Human Rights in Tibet before China’s Invasion or Liberation – ‘The Truth’ about Tibet, the Dalai Lamas and Tibetans

Torture and Execution Ordered by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama

Throughout the time of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, various foreign journalists, officials and explorers visited Tibet and were astounded by the atrocities that met them in place of their expectations of the supposed ‘Shangri-la’. They published accounts of what they saw, and from these works we can gain a more accurate insight into the actual brutality of the theocracy and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s role in it. (Western Shugden Society)

What were the conditions regarding human rights in Tibet before democratic reform?

Before 1959, all except 5 percent of the Tibetan population were slaves or serfs in a feudal system in which they were regarded as saleable private property, had no land or freedom, and were subject to punishment by mutilation or amputation. The serfs were liable to be tortured or killed. Economy and culture were stagnant for centuries, life expectancy was 35.5 years, illiteracy was over 90 percent, 12 percent of Lhasa’s population were beggars, and the Dalai Lama was responsible for all of this. (Booklet published by the Chinese government in 1989)

You can find on the internet quite a lot of accounts which either portray Tibet as a heaven or a hell on earth. The depictions of Tibet as a hell on earth are by far more widespread nowadays—as far as I can see. Also on YouTube there are a lot of videos or documentaries that tell the audience how evil and cruel Tibetans and the Dalai Lamas had been. Sometimes such documentaries are even produced by rather reputable media such as ARD’s magazine “Panorama“¹—a national German TV station.

What is tenable among those many claims about Tibet as a Feudal Serfdom, cruelties such as mutilations and amputations—brutalities for which quite often the Dalai Lamas are accused to be the sole culprits?

Robert Barnett (Columbia University) addressed the above claims by the Chinese government in a book called Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China’s “100 Questions”:

For those interested to deepen their understanding the book Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China’s “100 Questions” might be a good starting point. The publisher, University of California Press, describes it as to offer “clear and unbiased responses to a booklet published by the Chinese government in 1989, which sought to counter the criticism generated by the Dalai Lama and his followers and offer the PRC’s ‘truth’ about Tibet and Tibetans. In Authenticating Tibet, international Tibet scholars provide historically accurate answers to 100 Questions and deal evenhandedly with both China’s ‘truth’ about Tibet and that of the Dalai Lama and his followers. Designed for use by a general audience, the book is an accessible reference, free of the polemics that commonly surround the Tibet question. Although these experts refute many of the points asserted by China, they do not offer blanket endorsements for the claims made by the pro-Tibet movement. Instead, they provide an accurate, historically based assessment of Tibet’s past and its troubled present.”

More about Tibet as a Feudal Hell

The Serfdom in Tibet Controversy

The Tibet-China Conflict: History, Polemics & Propaganda

¹ For more about this Panorama documentary see: