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Free Tibet?

Tibetan independence is sadly little more than an unlikely fantasy. And has been ever since the weakened post war governments of Europe and Asia looked the other way when the Chinese invaded in 1949. Even India, the nation that has arguably done the most for the Tibetan cause since the invasion, was quick to recognise the Chinese claim to sovereignty.

In fact, the only real military aid Tibet received at anytime was from the C.I.A, who, characteristically paranoid that communism would go on to engulf the world, launched a covert attempt to arm and train Tibet’s Khampa warriors (the nomads of eastern Tibet). This rather inadequate effort did little to hinder the progress of the People’s Liberation Army.

China’s claim to Tibet, is at best dubious and dates back to a time when the Mongols had much of Asia under their control (1271 – 1368). During this period the Mongols established a capital on Chinese soil to rule over the lands of their empire. The Chinese claim that Tibet has been a part of China ever since.

The claim makes little sense to most people outside China because by the same token China would also have a legitimate claim to Korea and Vietnam, which were also at one time part of the Mongol empire. And if anybody should be claiming anything, shouldn’t it be the Mongols?

There was little contact between China and Tibet after that until the Quing dynasty (between 1644-1911) when on several occasions China entered the country at the request of the Dalai Lama to help maintain stability. But if this were grounds for a claim, then the U.S.A would have a legitimate claim over any one of the countries they’ve ‘assisted’ over the years. Just don’t tell that idiot in the White House.

In actual fact the claim is so tenuous that the only people worldwide to buy into it are the Chinese, who after so many years of propaganda and brainwashing have convinced themselves that it actually makes sense.

So an independent Tibet is not something that any modern Chinese government is prepared to consider, let alone discuss. Why would they? It’s the principle location of their nuclear weapons, it’s a uranium rich land, and with 3 of the world’s great rivers starting in the Tibetan plateau, it’s a source of fresh water to almost half the planet, something that’s likely to be of considerable importance in the years to come. And with no fundamental security issues in Tibet the West remains unlikely to ever get seriously involved.

But not even the Tibetan Government in Exile are calling for an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama having on more than one occasion stated that it’s in Tibet’s best interests to remain a part of China. Their goal instead, is for some kind of political freedom and autonomy within China.

Although Chinese and Tibetan delegates have resumed talks in recent years the sticking point is that according to the Chinese, Tibet is already autonomous and everything else within the region is hunky dory.

Any kind of true autonomy seems likely to elude the Tibetans for some time to come. But more realistic, and immediately necessary (for the survival of the Tibetan people and culture) goals are those mapped out by the Dalai Lama in the 5 point peace plan that he proposed to the international community in 1987.

These included the restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment; respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights. And most urgently of all the abandonment of China’s massive population transfer policy. Something that’s surmountable to cultural genocide.

Although the government in exile has had huge successes in terms of PR – drumming up support, obtaining celebrity sponsors, and promoting awareness around the world – little has actually changed as a result in Tibet.

Tibetans continue to be treated as an underclass in their own country, locked up indefinitely for expressing an opinion. The countryside goes on being pillaged for the benefit of the People’s Republic, and Beijing continues to flood the country with Chinese immigrants, shifting the ethnic balance, and systematically wiping out a nation and its culture.

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Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of – The Online Egypt Travel Guide