Burdens of Tibet

Asia was in 2014 based on the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK) Conflict Barometer for 2014 report accounted for the most conflicts among five regions in the world with a total of 127, thus covering almost 30 percent of all conflicts in 2014.

A Tibet issue even after 65 years remains a controversy in China and around the world. Starting year of conflict for autonomy, system, ideology and resources is 1950. The situation is defined by HIIK as a conflict at the stage three out of fife as a violent crisis.


Source: BBC

How many more monks and citizens must set it on fire to reach an agreement that would satisfy both sides? How many protests must end up exiled, killed, detained or imprisoned? How many swift and extreme responses to the actions of Tibetans will we see from China’s government in the future?

The last year, China’s government published 16 new rules to prevent self-immolations and establishing collective penalties for families and supporters of self-immolators. Drills on how to stop self-immolation has been going on in this region. Severe restrictions were imposed on Tibetan religion and culture. Many private schools for monks were forced to close their doors, based on accusation of encouragement of separatism, furthermore, many campaigns against Buddhist monasteries were seen and many needed to pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party.

China is concerned over its security and sovereignty. One need to have in mind that Tibet independence could inspire other similar movements in China such as Taiwan, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. Tibet represents also a buffer zone from foreign influence. Even though the overall economic situation in Tibet has improved as China’s leaders are pointing out, many problems regarding finding a job as a Tibetan have been raised. Speculation that Han immigrants in this region get the most of the China economic help and therefor little political, working and culture freedom remain for Tibetans that are in majority living in poverty have been pointed out in recent years. Marginalization of ethnic Tibetans and economic benefit for Chinese residents is a common thing in Tibet. Beijing stance is that Tibetan communities enjoy a great deal of autonomy and that economic growth is the biggest in the history. Different interpretation of history and real situations are seen.

Freedom House that measures freedom in the world, this year ranked Tibet on the worst place possible and gave Tibet status not free with worst freedom, political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House reported of 11 Tibetans self-set on fire the numbers are declining from previous years. This has resulted in communication blackouts, “patriotic education”, campaigns, travel restrictions, and intrusive controls on monasteries. Decision making power is concentrated in the hands of ethnic Chinese officials. All political activity outside the Chinese Communist Party is forbidden and punished. Fears of cultural assimilation are rising. International broadcast is jammed and communication is enabled with periodical confiscation of equipment. Online restrictions exist and are even greater as in other part of China’s rule. Many have been arrested because of transmitting banned information. Foreign journalists have been prevented from entering Tibetan areas where special permission for entrance is needed. Harassment and threatening to journalists is not unusual thing. Furthermore ideological education campaigns are happening in the region. Participants must recognize a claim that China “liberated” Tibet and to denounce the Dalai Lama. People are forced to participate in discussions, singing sessions and propaganda film screenings. Some topics are prevented from discussion and education system. Nongovernmental organizations operate under highly restrictive government policies. Judicial system in Tibet is highly criticized. Without imposing the rule of law torture is widespread. Disappearance, arrests, no legal presentation for Tibetans, uninformed families of detainees are just some of the areas and questions that needs urgent improvements.

So far many possible solutions of conflict were suggested. Some Tibetans want total independence, some just autonomy under Chinas rule with violent or nonviolent means. How will ethnic and religious conflict end is in the hands of officials. Official dialogue between Lhasa or Dalai Lama and Beijing is needed with or without outside mediation and help. With United Nations handicap because of possible China veto on resolutions as permanent member we must not forget the important role of Nobel Prize winner Dalai Lama that could help in resolving the conflict. Failure to address these problems will lead to greater tensions, no real improvement for Tibetans and also blocking political and economic engagement with the outside world. Will the people of Tibet live to see freedom of expression, culture and worship?

Teja Palko
Teja Palko
Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.