Heavily detailed history of the movement to liberate Tibet from Chinese rule.
Since the People’s Liberation Army invaded in 1950, and particularly since the Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959, the Tibetan people’s struggle for autonomy has attracted international attention. John B. Roberts, a former aide to President Reagan, and his wife Elizabeth, a freelance journalist, combine archival research and interviews to chronicle that struggle, which burst into the open in 1959 with a CIA-backed uprising that cost some 87,000 Tibetan lives. The authors are candid about the CIA’s covert funding of the movement, which came to an end when the Nixon administration concluded it might derail attempts to forge closer diplomatic ties with China. They also discuss the Dalai Lama’s remarkable life and his status as a spiritual icon, which has prompted many governments, human-rights advocates and celebrities to speak against the Chinese government’s repressive policies. To date there has been little response, and the authors’ frustration over this face is palpable. They toss plenty of advocacy into their hybrid combination of history and biography, taking a highly dramatic tone: “The struggle is not between the Chinese people and the rest of the world. Nor is it between the Chinese people and the Tibetan people, although Chinese government propagandists are more than willing to whip up nationalistic and ethnic tensions to distract from the real issues. The fight is between freedom and dictatorship. For the Tibetan people to win their struggle, the Chinese people will also have to find liberation.” Those willing to ignore this sort of grandstanding will find the authors’ readable text a treasure trove of information about Tibet’s ordeal. They close by suggesting that foreigners supporting Tibetan freedom emulate the anti-apartheid movement by campaigning for trade sanctions and international divestment to put economic pressure on China.
A biased but informative take on an important aspect of Asian political history.