Feudalism and slavery
In Western news media, old Tibet is portrayed as a theocratic kingdom, a Shangri-La, a paradise on earth that was free from the egotistical lifestyles, materialist ambitions, and corruption of modern industrialized society. Contrary to popular belief, old Tibet was an oppressive theocracy.
Before the People’s Liberation Army came into Tibet it was an extremely unequal feudal society where 1-5% of the elite monks and landowners controlled up to 98% of the population. Serfs were considered to have no value, many were treated as commodities among the few elite landowners. The highest monks each owned 35,000 to 40,000 slaves. There was often severe punishment dealt with any serf that dared to challenge the system, routine punishment such as chopping of hand, feet, the gouging off of eyes were common. One 24-year old refugee welcomed Chinese intervention as a “liberation.” He testified that under Tibetan serfdom he was subjected to incessant toil, hunger, and cold.
The monastic estate recruited children as monks between the ages of 6-12, where they were forced to live a lifetime commitment to celibate monasticism and they were made monks without regard to their personality, temperament, or inclination. Other children were recruited as domestic servants, dance performers, and soldiers for the small Tibetan army. Tibet’s army served mainly as enforcers for the landlords to keep order, protect their property, and hunt down runaway serfs.
Needless to say, the old Tibet before China took over, Tibet was the very opposite of the “Paradise on earth” as many have you want to believe if you were, unfortunately, born as a serf, your life is as “close to hell” on earth as it gets.
(http://md.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/zgxz/t554379.htm picture credits)
Flayed skin from a serf
Serf in manual labor while being shackled
Serf with a chopped off a limb for punishment
Tibetan religious leaders and American Intelligence agencies were greatly opposed to the involvement of China in the region. The Tibetan people started to form anti-Chinese protests under the influence of the Dalai Lama. In the early 1950s, the government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received 1.7 million US dollars a year from the CIA.
In 1955, a group of local Tibetan leaders secretly plotted an armed uprising, and rebellion broke out in 1956, with the rebels besieging several Chinese government agencies, killing hundreds of Chinese government staff, and killing many Han Chinese people. In May 1957, a rebel organization and a rebel fighting force were founded and began killing communist officials, disrupting communication lines, and attacking institutions and Chinese army troops stationed in the region.
In 1959, the Central Intelligence Agency inserted paramilitary teams from the Special Activities Division to train and lead Tibetan fighters against the People’s Liberation Army of China. In 1959, the agency opened a secret facility to train Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, where the Tibetans were trained to sabotage operations against the Communist Chinese All the CIA trained Tibetan soldiers left with personal weapons, wireless sets, and a cyanide tablet strapped onto each man’s left wrist. The CIA provided Tibetan rebels with pallets of lethal aid to the resistance including rifles, mortars, grenades, and machine guns.
While the CIA effort never produced a mass uprising against the Chinese occupiers, it did provide one of the greatest intelligence successes of the Cold War, in the form of a vast trove of Chinese army documents captured by Tibetan fighters and turned over to the CIA in 1961.
Not only was the Chinese government aware of the CIA program; in 1992 it published a white paper on the subject.
In 2020, the United States has provided approximately $19 million US dollars for Tibet programs through its Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama himself benefited the most from the old Tibetan theocracy. He lived richly in the 1000-room, 14-story Potala Palace. In the late 1950s, the Agency paid the Dalai Lama $15,000 a month. Those payments came to an end in 1974. Indian intelligence also financed both him and other Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama has been nepotistic, appointing members of his family to many positions of prominence. In recent years, three of the six members of the cabinet, the highest executive branch of the Tibetan government-in-exile, have been close relatives of the Dalai Lama. One of the Dalai Lama’s older brother’s served as the minister of security. He also headed the CIA-backed Tibetan contra movement in the 1960s.
In 1984, the Japanese cult leader Shoko Asahara paid the Dalai Lama around $2 million in exchange for his support of Aum Shinrikyo. This support was instrumental in Shoko Asahara’s cult gaining credibility as a registered religious organization by the Japanese government.
Dalai Lama with cult leader Shoko Asahara
In April 1999, along with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the first George Bush, the Dalai Lama called upon the British government to release Augusto Pinochet and urged that Pinochet not be forced to go to Spain where he was wanted to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
In 1999, when asked if the CIA operation had been harmful to Tibet, The Dalai Lama stated “yes, that is true,” he replied. The intervention was harmful, he suggested because it was primarily aimed at serving American interests rather than helping the Tibetans in any lasting way.
The West’s obsession with Tibet
It is puzzling why Western media glamorizes Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Portraying Tibet as a utopia being attacked by the evil communist China and the Dalai Lama being the rightful ruler.
Does this story sound familiar to anyone? It sounds like how the White European settlers one day invaded America, killed off all the natives who lived in utopia and harmony among each other and took over their land and ruled over their land. I suspect many Americans reading their history try and saw all the crimes their ancestors have done resulted in many feelings of guilt, but it was too late for them to do anything about it, Tibet was a place where they can transfer their feeling where they can “redeem themselves” from their settler guilt.
But it is all too false. Unlike what the real genocide that happened to the Native Americans, whose population decreased by well over 99% since the introduction of European settlers, the Tibetan population has grown from 1.15 million in 1949 to 6.3 million today, this represents a 500% increase in population, as well as doubling life expectancy from 35.5 years from 1959 to 67 years in 2000. The story the corporate media uses for Tibet as an outlet for settler White Guilt is a story too good to be true, but Americans continue to believe it.
Another reason for the obsession with Tibet and its Buddhism religion is in the west’s dissatisfaction with materialism in late-stage capitalism along with the rise of New Age thinking. People are starting to shun material desires and looking toward spirituality for fulfillment. To the West, Tibet is this untouched mysterious land in the far east devoted to culture and spiritual well-being. However, this is far from the truth, the life in theocratic systems in Tibet, Sir Lanka, Thailand were oppressive, abusive, and dehumanizing. Tibetan Buddhism is no exception from the hierarchical power structures, sexism, and greed the plagues other religions.
Why do so many Westerners see Tibetan Buddhism as something pure? This is mostly due to projection. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs, as the Tibetan lama, Dagyab Kyabgon Rinpoche puts it, “The concept of ‘Tibet’ becomes a symbol for all those qualities that Westerners lacking: joie de vivre, harmony, warmth, and spirituality… Tibet thus becomes a utopia, and Tibetans become noble savages.” Western losers have ransacked Tibetan Buddhism in search of the holy grail of self-meaning.
Is there genocide in Tibet?
The last reason the media frenzy around Tibet exists is that there is a geopolitical competition between the United States and China for the global superpower. As China surpasses the United States the US intelligence apparatus and corporate media will make up any lies, exaggerate any false truth, and fabricate any information to cast China as a villain. These stories of genocide and cultural imperialism about Tibet are the same stories they peddle out for Xinjiang, Hong Kong, etc.
Christian fundamentalist Adrian Zenz has claimed that Tibetans are being forced into labor camps.
Zenz believes he has a “mission” against China, heavenly guidance has prompted Zenz to denounce homosexuality, gender equality, and the banning of physical punishment against children as threats to Christianity.
A 2019 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article described Zenz’s research methods on Tibetans as being unconventional and arousing little interest in the professional world. The article stated that Zenz had analyzed job postings for security personnel in Tibet, compared them with data on self-immolation by Tibetans, and then used that data to draw his conclusions about the Chinese government’s policies of repression.
What is China doing?
On May 23, 1951, the People’s Republic of China and Tibet signed the Sino-Tibetan agreement, which allowed China to station troops in Tibet and handled its international affairs. In exchange, China would not alter or affect the current government in Tibet, nor affect the status and authority of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. The People’s Republic abolished slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the many crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established secular schools, thereby breaking the educational monopoly of the monasteries, and constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa.
In 1961, Chinese authorities expropriated the landed estates owned by landlords and lamas. They distributed many thousands of acres to tenant farmers and landless peasants, reorganizing them into hundreds of communes. Herds once owned by nobility were turned over to collectives of poor shepherds. Improvements were made in the breeding of livestock, and new varieties of vegetables and new strains of wheat and barley were introduced, along with irrigation improvements, all of which reportedly led to an increase in agrarian production.
In 1980, the Chinese government initiated reforms reportedly designed to grant Tibet a greater degree of self-rule and self-administration.
The life expectancy of the people in Tibet increased from 35.5 years before 1959 to 68.2 years now. In 2018, Tibet’s GDP reached 147.76 billion yuan (22 billion U.S. dollars), about 191 times more than 1959.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for continued efforts to build a “new modern socialist” Tibet “that is united, prosperous, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.” China is planning a more than 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) push to accelerate infrastructure investment in Tibet.
Out of so many injustices in the world, why does China get so much coverage? Where is the media coverage of the massacre of Muslims in India? The government repression in Bahrain? What about the media coverage of the poverty-stricken lives of the Native Americans in the US? When was the last time US media had any sympathy towards the mistreatment of Palestinians?
Was Tibet a Sovereign nation that was invaded by China?
If you go back in history, all territories are governed by indigenous people, and if you go back far enough, you can indeed claim that Tibet was an independent sovereign nation. However historically speaking, at least for the last 1000 years (Well before the existence of USA) since the Yuan Dynasty, Tibet has on and off either been part of China itself or being a client state of China, the history is very complicated which I won’t go into, but if you are interested, they are plenty of unbiased books on the subject of history China and Tibet. Just to make an illusion.
Here is a map of the Chinese Yuan Dynasty, Circa 1280
Here is the last Imperial Dynasty of China, the Qing Dynasty Circa 1789
And in contrast and comparison, here is the map of the USA in the same year 1789
If one were to argue that Tibet historically has been a sovereign and independent nation therefore it deserves independence today, then one can also argue that the United States of America today has no claim over the land of California/Nevada/Oregon/Utah + dozen other States whatsoever. Based on the same logic, one can also argue that dozens of nations that exist today as a result of European colonialism have no right to exist! Australia and New Zealand for example.
During the transition period of the fall of the Qing Empire in 1911 to the Establishment of the modern People’s Republic of China, China for decades faced a time of crisis, where it was assailed with European colonialism, Japanese invasion that resulted in 20 million dead, and a period of Warlordism which dozens of individual each control different parts of China, and it was during this brief period China that did lose direct administration of Tibet, but China nor any nation outside of China during this time ever recognize Tibet as a fully sovereign nation. Therefore it was only fitting that after China got its act together by ending the civil war it would seek to unify and regain direct administrative control of all territory of China, including the Tibet province. Just as during the American Civil war, the federal government never recognized the sovereignty of the Southern Confederate and would seek to continue the administration over the whole territory. So why the double standards on China?