Tibet: A Great Fear of Losing Identity

I would like to start my blog with the history of Tibet because it is a very important aspect of any country when trying to understand their particular culture. It is important to be aware of the real struggle the Tibetan people have gone through for many years.

We can begin with the 19th and 20th century; a period in history when Tibet underwent many changes:

1895 – Dalai Lama XIII – announced (de-facto) that Tibet is an independent Government, not belonging to the Chinese Government.

1950 – Communist Party of China, led by Mao Tse-Tung, entered Tibet and crushed the smaller Tibetan Army. They took over control of Tibet, and demanded that they accept new Chinese power and occupation of their territory. Unfortunately for Tibet, in 1951 they were forced to sign the Tibetan-Chinese agreement and Tibet became a National autonomous region, under the rule of the Communist Party.

1959 – Dalai Lama XVI and other political activists leave Tibet and move to India as refugees in order to avoid being killed. Most of the Dalai Lama’s followers had to leave Tibet with him.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Army destroyed most of the temples in Tibet, which lead to the discussion of the violation of human rights.

From 1987 until today, there have been many protests and uprisings surrounding human rights issues. Particularly in 2008, right before the Olympic games in Beijing.  Global attention was focused on the Tibetans lack of rights to travel to other cities and countries.

Unfortunately, today the situation stays much the same. Local people in Tibet struggle for their rights and because they no not hold Chinese passports, it is made very hard for them to obtain visas to other countries. Their national flag, anthem and other national symbols are strictly prohibited as well as celebration Tibetan holidays. Tibetan Buddhism is very different from all other types of Buddhism, so it is seen as a threat, and all the followers are physically punished for it.

Today, tourism in Tibet is very popular, and brings more than 15 million tourists each year. People travel there for many reasons: some of them are looking for relaxation, for spending some time away from the crowded cities, for religious purposes, etc. That was the way as I have pictured Tibet until I began my research. Today, more and more people, especially young Chinese travelers are going there for the purpose of adventure. Tibetan people complain that many Chinese tourists are very rude to them and disrespect their privacy by taking pictures of them on the street without asking their permission. On the one hand, the Government sees the positive aspect of mass tourism because it increases the employment rate, creates better infrastructure and so on, but on the other hand, Tibetans are afraid of loosing their uniqueness, their culture and religion, and with that, their rights. That’s why there are so many protests going on now; they do not want to loose their identity and to become a place for the adventure mass tourism. That way, not many people will come there for the relaxation and religious purposes, for meeting the local population and exchanging knowledge. Also, by the rapid increase of tourists, Tibet will have to adapt to the culture of foreigners who arrive without any respect for the local culture. Many unique attractions in Tibet are already in danger of being destroyed by mass tourism. Unfortunately, each time Tibetans try to express their obviously negative opinion on the current state of affairs, they find themselves in prison. The Government reaction is very aggressive even on the small peaceful actions of locals; they are all accused of “separatism” (act that can damage Communism), which is a very serious offence that can lead to the life sentence of death penalty.

Those are the main causes of mass protests in Tibet. People have only two options; either they express their opinion and are tortured or killed, or they set themselves on fire in protest and die for the freedom. Today, they believe that they have nothing to loose. There are already more than 140 people who burnt themselves; some of whom were only 15-16 years old.

I believe that everything is in our hands – in the hands of travelers. If we participate in this solution all together, we will be able to stop mass tourism in order to show the respect to locals. I hope that one day the sustainable tourism will appear in Tibet and will help to protect Tibet’s beauty and uniqueness. We, as tourists, can stop it; it is not too late.

If you are very interested in learning more about this situation in Tibet or of the country’s history, you can follow the links below:

http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/culture_clash_-_tourism_in_tibet.pdf – interesting report on the situation in Tibet

http://freetibet.org/about/self-immolation-protests

http://freetibet.org/about/human-rights

(Daria Zaborovetc)

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6 thoughts on “Tibet: A Great Fear of Losing Identity

    1. Thank you very much Maggie 🙂
      I did not think about those issues in Tibet and I did not even understand why there are so many protests are going on now, but when I started to do my research, I realized how terrible the situation is.
      I had so much information to say about Tibet, but I realized that it would have been a lot for one blog.
      Hope to have a chance to post another blog about Tibet and to discover how wonderful that place is, so people can make the right chose when they travel. I want them to realize how it is important to respect local people when travelling to the other country.
      (Daria Zaborozetc)

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s very interesting to read this article. Before reading it, I didn’t know much about those negative things about Tibet. I really felt sad about what I read. However, I might have some opposite opinions about what happened in Tibet. I come from China, so maybe I have different perceptions.
    As a Chinese, what I’ve learned about the history of Tibet is that in 1895, although Dalai Lama XIII announced that Tibet is an independent government, the Chinese government didn’t admit that. In fact, China had taken over control of Tibet since Yuan Dynasty (1271). Tibet is now a National autonomous region and Dalai Lama is still the head of Tibet, but it is a part of China.
    About the tourism in Tibet, I also read about some of those inappropriate behaviors of tourists. I felt really bad. However, when you look at the big picture, it’s only a small amount of tourists doing inappropriate acts in Tibet. I also took a look at the links you put under the article. The pictures that they put in the article are true, but those are really just a small part. I also have friends who had been to Tibet, and they actually didn’t see many of the bad things that you mentioned. Instead, they really enjoyed the trip and took a lot of beautiful pictures.
    Tibet is really a beautiful and must see place to visit in China. I hope those negative things that you mentioned in your article could be prohibited and every tourist should protect and respect the destination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much Shuxuan for your comment and for your interest in this blog post. It is very interesting what you have said, and of course I respect your opinion on this situation in Tibet. Unfortunately, I have never been to Tibet or China itself, but I came from the city that is on the border with China and have heard a lot about Tibet even from Chinese people who were coming to my hometown. I am also doing my semester project about Tibet and Western China, so when I started to do my reaserch, I based my opinion on what I have read or heard about those issues that are going on there. Tibet is a such historically and culturally significant place. And I feel so upset about Tibet because for some reasons the Government prohibits Tibetan people to celebrate their local holidays, they are not allowed to have their own flag or any other symbols. Their religion is not supported by the Government because lots of their temples were destroyed by Chinese army during the Revolution period. I feel it is unfair. There are so many monks who put themselves on fire because they just could not stand this unfairness. I think everyone deserves being unique and different from the others, same with Tibet, they want to keep their identity but sometimes it is just impossible with all restrictions that they have.
      I absolutely agree with you that not all tourists are disrespectful and have this negative attitude towards the locals, but it is still sad that there are people like this who destroyes the image of all the tourists who visit the country.
      I know that tourism can help Tibet become a better place, but I just hope that it will not have a negative impact on the region itself, on its culture and uniqueness.
      Thank you very much again for your opinion, it is very important for me to know what people think about it because as you know there is no right or wrong opinion, it is all about perception.
      (Daria Zaborovetc)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very interesting article.
    I never knew about the issues concerning Tibet. I never learnt about Tibet, only that it was the home of the Dalai Lama and it was governed by China.
    It’s sad to see their identity being striped from them and their country being turned into a mass tourism destination. It really makes you think about the people living in the destination that you are visiting, as a tourist we all have the responsibility to respect the local culture and way of life.
    (Maria Langill)

    Like

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