There is some uncertainty over the precise date, but it was apparently on October 7th that units of the Chinese so-called People’s Liberation Army crossed the River Yangtze into Kham, the eastern province of Tibet in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Varying estimates put their numbers at 40,000 or more than 80,000, but either way they were in overwhelming strength. The invasion had been planned in detail by Deng Xiaoping, a future Chinese premier, and two other senior Communist officials in China’s Southwest Military Region.
The rest of the world was preoccupied with events in Korea at the time, but the Chinese Communist regime had been announcing its intention of integrating Tibet with ‘the motherland’ for months.
The Tibetan government in Lhasa, which had appealed for help in vain to both Britain and the United States, declined to receive Chinese emissaries, though a Tibetan delegation in India held inconclusive talks with the Chinese ambassador there.
The Chinese Communist regime began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation.
In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.
"We are a small, religious, and independent nation." - the 13th Dalai Lama, 1913
Tibet has a rich history as a nation, existing side-by-side with China for centuries. In 1950, the newly established Chinese Communist regime decided that Tibet must become a permanent part of the People's Republic of China and launched an invasion.
For China, possessing Tibet gave access to rich natural resources and allowed it to militarise the strategically important border with India. With 40,000 Chinese troops in its sparsely populated country, the Tibetan government - led by the still teenaged Dalai Lama - was forced to recognise China's rule in return for promises to protect Tibet's political system and Tibetan Buddhism.
China failed to keep its promises and ongoing Tibetan resistance came to a head on 10 March 1959. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Potala Palace in Lhasa fearing that the Dalai Lama was about to be kidnapped or assassinated. The uprising was brutally suppressed and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile.
The 10th of March is now commemorated as National Uprising Day by Tibetans and supporters across the world.
To this day Tibet remains an independent state under illegal occupation.