Myth or Reality of Tibet – Part 2

 
 
The largest part of the Tibetan population (more than 90 percent) at that time was composed of serfs, who were treated harshly by the landlords and ruling monks. All monasteries had large tracts of land as well as a great number of serfs under their control. The ruling monks’ exploitation of these serfs was just as severe as that of the aristocratic landlords.
 
Serfs had no personal freedom from birth to death. They and their children were given freely as gifts or donations, sold or bartered for goods. They were, in fact, viewed by landlords as "livestock that can speak." As late as 1943, a high-ranking aristocrat named Tsemon Norbu Wangyal sold 100 serfs to a monk in the Drigung area for only four silver dollars per serf.
 
If serfs lost their ability to work, the lord confiscated all their property, including livestock and farm tools. If they ran away and subsequently were captured, half their personal belongings were given to the captors while the other half went to the lords for whom they worked. The runaways then were flogged or even condemned to death.
 
The lords used such inhuman tortures as gouging out eyes, cutting off feet or hands, pushing the condemned person over a cliff, drowning and beheading.Numerous rebellions occurred over the years against this harsh treatment, and in 1347 alone (the seventh year of Yuan Emperor Shundi’s reign), more than 200 serf rebellions occurred in Tibet.
 
Foreign Aggression
Foreign nations made numerous attempts to invade Tibet and take it away from China. These were repulsed by Chinese troops and Tibetan fighters. The first such invasion took place in 1337 when Mohammed Tugluk of Delhi (in what is now India) sent 100,000 troops into the Himalayan area.
 
During the second half of the 18th century, troops from the Kingdom of Nepal invaded Tibet twice in an attempt to expand Nepal’s territory.
 
During the 19th century, Britain competed with Russia in pouring large sums of money and many spies into a struggle to see which of the two might eventually occupy and control Tibet. When the British finally invaded Tibet, first in 1888 and again in 1903, the Russians were so involved in conflicts at home that they couldn’t stop the British troops from pushing all the way to Lhasa. And the Qing government, having recently lost the Opium War to the British, did nothing either.
 
The Tibetans, using spears, arrows, catapults and homemade guns, fought valiantly but to no avail against the invading British army and its big cannons and machine guns. The British withdrew after imposing "peace" terms and before the harsh winter began because they feared the Tibetan resistance would prevent supplies from getting through to the occupying troops, thereby causing them to starve to death.
 
The British signed a Convention with China in 1906, the second article of which stipulated that the British would no longer interfere with the administration of Tibet and that China had sovereignty over Tibet. But, they conveniently forgot the terms of this agreement when, the very next year, they signed a Convention with Russia that specified British "special interests" in Tibet. It would probably fill a book to detail the many ways the British from that point on tried to take over Tibet and make it a part of their colony of India.
 
Yet, something needs to be said about the conference held at Simla, India, in 1914. Conference participants included representatives of the new Nationalist government of China that had overthrown the Qing Dynasty just two years before, plus Tibetans, and British-Indians. The British had blackmailed the Chinese into attending by threatening to withdraw their recognition of the new nationalist government and by saying they would work out an agreement with the Tibetans alone if the Chinese didn’t participate.
 
The Simla Conference failed because the Chinese and the 13th Dalai Lama both opposed the British plan to divide Tibet into two parts (Inner and Outer Tibet). The conference, however, did produce one document that since has caused dissension — a map drawn by the British representative Arthur H. McMahon that never was shown to the Chinese, although it was revealed secretly to the Tibetan delegates.
 
McMahon’s map showed a new boundary line that included three districts of Tibet — Monyul, Loyul, and Lower Zayul — within the territory of British- India. This so-called "McMahon Line" first became public 23 years later when it appeared in a printed set of British documents related to the conference and other diplomatic matters. The McMahon Line became the basis for India’s failed attempt to take over this part of Tibet in 1962. The British, who made a great show of their desire to have "independence for Tibet" at the Simla Conference, in drawing this map were adding 90,000 square kilometers (an area three times the size of Belgium) from Tibet’s natural territory to their own Indian colony.
 
During and after World War II and shortly before Britain’s departure from India, the American Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S., the forerunner of the C.I.A.), operating under Cold War guidelines, joined the British Foreign Office as the instigator of the Tibetan "freedom movement."
 
Much of what the O.S.S. did in Tibet remains hidden in secret files at C.I.A headquarters near Washington, D.C., but one of their plots has been widely reported. It involved a smear campaign launched against the regent who had been appointed to act for the young 14th Dalai Lama after the 13th Dalai died in 1933. The regent was hostile to U.S.-British intrigues in Tibet, so the O.S.S. spread rumors about his alleged incompetence and criminal activities. Eventually these charges led to the regent’s arrest and murder in a Tibetan prison. The 14th Dalai Lama’s father subsequently was poisoned because he was a friend and supporter of the regent.
 
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About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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