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1. Tibet was invaded by Chinese forces in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a direct result of the occupation, over 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed, and thousands of Tibetans have been imprisoned and tortured for their political or religious beliefs.

2. Forceful annexations are a violation of international law. Article 2, section 4 of the United Nations Charter expressly prohibits annexation by force. Under the Charter, member states are to respect peoples' right to self-determination; Tibetans have a right to this as set forth in Article 1, section 2 of the Charter.

3. Tibet is an independent country now occupied by the People's Republic of China, and struggles to regain its independent status. While the Chinese government claims that Tibet has always been part of China, historical evidence supports otherwise. Tibetans have a distinct culture, religion, and political system. As an independent state, Tibet had a sovereign government, currency, postal system, language, laws, and customs. Prior to 1951, the Tibetan government had also signed treaties with foreign nations including Britain, Mongolia, and Nepal.

4. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibet's political and spiritual leader, fled Tibet in 1959. He escaped to India and established the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala. It is estimated that 130,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile around the world, including about 6,000 in the United States and Canada. In this world of violence, the Tibetans, whom as Buddhists are devoted to principles of nonviolence and compassion, continue in their predominantly nonviolent struggle for freedom.

5. Tibet is a vast country with a land mass roughly equal to all of Western Europe, or 3 times the size of the state of Texas. Most of the Tibetan plateau lies above 14,000 feet. Tibet is the source of seven of Asia's greatest rivers which provide water for 2 billion people. Since 1959, the Chinese have endangered Tibet's fragile environment through strip-mining, nuclear waste disposal, and extensive deforestation, so serious that both regional and global climatic patterns may be impacted. The deforestation has already greatly exacerbated floods along the Yangtse River, for example, killing thousands of people and livestock and destroying millions of acres of farmland and homes in the summer of 1998. Scores of species have been eliminated, and others remain on the brink of extinction due to poaching. Tibet's most sacred lake, the Yamdrok Tso, is currently being drained for a government hydroelectric power plant. And the Chinese government is moving forward on plans to complete a railroad from China to Lhasa.

6. The Tibetan Autonomous Region (T.A.R.) today covers only a fraction of what was once the nation of Tibet. The Chinese government divided Tibet into many regions and prefectures: The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) - which was defined in 1965 - encompasses only the central, western, and some of the eastern regions of Tibet. Well over half of Tibet's original territory - including the whole of Amdo and much of Kham - has been absorbed into China proper (Qinghai province, and parts of Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan).

7. Throughout China, human rights abuses continue today. The Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 is only one example of government crackdowns and policies that continue to oppress personal and collective freedoms. It is estimated that there are as many as 20 million Chinese working in prison labor camps. In 1998, it was revealed that prison officials have been extracting blood and organs from prisoners to sell on the open market. Forced prison labor, arbitrary arrests, and the imposition of the death penalty for minor offenses continues.

8. In Tibet today, there is no freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly, and arbitrary arrests continue. According to human rights organizations, there are currently between 1,200 political prisoners in Tibet, including: a Fulbright scholar named Ngawang Choephel; the ten-year-old Panchen Lama (a highly revered religious figure in Tibet) who was 'disappeared' by Chinese authorities in 1995; and hundreds of other monks, nuns, and lay people.  

9. The Chinese Government's policies of forced abortions, sterilization, and population transfer of thousands of Chinese citizens into Tibetan territories threaten the very survival of the Tibetan people and civilization Chinese settlers outnumber Tibetans in most urban areas and many rural areas, making Tibetans a minority in their own country. Meanwhile, thousands of Tibetans continue to flee from occupied Tibet, making the treacherous journey over mountain passes and into the uncertain world of exile.

10. Development in Tibet has not benefited the Tibetans. Agricultural 'development' projects in the 1950's and 1960's resulted in massive famines and loss of life, and current ones remain questionable at best. While China has spent millions of dollars building infrastructure in Tibet, many of the roads, buildings, and power plants directly support the government's militarization of the plateau. Individual movement within Tibet remains restricted and modern Tibet resembles a military state, with thousands of police and troops stationed in and around urban areas, where only seldom do the jobs or economic opportunities created by 'development' benefit the average Tibetan.

11. Tibet's mineral resources are a boon to China's industrial development. The world's largest uranium and borax deposits, one half of the world's lithium, the largest copper deposits in Asia, enormous iron deposits, and over 80,000 gold mines - in sum, 40% of the mineral resources claimed by China, are found on Tibetan soil. Tibet's forests are the largest timber reserve at China's disposal; as of 1980, an estimated $54 billion worth of trees had been felled and taken by China (and still today a Tibetan can be arrested for taking one tree) Tibet also contains some of the largest oil reserves in the region.

12. Money isn't the answer. Despite the assertion by the US Government that the presence of US businesses in China would improve conditions there, things have recently only gotten worse. A U.S. State Department study for 1998 showed that the human rights situation in China, and especially Tibet, was grave. Furthermore, the 1997 report of the International Commission of Jurists on Tibet shows that China continues to practice a policy of genocide against Tibetans in Tibet.

13. Major corporations from around the world continue to do business with China, and so fund this repressive regime. U.S. politicians are reluctant to impose any trade sanctions on China because China represents a large market potential and business (and conglomerates such as the U.S. China Business Council) has a strong lobby. To promote trade, the U.S. government de-linked human rights from trade to facilitate the extension of the Most Favored Trade status to China. The fact that China has a growing trade surplus with the U.S. means the U.S. is more important to China than China is to the United States.

14. The world community has done very little to pressure China to improve its human rights record. Though the United Nations passed resolutions regarding Tibet in 1959, 1960, and 1965, there has since been a deafening silence on the issue. China took Taiwan's place as a member state of the United Nations, gaining a permanent seat on the Security Council in 1971. Member nations of the UN have since not mustered the political will to successfully confront China on the issue of Tibet; in the 1999 Human Rights Commission session in Geneva, the Commission again failed to pass any resolution condemning- or even calling into question- China's human rights record.

15. Negotiations for a change. Systematic human rights violations and policies which amount to genocide, environmental degradation, and restrictions on personal freedoms are symptoms of a greater problem needing a political solution. In order to nonviolently resolve the situation in Tibet, there must be negotiations without preconditions between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and the Chinese leadership. Only through substantive dialogue can meaningful progress be made.

Time is running out for the people of Tibet. Check out these addresses, and demand that top government officials create a change for Tibet.

The time to take action is now!

Contact ustc@igc.org to find out more about how you can become involved.

[ photo | nancy jo johnson ]

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