Chapter IX
Tibetan People Acquired Ultimate Human Rights Through Quelling of Rebellion and Conducting the Democratic Reform

Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Tibetan Plateau saw earth-shaking changes. Feudal serfdom collapsed and was replaced by the people's democratic system, to the delight of the broad masses of serfs and patriotic personages from all social strata. But Xagabba and Van Praag try every means to present the quelling of the armed rebellion and the conducting of reform as infringing human rights in Tibet.

Is this true, or has it, in fact, brought human rights to the Tibetan people? This is easy to answer.

(1) Putting Down the Armed Rebellion

The upper-class reactionary elements in Tibet, who showed no sign of repentance despite the Central Government's long-term patient education and efforts to win them over, directed rebel forces to wage a full-scale attack on PLA troops and local government institutions in Lhasa during the night of March 19, 1959. Under fierce fire, the PLA troops kept shouting to the rebels through megaphones, warning them to desist. But it was fruitless. Six hours after the rebellion began, the PLA troops, its patience exhausted, was compelled to counter-attack at 10 on the morning of March 20. At that time, only about 1,000 PLA troops in Lhasa could be mobilized to fight, while the rebels amounted to about 7,000, with additional aid from foreign forces. But the heroic and combat-hardened PLA officers and men fought for two days and routed 5,360 armed rebels gathered in Lhasa. These rebels were just a disorderly mob who looked strong but were really weak, and could not effectively fight the PLA troops.

On March 28, Premier Zhou Enlai issued a State Council decree, instructing the PLA Tibet Military Area to put down the riots, dissolve the Tibet local government and let the Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region to exercise its functions and powers.

Following the battle in Lhasa, the PLA troops launched campaigns in Shannan in April, Namco Lake on July 2 and Midika between August and September. They also besieged and suppressed rebels in the northeast Qamdo and Yanjing area, south of Qamdo, between April and August, and sent armed forces to wipe out rebels in southeast Qamdo between August and November.

In 1960, the PLA troops successively launched campaigns against armed rebel forces entrenched in areas between Nganda, Dengqen, Jiali and Zhamog; areas east of Wenquan-Nagqu Section on the Qinghai-Tibet Highway; areas south and north of Tanggula to the north of Baqen; areas between Xainza, Saga and Tingri; areas between the southern bank of the Maquanhe River, north of China-Nepal national boundaries, west of Legze and east of Kunggyu Co Lake; and, the Mangkam and Sa'ngain areas. By the end of 1960, they had almost quelled the activities of large armies of rebels throughout the region.

In 1961, the PLA troops again searched for and suppressed remnants of the armed rebel forces scattered in southeast Qamdo, adjourning areas of Nyingchi, Lhasa and Nagqu and elsewhere. Some rebel chiefs and small armed groups, which the PLA troops failed to annihilate two years ago, were either wiped out or persuaded to cross over to the PLA side.

By March 1962, the rebellion in Tibet was over. The CPC Central Committee adopted sound lines and policies to quell it.

On March 21, 1959, the General Political Department of the PLA issued the Instructions on Political Work for Resolute Pacification of Rebellion in Tibet, stipulating that military action, political persuasion to win over opponents and mobilization of the masses should be closely combined, and rebels should be treated in different ways. In May, the Tibet Work Committee worked out the Decision on Several Policies in the Current Work of Quelling the Rebellion, which was approved by the Central Government. The Decision clearly defined the principles in dealing with the rebels: in line with the policies of combining suppression with leniency, and that the chief criminals should be punished without fail, those considered to have acted as accomplices under duress would not be punished, while anyone performing deeds of merit should be rewarded. The PLA troops should strictly distinguish among four kinds of person: rebel chiefs, core members, firm supporters and ordinary members. Those who participated in the rebellion but willing to cross over to the PLA side, would not be executed, imprisoned or otherwise punished.

The PLA troops strictly abided by all these guidelines in quelling the rebellion.

A. Political Persuasion.

Facing the frenzied rebel attacks, the PLA had to take military actions. While the rebel forces fired at the PLA troops and slaughtered people wantonly, it is absolutely equitable and imperative for the PLA troops to fight back. Deaths on both sides are natural. However, the PLA troops, while conducting military action, made efforts to give part of or most of the rebels a chance to cross over or surrender, fighting as little as possible to cause as few deaths as possible. This was one of the fine traditions of the PLA. As a result, only a small portion of rebels were killed. Most were disintegrated after painstaking political persuasion, with the threat of military attack as the condition. The PLA troops applied various approaches to win them over: giving lenient treatment to captives to dispel their apprehension about crossing over or surrendering to the PLA; distributing materials to explain the Central Government policy toward the rebellion (totalling 300,000 leaflets in three years) to help rebels realize that only by crossing over could they have a bright future; propagandizing on the battlefield through megaphones to shake their will to resist; setting up recruitment centers and sending relatives of the rebels there to urge them to surrender. Among the 5,360 armed rebel forces put out of action during the Lhasa attack, most were captured or surrendered. During the military actions in Jokhang Monastery and the Potala Palace, a large number of armed rebel forces were persuaded to surrender. During the suppression of the rebel forces in Xainza and Saga in the spring of 1960, only 53 were killed and 320 wounded; another 887 rebels crossed over to the PLA side after political persuasion. During the 1961 military campaign against the rebel forces, many chief leaders of the surviving rebel forces crossed over or surrendered to the PLA side. Lama Bagyia, Qamdo rebel chief, surrendered in February, Bobo Ahgong, Xainza rebel chief, came over in March; Gyamcoboin, Mangkam rebel chief, laid down arms in June; and Ngawang Lobsang, Benbo rebel chief, crossed over in July. During the political persuasion to win over Bobo Ahgong, the PLA had sent emissaries 26 times, and in the end won him over. The PLA troops and Tibetans from all walks of life made concerted efforts during the political persuasion, forming a powerful political offensive of the masses. Everywhere across the region, parents, wives and the masses were mobilized to persuade their sons, husbands and other people to surrender. Patriotic persons from the Tibetan upper-ruling class played an important role in this aspect. Dege Galsang Wangdui and Jamyang Baimo wrote to the Living Buddha Penqiu Riwoqe, persuading them to size up the situation. This enabled Penqiu and some others to make up their mind in the end to cross over to the PLA side. During the three years it took to quell the rebellion, people who crossed over to the PLA side after political persuasion made up 42.8 percent of the total rebel forces put out of action. The percentage was up to 70 percent in 1961.

In short, thanks to the PLA's policies of combining military action with political persuasion and mobilization of the masses, most armed rebels were captured or surrendered. Only a small number were wounded and a few killed. On the PLA side, 1,551 died and 1,987 were wounded in the lofty cause of consolidating the unification of motherland, safeguarding peace in border areas and supporting the liberation of millions of Tibetan serfs. The Tibetan people still commemorate this.

B. Different Treatments.

Since the upper-class reactionary forces started the rebellion under the fraudulent guise of nationality and religion, and serfs were treated as chattels of their owners, the latter had no choice but to take part in the rebellion. These serfs, coerced to participate, had no responsibility for the rebellion. So, the PLA strictly differentiated them from the chief criminals, core members and stubborn supporters of the rebellion. Those who laid down their arms were given travelling expenses and sent back home unpunished. Among nearly 90,000 people involved in the rebellion over the three-year period, only 23,000 were treated as chief culprits, core members and firm supporters by the People's Government. They made up little more than 2 percent of the total population in Tibet.

Among the upper-class participants, there were great differences. Only a small fraction, like Soikang, were die-hard elements who had long been outwardly compliant but inwardly hostile to the Central Government, and had engaged in plotting separatist activities. The rest were those who used to behave properly and had cooperated and worked together with the CPC and the People's Government. They included Ranba Namgyai Wangqug, director of the 14th Dalai Lama's Nanjing Office, and Trimoin Soinam Benjor, director of the Administrative Committee in Xarsingma, Yadong County. They were forced to take part in the rebellion when the rebels coerced them to break off contacts with the People's Government. They were neither engaged in many specific activities nor trusted by the armed forces. The PLA treated them in a way different from those stubborn rebel chiefs. For example, Ranba Namgyai Wangqug, a captive in the Lhasa campaign, was detained for only two weeks and set free as soon as things were straightened out. Trimion Soinam Benjor, who fled abroad after the rebellion, got a message from his family to return to surrender. The two were given jobs several years later. To those who engaged in specific activities, but showed good attitude in admitting their guilt and signs of repentance, the PLA gave them only a light sentence, such as several years in prison. For example, Tubdain Dainda and Kana Kecho Deqen were set free in 1964 and Lhalu and Soindo in 1965. The PLA found them jobs later.

Such a practical and rational policy proved popular and quite effective. Many people, coerced into taking part in the rebellion and so not treated as rebels but sent home, had an ardent love for the CPC and the PLA. Some were eager to take part in the Democratic Reform and frontier struggle. Those upper-class persons involved in the rebellion who received lenient treatment, later became patriots who cooperated with the CPC and the People's Government.

Xagabba and Van Praag write that tens of thousands of Tibetans were imprisoned and massacred, trying to leave people with a horrified feeling. But some clear-minded foreigners with ability to differentiate immediately perceived the exaggeration. A confidential investigation report by the US State Department held that the figures of the 1956-59 armed rebel forces and casualties and death toll on both sides (with claims that up to 40,000 Han people and 65,000 Tibetans were killed or wounded) claimed by some members of the Tibetan upper-ruling class were unbelievable. It criticized Gyaile Toinzhub's exaggeration. (A. Tom Grunfeld [Canada]: The Making of Tibet, p.198, translated by Wu Kunmin and others)

A British woman, who was ready to write on invitation a brochure about China's unruly conduct in Tibet, refused the task later. She explained that she had to collect stories from the refugees herself. But in all fairness, she didn't get what she thought was a true story. It's impossible to make comment on so many subtle but important questions which someone had stated. The facts in the mind of the Tibetan rebels could not be taken as what Westerners held to be absolute proof. It was dangerous if one failed to realize it. (A. Tom Grunfeld [Canada]: The Making of Tibet, pp.216-217, translated by Wu Kunmin and others).

As to the question of who were the two sides of the struggle, we need to go into it in particular. Xagabba and Van Praag regard the Han people and Tibetans as the two sides of the struggle. But facts refute this and give a clear conclusion: It was a struggle between the broad masses of Tibetan people and patriotic personages led by the CPC?and few reactionary splittists aided by domestic and overseas reactionary forces? It was a struggle between two classes, not two ethnic groups of Han and Tibet.

In 1958, when rebellion occurred only in parts of the Tibetan areas, many Tibetans stood together with the CPC and the PLA in resolute opposition. During the 74 days when the religion protecting army besieged Zetang, Gegong Cering Toinzhub and his three family members had lived and fought together with government officials of the Shannan branch of the Tibet Work Committee and PLA officers and men, and shared weal and woe with them. His property in Phodrang was burnt down by the religion protecting army. His son Norbu, who just graduated from the Central Institute for Nationalities, died in the fight against the religion protecting army. But he held out until the PLA main forces came to Zetang. When the 1,600 armed rebels in Bome planned to attack the headquarters of Zhamog County Party Committee, there were no more than 60 people, including PLA soldiers, local cadres and workers and staff. Gyaincain, headman of Xumu, Zhaixi Qunpei, representing the monasteries, the Living Buddha Rabxei and folk artisan Wangmo all moved into the County Party Committee headquarters and took part in the fight to safeguard Zhamog. Prior to the attack, the masses provided information about it. Bema Zhaxi even went into the rebel's lair to gather information and then reported to the County Party Committee. When the rebels fired mortars towards the County Party Committee headquarters, family members of Gyaincain raised their guns and killed a mortar operator. In the 10-day fight, the PLA troops and the Tibetan people stood side-by-side to repulse attacks three times until PLA reinforcements arrived. Incidents of this sort are too numerous to enumerate.

On March 10,1959, the rebellion swept through Lhasa. Units affiliated to the Tibet Work Committee and the PLA Tibet Military Area mobilized Tibetan upper-class persons, cadres, workers and their families to temporarily move into the institutions. The seats of the Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the PLA Tibet Military Area alone provided shelter for about 600-700 people, including patriotic celebrities like Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai, Namtoin Goinga Wangqug, Xoikang Tubdain Nyima and Gyainjin Soinan Gyaibo. They joined the PLA to safeguard the government institutions. Some helped carry earth and stones to build shelters; some were enthusiastic in gathering information; some joined the radio station to reveal the splittists's scheme in Tibetan language. On March 20, after the fight began, people including Xoikang Tubdain Nyima used megaphones on the battlefield together with the PLA troops, urging the rebels to give up. They played an active role in splitting the rebel ranks. They took delight in the PLA victories. Some Lhasa residents, seeing the PLA soldiers occupy the Chejiang building, held up their thumbs and expressed their admiration. As soon as the firing stopped and the battle ended, many citizens burnt incense, swarming onto the streets to present hada prayer scarfs to the PLA soldiers, handing over arms abandoned by the rebels and helping the PLA soldiers wipe out the enemy remnants. They cursed and spat when passing those dead Kamba rebels who still wore stolen gold and silver jewelry on their necks and diamond rings on their fingers, and had wads of Tibetan paper money and silver coins stuffed in their waistbands. The patriotic persons, who had long been suppressed by the reactionary forces, greeted each other with well-wishes. At Ngapoi's home, people including Caindi and Manamba sat around, reveled to their heart's content and toasted each other. Zezhong Yuga, who had been targeted by the rebels to be killed and was forced to hide in the PLA Tibet Military Area headquarters, said: ?White and black can be distinguished now!

The next day, after the State Council issued the order to completely put down the rebellion, the 10th Panchen Erdeni sent Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai a telegram, expressing firm support for the State Council decree and willingness to assist the PLA in quelling the rebellion. Pagbalha expressed his cordial support for the State Council order and pointed out that what the upper-class reactionary clique had done fundamentally went against the will of Tibetan monks and people. Sangling Soinam Doje, a patriotic youth from Gyangze, said: The fight between the rebels and the PLA is a struggle between few people who engaged in treasonable activities in order to exploit and oppress Tibetan people forever and most people who were against treason, endless exploitation and oppression. It is not in the least a problem between the Tibetan and the Han.(Tibet Daily, April 4, 1959)

In April 1959, the PLA troops launched the Shannan campaign. Local people, who had71e.jpg (34073 bytes) experienced to the fullest extent the devastation caused by the religion protecting army, warmly welcomed the arrival of the PLA troops. Many offered buttered tea to the PLA officers and men. Some took grass to feed the horses in the hope they could run fast enough to catch rebels. Others drove their yaks and mules to carry grain, goods and materials for the PLA troops.

In February 1960, before the PLA troops started its campaign against the armed rebel forces in Nganda, Dengqen, Jiali and Zhanmog, Losang, a Tibetan, asked the secretary of the Dengqen Party Committee on his own initiative to enter the areas of the rebel forces to gather information. He returned a month later with news that an army of about 1,000 rebels was lying in ambush near Sadeng. The Party secretary immediately led him to the PLA troops, who were just about to go to Benbo by way of Sadeng. As a result, they besieged Sadeng before the rebels were prepared and annihilated all of them (including one parachuted spy trained in the United States). Without Losang's excellent work, the PLA troops would have suffered losses.

During the quelling of the rebellion, the Tibetan masses in many places spontaneously organized various self-defense armed forces. They kept guard and stood sentry, supervised law-breakers, protected crops and livestock, gathered information for the PLA troops, acted as their guides and assisted them in searching the mountains and arresting fleeing rebels. For example, a self-defense team in Dongjiu Village, Nyingchi County caught 13 rebels within two months and assisted the PLA troops in wiping out 140 rebels; Lhaba, a Tibetan serf, arrested three rebels alive after waiting with his dog in the snow-covered mountain for one-and-a-half days. In October 1959, the self-defense armed team in Zayu helped the PLA troops to catch 24 armed rebels in Luoma Village. In March 1960, it overcame some 20 armed rebels who fled from Mangkam and Zogang areas to Golag, Zayu County, to loot, and recovered 700 horses, cattle and sheep. Nangwang Cecun, the bravest of the troops, captured eight rebels and persuaded six to surrender. Once, he was caught by the rebels, but he managed to escape and then led the PLA to destroy 43 rebels. On January 24, 1961, eight PLA officers and men fought together with 15 members of the mass self-defense armed team in Gyamda and killed four rebels, captured four others and seized five guns. Cering Qiongzong, female head of the Bangda Township, Gyaca County and also the person in charge of defense, was enthusiastic in leading the masses to fight the rebels. On April 2, 1961, two rebels blocked her way and forced her to surrender. She denounced and fought with them, dying bravely after being stabbed nine times. To commemorate her forever, local Tibetans displayed her statue and deeds in the local cemetery of the revolutionary martyrs.

Tibetan people played a big role in solving the problem of rear supply for the PLA troops on the scarcely populated Tibetan Plateau where transportation was difficult. They provided animals to transport goods, materials and grain to each battlefield in places away from roads. They organized stretcher-teams to help carry the wounded and the dead from battlefield to the rear. Taking the quelling of rebellion as their own task, these local people vied with each other in providing beasts of burden and joining the PLA troops in military operations whenever they were mobilized. During the three years of strife, the number of Tibetans who followed the PLA troops in fighting reached 15,000 persons, contributing a total of 439,000 work days. They provided 104,000 head of beasts of burden to serve the PLA troops for a total of 2.866 million work days. Doje, a Tibetan cadre, and over 10 Tibetans drove more than 100 yaks to support the PLA troops during the Midika campaign. After trekking in the snow for a whole day, he voluntarily patched the worn-out bags. Together with others, he toiled long into the night to put boxes of canned food and barrels of oil which were humidity-resistant at the bottom, and stacked rice and flour bags on the top together. He covered them with a rain cloth and put stones on the top before going to pitch a tent and cook dinner. He had taken part in the activities to support the front 10 times, transporting several hundred thousand kg of grain, and joined the PLA troops in fighting over 10 times. He was wounded more than once in the arms and legs, but each time he successfully accomplished his task.

In Benbo area, some 150 Tibetans joined the PLA troops in military operation, carrying grain and ammunition on their backs because the animals were exhausted. They carried the wounded and dead PLA soldiers to the rear, giving the wounded food and water along the way. Some offered dinner first to the martyrs before they ate themselves. During a fierce fight, Qima Gabu braved gunfire and carried a wounded deputy company commander to a shelter, and then went up the mountain again to help soldiers build defense works. When the fight ended, he threw away everything he had with him and carried the possessions of the wounded instead.

After the Lhasa campaign began, 3,000-plus Tibetan students studying at two schools in the hinterland demanded to be allowed to return to Tibet to take part in quelling the rebellion and in the Democratic Reform. The Tibet Work Committee decided to let these students graduate ahead of time and return to Tibet. These young people, mostly from peasant and herdsman families, constituted a new vigorous force of the Tibet ethnic group for combatting rebellion and promoting the Democratic Reform. Some 500 joined the PLA at their own request, fighting bravely and working hard, and many of them received meritorious action awards. Later, they became good PLA commanders. Chilai of the No.1 Company of a regiment fought alone for an hour against 39 armed rebels entrenched in a mountain cave. He was wounded five times, but still kept fighting. With another four soldiers coming to help, he finally overcame the enemy and was awarded a third-class merit. Norbu Toinzhub, the platoon leader of the No.9 Company of a regiment, was inured to hardships during the long marches and in combat. He always carried heavy grain and ammunition and the bags of other soldiers. In the battle in the north of Tanggula Mountain in March 1960, he captured the deputy rebel chief alive and received a second-class merit. He had acted as platoon leader, deputy company commander and director of a county department of armed forces. Macering of Yadong County fought bravely in every battle and died in a fight in Bome in 1960.

This is how Tibetan people fought the small portion of upper-class reactionary elements. Now, let73e.jpg (18303 bytes) us look at the support of foreign anti-China forces behind the rebels. These forces mainly included some CIA staff and a few anti-China figures from India and Britain.

Since the US, Indian and British governments explicitly stated that Tibet is part of China, and they understood that supporting the Tibetan upper-class reactionaries to plot rebellion was an action which interfered in China's internal affairs and violated fundamental principles of international laws, they carried out their assistance clandestinely. However, as time went by, the inside stories of CIA meddling in Tibet have been exposed. Incomplete statistic show that in 1957-61, by means of contacts between Gyaile Toinzhub and the CIA, some 170 Tibetan rebels were chosen and sent via India to Japan and later (after 1959) to Hale Camp in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado for training. These spies trained by the CIA were successively parachuted into Litang, Shannan, Benba, Namco Lake, Tanggula Mountain area, Mangkam and Zhongba in eight batches. On CIA orders, they controlled the decision-making power of the rebel chiefs and became the core leading members of the armed rebel forces. During the three-year fight, 25 spies were killed or captured by the PLA troops. Many of the captured, who did not commit suicide as their US teachers had trained them to do to avoid capture, repented that they had been cheated and become a tool of the Americans and reactionary upper class. This was especially due to the inspiration of the PLA's lenient policy and the influence of the Tibet people's emancipation and rapid social progress. Providing many inside stories of how the CIA supported the rebellion, these people became the strongest witnesses. Much material evidence, including arms and equipment seized by the PLA, such as American-made rapid semi-automatic rifles, radio sets and parachutes, are still preserved by the PLA Tibet Military Area. As for how the Indian anti-China figures supported the rebellion, it was no longer a secret.

The Tibet upper-class reactionaries intended to make the rebellion a large-scale struggle between the Han and Tibetans at the beginning. But the results ran counter to their wishes. The Tibetan people, by comparing the CPC with the old Tibetan government and having witnessed events and considered for eight years, finally took the side of the CPC and the PLA. The PLA, with direct support and participation of broad Tibetan cadres and masses, fought a typical class war aimed to emancipate the serfs. It was a real war of the people sharing similarities with the war led by American president Abraham Lincoln to emancipate black slaves 100 years ago. The just nature of it is obvious.

Judging from the unification of a country and maintenance of social order, will the government in any country allow its minorities to announce independence at random? Will it ignore such actions that sabotage national unification or allow a few rebels to organize armed forces to wantonly attack national defense troops, government institutions, and enterprises, to commit highway robbery, kill people and set fire to houses, or engage in rape and plundering? So analyzing from the angle of safeguarding national unification and stabilizing social order, the quelling of the rebellion was just and imperative.

It could thus be concluded that the rebellion in Tibet was unjust and illegal, while the quelling of the rebellion was just and legal.

Without question, the fight between the rebels and the PLA troops would cause death. But the root cause of these deaths lay with the upper-class reactionary elements. Had they not plotted riots, there would not have been so many deaths. They should take the responsibility. The CPC and the PLA tried every means possible during the fight to minimize the death toll.