Tibet is a territory which China claims to be a historic part of China and has occupied since 1949.

The culture and language of the Tibetans however is different from those of China. If Tibet ever had a suzerain it was Mongolia whose kings instituted the office of Dalai Lama and which still follows the same religion.

Tibet, partly because of its location on a high mountain plateau and also because of government policy, was inaccessible from the west until the mid 20th century.

For about a century until 1949, with the proclamation of the People's Republic, China was too weak to assert control. From the Chinese revolution in 1911 the Central government's power grew particularly weak as for practical purposes China broke up into warring parts under war lords similar, but on a larger scale, to the recent Lebanese situation.

Tibetan people on the other hand have never regarded themselves as part of China. The most they have accepted is a feudal relation with, in pre-modern times, a small Chinese presence. Since 1949 China has stationed troops and police, destroyed the religious institutions and forbidden most ceremonies. Large numbers of Chinese have been settled in Tibet, especially in the eastern provinces and also in Lhasa.

The Dalai Lama has requested that resistance to the Chinese be conducted non-violently, according to the Buddhist religion. There are signs, however, that some Tibetans inside the country are beginning to use arms.

In March and April 2008 there have been demonstrations in Tibet protesting about the Chinese oppression of the native Tibetans. These demonstrations have resulted in arrests and killings by Chinese military and police. They have been emulated around the world in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games to be held in Summer 2008. Demonstrations have greeted the Olympic Flame wherever it has been exhibited (outside China itself).

Last revised 11/04/08


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