Today in History: The Dalai Lama Goes Into Exile

Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama | Hsitory

Even the date of the beginning of the China-Tibet conflict is debatable, depending on where you look. We’re sure you’ve heard of this, as it has often been in the news over the last fifty years.

The Dalai Lama is a key figure in the conflict between Tibet and China, and has been since the 1950s. If you’re completely new to the topic of Tibet, then you might not know that the Dalai Lama is actually a position and not really the name of one man. Tensin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama and has been since 1940.

On this day in 1959, the current Dalai Lama fled Tibet to India where he was granted asylum. Now the question for those of us that are unfamiliar with the situation is this: What’s going on and why did he have to flee?

What it all comes down to, in the simplest of terms, is that Tibet sometime in the past was an independent, sovereign nation, outside of China’s control. Historians disagree when exactly that was, but since 1959 China has had an iron grip on the region. China’s rule has been controversial, with massacres and tragedies left and right during the entire time.

The people of the region of Tibet, for quite obvious reasons, have rebelled against the rule of the People’s Republic of China. And they have done so in many ways. From self-immolation (setting yourself on fire) to large-scale protests, there have been countless uprisings over the last six decades.

The Dalai Lama led the beginning of these revolts in March 1959, and on the 31st of that month was forced to flee to India because the Chinese put the protests down hard. While in India, he formed a shadow Tibetan government.

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama | Asian History Weekly

As with many territorial fights, this one was based on religion. In the end, China banned Tibetan Buddhism, causing even more unrest. In 1976 the ban was lifted, but the firm and extraordinary control of the region was still held by China, causing protests to continue.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1989 for his work to bring independence and peace to the region.

Advertisement