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Dharamshala: - Tibet, the starkly beautiful snow-land, was once home to one of the last surviving repositories of unique sacred art and culture from the centuries. Culturally, historically and politically, it was never part of China.

The Chinese invasion of 1949 resulted in over one million Tibetan deaths between 1950 and 1970. What the first visitors to the region after the initial invasion found was shocking — ancient monasteries and temples were on the verge of destruction; distinctly Tibetan Buddhist cultural traditions were actively disintegrating; and the Tibetan community was deeply impoverished.

Year later, thousands of Tibetan men, women and children have found refuge in India, Nepal and Bhutan. When forced to leave their homes in Tibet, they lost everything and had to begin building their lives anew. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was the first to probe India and the outside world for assistance in his efforts to save the ancient Kingdom. His Holiness understood the gravity of this mission—saving Tibet's unique culture would save its people.

Without cultural identity, there is nothing.

Despite the adversities that Tibetans in exile face, this resilient community has been undergoing a great revolution under the special care and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan people have managed to accomplish a renewal and rejuvenation of the Tibetan culture, outside of their country, which is nothing less than remarkable. This process has been strengthened by the re-establishment in exile of key monastic institutions and the vast and growing network of cultural and spiritual resources that underpin the community and Tibetan Buddhism.

To travel to Dharamshala, the heart of exiled Tibet is to journey into the past where one can witness ancient Tibetan ways of life. With the International community as witness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has created a strong, worldwide cultural and spiritual constituency for Tibet and its cause.

The great renewal outside of Tibet is undoubtedly a pillar of national pride for the Tibetan people, and represents their unshakeable determination to protect Tibetan cultural identity. This renewal is being accomplished within a democratic political environment that has triggered the talent and creativity of a new generation of political leaders to advance to the forefront.

When looking in retrospect on the half century political struggle for freedom, the people of Tibet have never lost their strength, no matter the hardships they may face. They have kept their spirits high and alive, and have continued on with non-violence in their struggle. All has been done in memory of those who have given up their lives for their country and for each and every Tibetan that stands in solidarity with his community. Not only have Tibetan people expressed that they believe their nonviolent efforts are creating ripples, deep into Tibet's and China's own future, but so have many Chinese.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently said that Tibetans have adopted a nonviolent approach, a compassionate approach, like the 'Middle Way Approach'. His Holiness said 'if the issue of Tibet is to be solved through their non-violent struggle for justice, it will set an example for many other problems facing the world today.'

'If the nonviolent struggle for Tibet defeated one day, then people will say the nonviolent approach will not work, just like the Tibetan struggle. Therefore, Tibet's non-violent struggle for justice is not only important for Tibetan people, but equally important to set an example for freedom struggles on this earth.

However, through research, study, and interviews over the past 60-years, scholars around the world have sought to investigate why there is such opposition to development in Tibet and why many Tibetans refuse to stay in their own country.

They have concluded that cultural genocide, defined as a system whose purpose is to destroy, in whole or in part, a people's culture through various different procedures, is taking place.

It is a widespread belief within the Tibetan community that Chinese development in Tibet has a definite strategy and scheme aimed at disassociating the Tibetan population from its identity, value spectrum, history and other cultural affiliations like language and literature.

The imposition of modernity by the Chinese regime represents the various ways in which cultural genocide has occurred in Tibet. Speculation around Chinese motivation concludes that the regime seeks to completely assimilate Han Chinese into Tibetan culture by encouraging mass immigration and displacing local populations. Part of this assimilation may be in order to exploit Tibet's natural resources through industrial mining and large-scale timber operations.

In addition to other political movements against the Tibetan people, cultural injustices have been committed as well. For instance, values intrinsic to Tibetan society, such as the Buddhist ideas of developing the heart and purifying the mind, have been taken out of education curriculum in Tibet.

Instances of cultural genocide can also be seen in the decline of Tibetan language speakers, with Chinese as the predominant language of instruction in schools, business, and, increasingly, general communication. Approximately 90% of Tibet's monasteries have been destroyed, and Tibetans are being forced to publicly denounce high religious leaders and attend study sessions about Chinese communism. Tibetans have even been forced to act against the Buddhist teaching of not harming any living thing through the fulfillment of quotas of killing certain numbers of flies and dogs.

The Tibetan people must continue their wholehearted appeal to the international community regarding Chinese development in Tibet the ongoing crisis in the region. While sustainable development can ultimately benefit Tibet, Tibetans themselves must be involved in the planning of projects, and must be allowed to keep their own cultural identity and customs alive. China must allow Tibetans in Tibet to have a voice in determining their future.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com