Orwell’s 1984, I could not help but be revolted by the repressive and uncaringly brutal society it portrayed.

When I was reading (journalist) Vanessa Baird’s account of her journey to Tibet, I was shocked for many of the same reasons. While it lacks the absolute, meaningless horror of 1984, the rule of Tibet by China bears certain disturbing resemblances.

Since China occupied Tibet in 1949, the invaders have killed over 1.2 million Tibetans. The Tibetans are treated as second-class citizens in their own country and are under intense surveillance for any ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities. Their native religion, Gelugpa Buddhism, is repressed – it is illegal, for example, to possess the tiny pictures of the Dalai Lama (the leader of this religion) which many of the common people of Tibet wear around their necks. Foreigners coming into Tibet are watched, and are never permitted anywhere unapproved by the Chinese officials. Political demonstrations (generally consisting of 3 or 4 monks or nuns chanting freedom slogans in the street) are broken up within minutes by plainclothes police or security guards. Many Tibetans flee their country in fear, bringing tales of torture, abuse and terror with them. Most Tibetans who escape go first to Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, just inside the border of India. They are given shelter and help if they need it, but they are also encouraged to return so that the resistance to the Chinese occupation within Tibet does not die out because all its leaders have fled in fear. Dharamsala is also the centre of Tibetan culture, the Chinese policy has been to eradicate the traditional cultures of people inside its borders – Chairman Mao declared war throughout China on ‘the four Olds’ – old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. Since the occupation, over 6000 monasteries and cultural institutions have been destroyed. The Tibetan culture is also being suppressed by a policy of incentivised migration of Han Chinese into Tibet.

The Chinese people in Tibet sincerely believe that they are helping the Tibetans by modernising them and bringing them out of the serfdom they suffered under the indigenous government. China has advanced Tibet technologically, but the benefits brought were in order to extract Tibet’s mineral wealth more easily, and benefit the Chinese residents far more than the Tibetans, who are still largely rural serfs. Tibetans are now outnumbered in Tibet by Chinese who have been relocated there.

Plainly it is unreasonable to ask that the Chinese people leave Tibet for good, the mythical Shangri-La has been invaded and there is no going back. What is being asked for now is not a return to the feudal theocracy of before the Chinese invasion, the plea is now simply for a democratic right for the Tibetans to have some rulership over their own country, and for the culture to be allowed to thrive as it has ever since the Buddhist conversion of Tibet in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

The nature of the catastrophe in Tibet leads us to ask for a better way. In 1963 the Dalai Lama promulgated a constitution for a democratic Tibet – it is not backwards that the Tibetan independence movement wishes to go, it is forwards. The Dalai Lama has a 5-point peace plan, including the abandonment of China’s population transfer program, the granting of democratic rights (as well as basic human rights) to the Tibetan people, as well as environmental considerations (China uses Tibet as a nuclear dumping ground) and the transformation of Tibet into a zone of peace (thereby removing the worries of border friction between India and China).

What is horrific about Chinese rule of Tibet is not the rule itself, uncaring as it may be, or the occupation by military, unlawful as it may be might (the UN does not recognise military occupation as grounds for sovereignty). It is the systematic extermination of a unique culture and the terrible abuses by which it is achieved. The repression, brutality and fear used to quash political and cultural dissent in Tibet is the Orwellian boot, stomping on a human face forever. If a culture is eradicated, there is no going back. While Tibetan culture still flourishes in the overlooked areas within Tibet, it is preserved officially only outside Tibet, in Dharamsala or one of the numerous Tibetan cultural associations. Amnye Machen, one such organisation, is typical of the progressive approach to the problems in Tibet. Recognising that the way forward cannot be a step back into the isolation and rigidity of the past system, Amnye Machen sees the injection of modern ideas as the way to vitalise Tibetan culture. I found it singularly appropriate that they translated the works of George Orwell, Vaclav Havel, and other writers critical of communism into Tibetan to provide some context for the abuses going on inside Tibet.

There is a perception among many people I have spoken to that the situation in Tibet has improved within the last 20 years. The reports of atrocities have become less frequent and less extreme as China becomes more secure in its power over Tibet. But the situation is not one of increased tolerance or kindness on the part of the Chinese rulers – rather the spirit of resistance is beginning to falter under the brutality, which has in fact become more repressive within the last 20 years. Less and less information is getting out without official approval. The plight of the Tibetan people is getting more desperate with each new generation raised with no awareness of their traditions. Something needs to be done now.

But what can we do here in New Zealand? The best chance any foreigner has for putting pressure on China to improve its behaviour is indirectly, by getting their government to put human rights on the agenda when discussing trade with China. Every now and then one of China’s trading partners will mention human rights, but will take no action to back up their words and China will do nothing to change its ways. In 1993, for example, Bill Clinton stated that the renewal of China’s Most Favoured Nation trading status would be contingent on improvement in their human rights record. But he failed to act on this promise and the status was renewed with no improvement in China’s actions. The status quo suits the international community quite well, by ignoring the situation in Tibet foreign nations can guarantee continued access to the huge market that China represents. If our governments can be held to their words on the human rights issues in Tibet, there is a real chance for improvement ion the conditions of the Tibetan people. This is what SFT tries to do, through educating people to lobby MPs and to be aware of the human rights issues behind the products they buy.

We also fundraise to support the Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala; especially their political organisations and institutions dedicated to caring for incoming refugees. SFT is throwing a party on the 6th of October at the Jetset Lounge, with Confucius, Mainsauce, Solaa, the Roots & Riddum crew, Insomniac, Odyssey, Megstar, and Nitro. Doors open at 10 p.m., and it finishes at about 5 am. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of lectures, and all proceeds go to the Tibetan children’s village. Tickets are $12 on the door, presales $10 from Cosmic Corner, Galaxy Records, or Wyrd.

If the international attitude towards China can be changed, if countries can be persuaded not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Tibetan people, then there is a very real chance that we can keep our trade with China as well as improving the conditions within Tibet. Change can’t happen without people to make it happen, and everyone can cause a little change. Above all, don’t turn away. The last thing the Tibetan people need is to be ignored.

Report on the conflict between Tibet and China:

Chinese forces invaded and occupied independent Tibet in 1949 . This was an act of unprovoked aggression, and there is no generally accepted legal basis of China’s claim of sovereignty. At the time of the invasion by troops of the People's Liberation Army of China in 1949, Tibet was an independent state in fact and law. The military invasion was a violation of an international law, and constituted an aggression on a sovereign state. Today's continued occupation of Tibet by China, with the help of several hundred thousand troops, represents an ongoing violation of international law and of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people to independence.

Tibet’s history dates back over 2000 years. It was in the Tibetan imperial age, that the country of Tibet was first united under one ruler, and at this point in history there was no dispute over the existence of Tibet as an independent state. The present claim to Tibet by China is based entirely on the influence that the Mongol and Manchuk emperors exercised over Tibet in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries.

As the Mongol Empire expanded in the thirteenth century toward China in the east and Europe in the west, the Tibetan leaders of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism formed an agreement with the Mongol rulers in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable conquest of Tibet. They promised political allegiance, and religious blessings and teachings in exchange for patronage and protection. This religious relationship became very important, as did the racial and cultural affinity between the two groups.

Tibet broke away from the Yuan emperor before China regained its independence from the Mongols with the establishment of the native Ming dynasty. And it was not until the eighteenth century that Tibet once again come under a degree of foreign influence.

The Manchus, who conquered China and established the Qing dynasty in the seventeenth century, embraced Tibetan Buddhism as the Mongols had and developed close ties with the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, who had by then become the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet, agreed to become the spiritual guide of the Manchu emperor. He accepted patronage and protection in exchange.

The "priest-patron" relationship, which the Dalai Lama also maintained with numerous Mongol Khans and Tibetan nobles, was the only formal tie that existed between the Tibetans and Manchus during the Qing dynasty. It did not, in itself, affect Tibet`s independence.

It was the imperial troops sent into Tibet by Manchu emperors to protect the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people from foreign invasion or internal unrest, that brought about a Chinese influence in Tibet between 1720 and 1792. Manchu influence did not last for very long. It was entirely ineffective by the time the British briefly invaded Tibet in I904, and ceased entirely with the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in I911.

From I911 to I950, Tibet successfully avoided undue foreign influence and behaved, in every respect, as a fully independent state. Tibet remained neutral during the Second World War, despite strong pressure from China and its allies, Britain and the U.S.A. The Tibetan government maintained independent international relations with all neighbouring countries, most of whom had diplomatic representatives in Lhasa.

The turning point in Tibet's history came in I949, when the People's Liberation Army of the PRC first crossed into Tibet. After defeating the small Tibetan army, the Chinese government imposed the so-called "I7-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" on the Tibetan government in May I951. Because it was signed under duress, the agreement was void under international law. The presence of 40,000 troops in Tibet, and the prospect of the total obliteration of the Tibetan state left Tibetans little choice.

A treaty was imposed on the Tibetan government in May of that year, acknowledging sovereignty over Tibet but recognizing the Tibetan government's autonomy with respect to Tibet's internal affairs. As the Chinese consolidated their control, they repeatedly violated the treaty and open resistance to their rule grew, leading to the National Uprising in 1959.

In the uprising in 1959, 100,00 Tibetans fled to Nepal and India along with Tibet’s spiritual and temporal ruler the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had spent 10 years of ceaseless but unsuccessful effort to have the Chinese regime recognize the rights of the Tibetan people to live with freedom and dignity.

The destruction of Tibet's culture and oppression of its people was brutal during the twenty years following the uprising. 1.2 million Tibetans, one-fifth of the country's population, died as a result of China's policies; many more were forced to live in the terrible conditions of prisons and labor camps; and in an attempt to destroy Tibets religious faith more than 6000 monasteries, temples and other cultural and historic buildings were destroyed and their contents (irreplaceable jewels of Tibetan culture) pillaged.

Since 1959 the Chinese have wreaked havoc on the delicate ecosystem of Tibet, with massive deforestation, mining, pollution of scared rivers and lakes and most alarmingly using the open nomad plains as nuclear testing and dumping sites. In 1980 Hu Yao Bang, General Secretary of the Communist Party, visited Tibet - the first senior official to do so since the invasion. Alarmed by the extent of the destruction he saw there, he called for a series of drastic reforms and for a policy of "recuperation". His forced resignation in 1987 was said partially to result from his views on Tibet. In 1981, Alexander Solzhenytsin still described the Chinese regime in Tibet as "more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world."

In Tibet today Chinese outnumber Tibetans by as much as three to one in some areas, and everyday countless innocent Tibetans are jailed and tortured for the crime of pursuing their own beliefs. There is no religious freedom in occupied Tibet. No human rights, and no freedom of speech. More than a million Tibetans have died from the Chinese occupation of torture, starvation, and execution. Tibetan women have no rights over their bodies, and nuns are brutally raped in Chinese prisons. The Chinese authorities impose strict controls over Tibetan women’s rights to have children, and they must seek permission to have a family. Failure to do so results in severe penalties including forced sterilisations, forced abortion sometimes up to nine months, and enormous fines often five times an annual income.

There is no economic or educational equality in occupied Tibet. Tibetans are forcibly silenced and discriminated against . There are currently more than 700 political prisoners in Tibet, many arrested for no known reason other than being Tibetan. 5 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the reincarnated Panchen Lama (second highest figure in the Tibetan religious hierarchy) has been abducted by the Chinese, and the world fears for his safety. He is the youngest political prisoner in the world.

Despite forty years of Chinese occupation and various policies designed to assimilate Tibetans and to destroy their separate national, cultural and religious identity, the Tibetan people's determination to preserve their heritage and regain their freedom is as strong as ever. The situation has led to confrontation inside Tibet and to large scale Chinese propaganda efforts internationally. Tibetans continue to protest peacefully, along with supporters of their plight all over the world. 4000 Tibetans continue to flee their homeland to a life in exile every year.

From a legal standpoint, Tibet has to this day not lost its statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation. Neither China's military invasion nor the continuing occupation has transferred the sovereignty of Tibet to China.

Essay written out of personal interest in the issue of a free Tibet

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