CHINESE FORCES gather as part of the communist Chinese government’s invasion of Tibet in October 1950. This invasion was the chief node in the Chinese government’s plan to assimilate Tibet into China. Even before 1950, China and Tibet’s relationship was fraught with cartographic anxieties and debates, in which China claimed Tibet as its territory while the latter maintained that it has been an independent nation.
In early October 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army crossed the Jinsha River, after months of fruitless negotiations, and overpowered Tibetan forces. Shortly after, Tibetan representatives arrived in Beijing with a 17-point accord. The Chinese response was that Tibet could modernise at its own pace as long as it embraced a Chinese identity. With no opportunity to consult with their government, the delegates were coerced into signing this agreement. Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, later distanced himself from the agreement. But the signing had altered Tibet’s trajectory as it acknowledged its identity as Chinese and reshaped the course of its history.
In 1956, Tibetan militia began fighting land-reform experiments prescribed by China and, when hostilities spread to Lhasa three years later, Gyatso fled Tibet for refuge. Over the next decade, around eighty thousand Tibetans followed Gyatso across the Himalayas into India. In 1961, United Nations General Assembly resolution publicly identified this mass migration as testament to the abuse of human rights in Tibet.
The repercussions of the 1950 invasion of Tibet are still being felt, as Tibetans continue to be one of the most prominent displaced diasporas in Asia. The Tibetan government in exile, the Central Tibetan Administration, continues to demand autonomy, independent status and religious freedom from China.