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Tibet Outside the TAR

By Steven D. Marshall and Susette Terment Cooke.
1997, S. Marshall and S. Cooke.


By Robert Z. Apte

The web staff of Tibet Environmental Watch, (www.tew.org) has received authorization to present on our web site an expanded content from the remarkable study, TIBET: Outside the TAR. We have to thank the authors Steven D. Marshall and Susette Ternent Cooke for their generous permission. This material, extracted from their CD-ROM has heretofore not been published in printed form. It will cover specifically those aspects of the voluminous electronic document related to the central theme of our own publication, TIBET: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land. Topics such as geography, nomadism, environmental change, agriculture, and development will be emphasized. The readers need to realize that the Marshall and Cooke report is a much more comprehensive resource than we will cover here, rich in maps, charts, and images that explore in depth the occupation of China in Tibetan and Tibetan inhabited lands.

Background to the Report: Tibet Outside the T.A.R.:

Since the early years of the occupation news about China's exploitation of Tibet's natural resources has been reported by Tibetans who have escaped southward, as well as by foreign visitors who have braved the journey from the eastern provinces of China. Usually, a nomad or farmer will report what has been happening in his or her area. Likewise, visitors who have been able to travel through Tibet by bus or hitch-hike return with the discouraging news, describing how vast areas have been deforested, the scars of eroded hillsides as well as wasted log jam on the waterways

Reports also have accumulated over the years about the forced changes in traditional patterns of farming and nomadism. Those reports put together have given a gross picture of some of the fundamental changes in Tibet. Due to its proximity to India, than the more distant regions, more information has become available about changes that have taken place in the T.A.R.(Tibetan Autonomous Region). Specific knowledge about the changes in the other two principal areas, Kham and Amdo, making up about half of historic Tibet, has been less well reported. Until recently no comprehensive coverage of the social and physical health of these major regions of Tibet has been available.

In 1995 and 1996 researchers well versed in Chinese and Tibetan surveyed those Tibetan regions outside the T.A.R. These regions, 50 in number, are still called Tibetan by the Chinese, and are referred to as either autonomous prefectures or autonomous counties. The goals of the survey was to evaluate to what extent these regions were functioning as autonomous areas and also find out to what extent Tibetan culture and society was still apparent and thriving. A further goal was to "encourage and facilitate the identification of means by which autonomy and cultural preservation for Tibetan lands and people could be assured."

There will be monthly, if not weekly additions, on a county by county basis extracted from the study posted on the web site.

Background to Study

Many of these fifty regions border on historical China. In the process of taking over Tibetan lands after the 1949 invasion, these areas,(formerly Kham and Amdo) were integrated into the provinces of Sichuan, Ganzu, Yunnan, and Qinghai. The demographics of these boundary areas have mixed, where Tibetan, Hui, Han Chinese, Mongolians and other ethnic minorities to varying proportions have shared the same region. While the regions are considered Tibetan, especially by the Tibetans and by the Lhasa government, others ethnic groups jointly used the living space with them.

This is an important study which covers a range of topics providing a clearer picture than otherwise would be available. The survey covers the following topics for each of the areas visited: brief description and impressions, historical background, current demographics, control and administrative apparatus, economy, agriculture, pastoralism, natural resource exploitation, industry, commercial and retail, culture, and religion.

This report is a must if one wishes to obtain a broad impression of the land, the people and life in the Tibetan lands outside of the T.A.R. The report is published on one CD-ROM and is almost 3000 pages. It is well documented with demographic statistics, maps, plus an unusual collection of panoramic photographs of the major administrative towns and cities in the region.

The area under study has 87 administrative sub-divisions. More than half of them were closed to outsiders without documentation. Nevertheless, the research team was able to visit about fifty percent of the closed areas. One can only surmise the reasons for the other areas being closed to the outside world is for internal security purposes, and the production of arms including nuclear material.

The information to follow reports both negative and positive finds regarding the Chinese treatment of Tibet's natural resources. Tibetans complain about the use, overuse, and abuse of their natural resource. The Chinese answer to these complaints calls into play the most fundamental difference in their two values systems and ways of relating to ones environment. The researchers report that "the Chinese Constitution lays unambiguous claim on behalf of the Chinese State to all natural resources under its control that now includes Tibet. The concept of a "Tibetan" tree or "Tibetan" gold conflicts with the Constitution: there can only be Chinese trees and Chinese ores. In China's view, what is taken is not only rightly China's, but completely China's. The claim that Tibetan resources are being appropriated by China would, according to China's constitution, be nonsense since there are no Tibetan resources." This is directly in conflict with the Tibetan belief in the interrelationship with all things, that one cannot own nature, but respectfully interact with it.

The TIBET: Outside the TAR CD-ROM can be purchased from the International Campaign for Tibet for $35.00. For more information Contact: International Campaign for Tibet 1825 K Street, NW, Suite 520 Washington, DC 20006 USA Tel: (202) 785-1515 Fax: (202) 785-4343 E-mail: ict@peacenet.org URL: http://www.savetibet.org

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