Central Tibetan Administration.
The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile formed on this date in India in 1960, and has been elected to 14 five-year terms since. It represents the approximately 128,000 Tibetans in exile around the world, most of whom live in India, with 44 members drawn from the diaspora, from Tibet itself, and from the Buddhist and Bon schools. The Dalai Lama appoints between one and three members.
Tibet is "the roof of the world," at the junction of China, Nepal and India. The Himalayas separate it from Nepal and India, while the Central China Plain abuts the Tibetan Plateau to the north and east. Traditional Tibet comprises the three provinces of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo, an area more than four times the size of France, or approximately 1/4 of the current territory of the People's Republic of China. China incorporated most of that territory, including the province of Amdo and most of Kham, into the provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan. What remains is the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), a region of approximately 1.2 million square kilometers that comprises all of U-Tsang and a portion of Kham. The population of the TAR is 2.7 million, but more than three million ethnic Tibetans live in China.
Tibet's history of independence is a short one, spanning only the period from 1912 to 1950. China's ironically named People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1949, and defeated the Tibetan Army in 1950 at the Battle of Chamdo. The government of China has treated Tibet as a conquered territory, imprisoning, torturing and killing political dissidents and diverting its natural resources to support the rest of the country. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's traditional head of state, fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese crushed a national uprising in Lhasa. Establishing a government in exile, the Dalai Lama committed himself to creating a structure for democratic rule in Tibet. He has said that when Tibet is free, its first task will be to elect a constitutional assembly — and that once the constitution is in place, he will transfer all of his authority to the new President, and live as an ordinary citizen.
As the United States goes through its quadrennial political circus, it is worth a moment to remember how many of the world's people have no voice in who governs them, or how. Our American system was founded on the principle that self-determination is not only the most powerful human desire, but also the most basic human right. We take it for granted, and we demean it and debase it by trying to withhold it from members of our own communities with unnecessary and burdensome "voter fraud" rules. Our founders would be dismayed, but Mao Tse-Tung would approve.
"When bad men combine, the good must associate," wrote the Irish orator Edmund Burke, "else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Today, on Tibetan Democracy Day, we celebrate the continuing efforts of the Tibetan government-in-exile, and we should cherish our own political freedoms a little more closely. Please register to vote, if you haven't already, and exercise your rights on November 6.