As the commemoration of the Lhasa Uprising on March 10 draws near we thought it a good opportunity to address a common perception of Tibetans as a peaceful people whose Buddhist culture is dedicated to non-violence. This view has taken hold in parallel with the global popularity and respect of the Dalai Lama. While there’s much truth in that understanding it’s less well known that Tibetans were engaged in a bloody war-of-resistance against Chinese rule in Tibet from 1956 to 1974. A very different story indeed to the narrative pushed by China’s regime of a failed uprising in Lhasa in 1959!
The Tibetan resistance was born from the unimaginable tryanny and horrors China’s so-called reforms had brought to eastern Tibet, in its first year tentative contact was made by the nephew of Gombo Tashi (who headed the guerilla movement) with US officials in Calcutta, India. The CIA was to begin its role in supporting and training Tibetans, with the last airdrop of supplies falling into the Tibetan border region of Mustang in 1965. By 1971 President Nixon had reached an accord with Chairman Mao, the brave fighters of Tibet were abandonded.
The limited support was always conditional to the political interests of the United States, it no longer served the agenda of Nixon, Kissinger and the State Department to offer aid to the armed struggle against China. It was though not a fatal demise, the hope of Tibet’s national freedom continued and today still fuels Tibetan protests against Chinese rule. March 10 is a day on which those brave Tibetans, who sacrificed their lives for Tibet’s independence are honored.