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The Truth About the 1959 Tibet Rebellion

日期:2009-03-09 08:46 来源:REUNIFICATION FORUM 作者:Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei

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Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei

 

  Editor’s note: An armed rebellion occurred in Tibet in 1959. For many years, Tibetan separatists have continuously spread rumors to confuse the people and distorted the facts. How did the Tibet rebellion really occur? Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei, who was personally involved in the events, wrote an article in 1988 that revealed the facts. We reprint it here so that our readers can get a true understanding of this incident on the 50th anniversary of its occurrence.

  In recent years, I have often met with Tibetans who have returned home from abroad to visit relatives. I asked them what their understanding is of the cause of the rebellion that occurred on March 10, 1959. They all in their own way say the same thing, that the Tibet Military Command intended to seize the Dalai Lama and the high officials of the Gaxag government (the former local government of Tibet, composed of four high officials called Galoin; it was established with the authorization of Emperor Qinglong of the Qing Dynasty in 1751, following the abolition of the Tibetan king system, and was disbanded after the Tibet rebellion in 1959), put them on a plane and take them to the interior. Twenty-nine years have passed (1988), and in Tibet today, not only do the youth not know the facts about the incident; even older people lack a clear understanding of it and still live with delusions based on rumors. These rumors were created by Buddhists, which makes matters worse. I was directly involved in these events and personally witnessed history, and I have a very clear understanding of the inside story. Today, I have the responsibility to reveal the truth about the incident of March 10, 1959, and its true historical face to the world.

  Shortly after 8:00 am on March 10, 1959, chaos broke out on the streets of Lhasa. People were running around tearfully telling each other, “Go to the Norbu Linkha and protect the Dalai Lama. The Han people are going to take him away.” To the Tibetan people, who are devout Buddhists, this cry was like a bomb going off. Thereupon, people rushed to the Norbu Linkha with their hearts filled with shock, perplexity and terror. They surrounded it in the name of protecting the Dalai Lama, thereby lifting the curtain on armed rebellion. This situation rapidly developed into the full-scale armed rebellion now known as the March 10, 1959 Incident.

  According to traditional Tibetan custom, the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar is the Ghost-Exorcising Festival, and every year during the Ghost-Exorcising Festival, the people gather at the Potala Palace to watch a sorcerers’ dance. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, leading comrades of the Tibet Working Committee and Tibet Military Command were regularly invited to watch the proceedings. During the Ghost-Exorcising Festival in 1959, only Political Commissar Tan Guansan and Vice Commander Deng Shaodong from the Tibet Military Command were in Lhasa, and they went to the Potala Palace by invitation. The Dalai Lama met them in his chambers and raised the subject of the Military Command’s performing troupe, saying, “I heard the Tibet Military Command’s performing troupe has developed a new program since their return from the interior to Tibet and their performances have been well received in Tibet. I would like to watch them perform. Could you please arrange it?” Tan and Deng were delighted to comply and told the Dalai Lama it was easy to arrange, and they could send the performing troupe to the Norbu Linkha whenever the Dalai Lama wished. The Dalai Lama said that it wouldn’t work for them to come to the Norbu Linkha because it didn’t have a stage and the necessary equipment. It would be better to have it at the Military Command Auditorium and he would go there to watch it.

  They all agreed to this plan. Tan and Deng left the Dalai Lama’s chambers and returned to the seats the Gaxag had specially set up for them to watch the sorcerers’ dance. They told all the Galoin what happened, so they all knew about the arrangements. However, with the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Military Command Auditorium to see the performance was postponed because the Dalai Lama had to take the dge-bavi-bshes-gynen test, an academic degree earned in a debate on Buddhist scripture at a mass meeting of Buddhist monks. According to the regulations of the three major monasteries in Lhasa, it is divided into four levels: lha-rams-pa, tshogs-rams-pa, rdo-rhams-pa, and gling-bsres.

  Around 3:00 pm on March 9, 1959, Li Youmin, of the United Front Department of the Tibet Working Committee came to my home to tell me that the Dalai Lama had decided to go to the Military Command to watch the performance on March 10. He also told me that the Gaxag officials need not go to the Norbu Linkha, but could go directly to the auditorium and wait for him there. These were unusual arrangements. Ordinarily, on such occasions, the Gaxag officials should first go to the Norbu Linkha and then accompany the Dalai Lama wherever he was going. These arrangements struck me as unusual and made me uneasy.

  I told Li, “There’s been a lot of turmoil in Lhasa in recent days. Suddenly arranging for the Dalai Lama to go to the Military Command to see a performance could cause difficulties.” Li said, “There’s nothing we can do about it. The Dalai Lama personally decided the time for the performance. We can’t change it. We have to live with it.” That evening around 6:00 or 7:00, I got a call from acting Galoin Neuxar Tubdain Tarba, who worked for the Gaxag. He said that the Dalai Lama would arrive at the Military Command at 10:00 am to watch the performance and that all of the Galoin would assemble at the Norbu Linkha at 9:00 am to make arrangements for going to the Military Command and then accompany the Dalai Lama there. Because Surkang Wangqen Geleg, the chief Galoin, didn’t have a telephone in his house, Neuxar Tubdain Tarba asked me to go to his house to tell him. The Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee had a political study meeting scheduled for the morning of March 10, so I didn’t go directly to the Norbu Linkha. I took my uniform with me to the political study meeting and waited for a phone call from theNorbu Linkha. I wanted to observe what was going on and keep abreast of the situation.

  It was not yet 10:00 when Sampo Cewang Rinzin – vice commander of the Tibet Military Command , Galoin of the Tibet local government and commander in chief of the Tibetan army – was hit by stones thrown at him as he approached the Norbu Linkha. He was immediately transported to the infirmary at the Indian Consulate in Lhasa at Degyilingka, where he was treated for his wounds. Not long after 10:00, Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai’s brother Kainqoin Pagballa was beaten to death at the entrance to the Norbu Linkha. Clearly, the Dalai Lama could not go to the Military Command to watch the performance, and we could not go to the Norbu Linkha, so I went from the Preparatory Committee to the Military Command. This was the beginning and the whole course of the March 10, 1959 Incident. However, many people, including many monks and laymen in the former Tibet local government, did not know the inside story and believed the rumors circulated by a small number of people with ulterior purposes. Even today, most Tibetans who live abroad still don’t know what happened. It is obvious that these rumors have spread widely and greatly deceived people.

  When Tibetans living abroad write this chapter of history, they often express the viewpoint that the reason the Dalai Lama did not go to the Military Command to watch the performance is that when he arrived at the Military Command he was only allowed to bring members of his personal staff and a small number of guards, and that no other officials were invited. This absolutely was not the case. According to common practice, the Dalai Lama was the leader of Tibet and the head of the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee, and when he went out to participate in some activity, how could he not be allowed to take officials and guards with him? In fact, the Military Command invited not only the Dalai Lama but also all the Galoin in the Gaxag, the Dalai Lama’s two scripture teachers and some living Buddhas, as well as some nobles.

  As for why they wanted to spread such rumors at the time, the real reason is that they wanted to deceive the masses and foment an armed rebellion to oppose democratic reform. In fact, their opposition to democratic reform at the time was entirely groundless. In 1956, Vice Premier Chen Yi led a delegation from the central authorities to Lhasa to mark the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee. At the meeting where the committee was formally established, he made the decision do the preparatory work for carrying out democratic reforms. Later, on the basis of the actual conditions in Tibet, the central authorities decided to postpone the implementation of democratic reforms for at least six years, that is, they would not carry out reforms during the Second Five-Year Plan period. The decision on whether to carry them out during the Third Five-Year Plan period would “have to wait till the leaders and the masses of the people in Tibet thought the time was ripe, and then the decision would be made. It cannot be made rashly.”

  The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama visited India in late 1956 and early 1957 at the invitation of the Indian government to participate in the activities marking the 2500th anniversary of Sakyamuni achievement of the state of nirvana. Premier Zhou Enlai happened to visit India during that time, and he personally gave the Dalai Lama a letter from Chairman Mao. The letter informed the Dalai Lama of this decision and gave a lengthy explanation. At the time, the Dalai Lama said that postponing reform for six years was a good idea and he thought Premier Zhou’s explanation on a number of problems was very good; however he was still very young and so he couldn’t have the final say on a matter of such importance. He would have to discuss the matter with the officials accompanying him before replying to Premier Zhou.

  At the time, I was a Galoin of the Tibet local government as well as one of the officials accompanying the Dalai Lama. After we officials accompanying the Dalai Lama discussed the conversation between the Dalai Lama and Premier Zhou, we took the position that during the time from peaceful liberation till 1956 there had not been any violations in the implementation of the 17 agreements concerning the peaceful liberation of Tibet that had been reached by the Central People’s Government and the Tibet local government. Therefore, the central authorities had no grounds for complaint concerning the work of the Tibetan side. However, there were some bad practices in the implementation of democratic reforms in ethnic Tibetan areas such as Kam, Gansu and Qinghai, and it was hoped that the central authorities would take them seriously and correct them. Premier Zhou accepted these criticisms. At the time, there was no cause whatsoever for rebellion, so the rebellion that occurred in Tibet in 1959 was completely unreasonable. This revolt was not due to the central authorities’ policies, and it was not caused by them. Rather, it was the work of a small number of upper-class Tibetan reactionaries.

  As for the troublemakers in Lhasa who now (1986-1988) shout the slogan “Tibetan independence,” this is patently absurd. On the question of whether Tibet is independent, it can be clearly seen from histories written in the Chinese and Tibetan languages as well as many extant historical documents, such as official seals and gold certificates given to the rulers of Tibet by Chinese emperors, that the Tubo Kingdom had an intimate relationship with the Tang Dynasty, and that Tibet was brought under the jurisdiction of the Chinese central government during the Yuan Dynasty and has remained so for 740 years. That is to say, the claims for Tibet independence are completely groundless and don’t have a leg to stand on. The sole ground that the people who trumpet Tibet independence have is the book written by Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa. I have thoroughly studied this book in detail, and I believe that when Shakabpa cites historical materials in the Tibetan or Chinese languages, he quotes his references completely out of context and takes the attitude of citing only what supports his case. Conclusions reached this way are nothing more than rumor, and rumor cannot change historical facts. Since there is no such thing as Tibetan independence, and the troublemakers cannot create it by shouting “Tibetan independence” no matter how loud and long they do so. The lamas who cause trouble don’t have any understanding of history and their calls for independence are empty talk. What benefit can be gotten from this?

  Of course, after the 1959 revolt, Tibet very quickly suppressed the revolt, instituted democratic reforms and began development in various areas. From the results of this incident, we can see that Tibetan society took a step forward and the people were liberated. Consider for a moment what might have happened if the revolt had never occurred. In 1956, the central authorities declared their intention not to institute reform for at least six years. If they conscientiously carried out this policy, it is possible that when the Cultural Revolution occurred, democratic reforms still might not have been completely implemented in Tibet.

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