Genocide in Tibet

 Tsering Say (UWCAC, Tibet ’13-’15)

“One out of every six Tibetans were killed by the Chinese when they invaded Tibet in 1949, with many more besides injured and exiled.”

Around 1.2 million Tibetans were slaughtered in the Tibetan genocide of 1949 to 1959, which were the bloodiest years in Tibetan history (Gyaltsen). One out of every six Tibetans were killed by the Chinese when they invaded Tibet in 1949, with many more besides injured and exiled. Some may say that the world community did all it could against a world power like China in this genocide, and its recourse afterwards of standing by without action while human rights were violently violated en masse in Tibet was the best and most viable policy at the time. However, those who assume that the world community did all it could to effectively aid the situation in Tibet are mistaken. The world did not react appropriately to the genocide in Tibet from 1949 to 1959; it turned a blind eye to the multiple human rights violations, and some countries even declared Tibet a suzerain state of China (Norbu 166). This genocide concerns the rights of humanity. The world lives by certain moral standards enforced by the United Nations, and therefore has the duty to investigate any areas suspected of transgressing upon these standards. One such standard is that of human rights, and many transgressions of said standard have been recorded inside Tibet during the genocide. Though the world community currently appears to support the Tibetan cause for human rights and self-determination, the global backlash against China’s barbaric invasion when it happened was minimal, and secretive at best. Combined with the fact that world governments today still only urge consideration of Tibetan rights and do not take steps to enforce Chinese respect for basic human rights, it becomes clear that the world community’s response to the Tibetan genocide was and continues to be ineffective.

The world community says that it supports the Tibetan cause, yet takes little practical action. Words are often twisted by politics to show sympathy for a cause, but give no official backing to it. This is clearly seen in discussion of Tibet in the modern world. The top human rights official of the United Nations, Navi Pillay, stated that “she was disturbed by reports of detentions, disappearances and the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, as well as curbs on Tibetans’ cultural rights,” and had had several talks with the Chinese government on this issue, without any visible progress (Cumming-Bruce). The happenings inside Tibet are known to some, including Pillay, but action is not taken to stop them. Pillay may acknowledge this, yet her discussions with the Chinese government has not garnered progress on the Tibetan front. Sooner to the genocide, the United Nations voted, ten years after the invasion of Tibet, to “express its grave concern over the alleged suppression of human rights in Tibet” (Parrott). As an ambulatory clause, it did not have an effect. Again, a powerful party acknowledges the situation in Tibet, but ignores it in practice. The United Nations then attempted to debate China’s human rights record “with specific mention of Tibetans,” but on many occasions many delegates’ “voted ‘not to take a vote’ on the proposed resolutions passed by significant margins,” blocking discussion of the Tibetan issue (Noakes). Though delegates debated and spoke about human rights in Tibet, many declined to vote and therefore take larger action. They took the easier way of armchair philosophy by not gathering new information or acting upon what they knew, but theorizing upon what had happened in the Tibetan genocide. In the end, while international law sanctioned by the United Nations decried genocide and attempted to uphold global justice,  “the world’s governments [stood] by, virtually without action” to more than 40 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet and its cultural genocide (Herzer).

World governments today still only urge consideration of Tibetan rights and do not take steps to enforce Chinese respect for basic human rights. Since 1970, formal and informal talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile to resolve the issue of Tibet’s independence and status have periodically taken place over the “last twenty-five years, with no real resolution” (Rabgey and Sharlho 60), yet other countries do not take action in facilitating these talks.

Whatever practical action against China’s invasion was secretive and at a minimum. The United States chose to help the Tibetans rebel against the Chinese by recruiting Tibetan refugees and exiles from India and Nepal in the mid 1950s. They were flown to an unpopulated military base at an altitude close to Tibet’s, high in the Colorado mountains to be “trained in the fine points of paramilitary warfare” (Blum 25). The idea was that the trainees would instigate rebellion against China from inside Tibet, but the plan never came to fruition (Blum 25). The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funded this whole project because it feared the spread of communism with the advent of Chinese invasion, but dropped it when Nixon started talks with China about trade. This burgeoning rebellion was largely for the benefit of the United States of America, and was kept secret from the rest of the world. Britain considered “China’s status in Tibet [as] suzerain, but on the condition that Tibet was autonomous” after China’s invasion of Tibet (Norbu 166). They did not react diplomatically or militarily to the invasion. In fact, the boldest move made by a member of the world community in support of Tibet was prompted by Nehru, then-Prime Minister of India, who opened India’s borders to Tibetan refugees and “offered to use [Dharamsala] as a base of operations for the Tibetan Government in Exile” (“Dharamsala”). The exiled government still uses Dharamsala as its base of operations today, and exiles still travel from Tibet to India here.

World governments may have once advocated examination of transgressions upon Tibetan human rights, but they did not physically champion the Tibetan issue against China during the genocide. If they did, the backlash against the invasion was clandestine and difficult to pin back to any one country, and minimal. If this slight hypocrisy is taken into consideration with the fact that the world community appears to currently espouse the Tibetan cause but does not move to uphold its words about moral standards of human rights in Tibet, the ineffectiveness of the world community’s response to the genocide in Tibet is clarified. Some countries may have done more than others in helping Tibet, yet even then their motives were largely politically-fueled. Other countries debated and delegated to world summits about topics on Tibet, yet failed to reach an official consensus, or even a vote.  There are some who would argue that the world community could not protect every facet of the world with its idealistic agenda of a world free from human rights transgressions, so the small involvement of the world in Tibet is excusable. This is patently false. Wherever humans are in jeopardy of being eradicated, every human must focus his or her attention on that region. Basic humanity demands it. Even now, Tibet loses its sense of culture and individualism to China’s relentless supply of propaganda. One out of six Tibetans were killed by the Chinese in the invasion of 1949 Monasteries, cultural centers of Tibet, are shut down as the state-sponsored transfusion of Han Chinese marginalizes Tibetans in their own homeland. Peaceful protests and writing essays against the Chinese regime earns beatings and years in prison. It is clear from that though many countries and organizations may reprimand China on the point of human rights when it treating with Tibet, they do not take action against China’s multiple transgressions on human rights against the Tibetan people.

Works Cited

Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. London:

Zed Books. 2003. Vrij Historisch Onderzoek. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <>.

Cumming-Bruce, Nick. “U.N. Rights Official Faults China on Tibetan Suppression.” New York

Times. New York Times, 2 Nov. 2012. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Dharamsala Guide.” Worldbridges. Worldbridges. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.


Gyaltsen, Nima. “China’s Tibet.” Washington Post 22 June 1998: A20. Global Issues In Context.

Database. 25 Feb. 2013.

Herzer, Eva. “Occupied Tibet: The Case in International Law.” Tibet Justice Center. Tibet Justice

Center. 31 Jan. 2001. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. .

Noakes, Stephen. “Transnational advocacy networks and moral commitment: the free Tibet

campaign meets the Chinese state.” International Journal 67.2 (2012): 507+. Database. 6 Mar. 2013.

Norbu, Dawa. China’s Tibet Policy. Mitcham, Surrey: Curzon, 2001. Print.

Parrott, Lindesay. “U. N. VOTE ASSAILS TIBET REPRESSION; Assembly, by 45-9, Deplores        vvvvvvChinese Curbs on Rights U. N. VOTE ASSAILS TIBET REPRESSION.” New York vvvvvvvTimes New York Times, 22 Oct. 1959. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

-The United Words Team-

2 thoughts on “Genocide in Tibet

  1. China must be held accountable for cultural genocide in Tibet. It is still possible for the international community to take action.
    China can be made vulnerable if people cease to buy Chinese made products and food items. China needs to export to survive but the truth of the matter is that most of the world can live without Chinese imports.

    1. First of all, the video proves nothing mentioned in this article. Second of all, Tibet has been a province of China since the Yuan Dynasty when Mongolians invaded almost all of East Asia in the 13th century. So the word “invasion” does not apply here. Third of all, the many casualties between 1949-1959 were due to the large and widespread famine that devastated the entire country, and many Tibetans also died in armed conflicts with the newly established CCP. People, please first understand the definition of “genocide” before you believe in the words of the Dalai Lama, because all he ever wanted was to separate Tibet from China to form the country of Tibet so that he can gain true political power. There was no need of a genocide, and the so-called genocide is a hoax.

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