Tibet’s armed resistance to Chinese invasion

This fourth blog post is part of a series on the Tibetan Uprising. This is the fifth post in a series on the Tibetan Uprising. It concerns 1958. That was when Chinese communists sought to conquer the huge areas the Tibetans liberated in 1956-1957. In June, the Chushi Gangdruk was declared the united national Tibetan resistance.

Post 1 dealt with Tibet prior to 1949 Chinese invasion. This included the refusal by the Tibetan government of the Dalai Lama in 1932 to take action to defend the nation against the “Red” ideology. After the Chinese conquest of Tibet, there was an uprising by the people. This was triggered by the registration of guns. Post 3 was about how the Chinese communist invaders drove most of Eastern Tibet from 1956-1957.

These are extracts from my law school treatise and textbook. Firearms Law and Second Amendment – Regulation, Rights and Policy (3d ed. Aspen Publishers. 2021. The book’s 23 chapters, eight of which are free, can be accessed worldwide via the internet. Chapter 19 Comparative Law is available on the web. Tibet pages 1885-1916. Here are citations that I have provided for direct quotes. Additional citations can be found in the online chapter.

Conviction of property

Chinese Communist Party had demanded Tibetan gun registration for 1955 and gun confiscation for 1956. This confiscation demand was made again in April 1958.

The communists took over all pasturage and agriculture in Tibet’s two eastern regions, Kham, and Amdo. The communists took all land and livestock, forcing the population to join slave labour gangs.

Mao took most of the food that was produced in Tibet and China by peasants for export. To build his reputation in Eastern European communist nations, he used the food he had produced to feed the Chinese urban workers. He shipped so many food items to communist Albania, that there was no need for food rationing. This is a rare thing in communist countries.

In China and Tibet, the government took so many food items that it caused widespread famines. The communists carefully rationed food and gave only survival-level rations to those who were able to work the fields tirelessly. They also starved all others.

Mao the Chinese Communist Party chairman declared hunger as part of his “Great Leap Forward”. From 1958, it was enforced throughout China’s “People’s Republic of China.” However, it was not in Eastern Tibet areas where the invaders had been expulsed. Nor  in Central Tibet; the uprisings in Eastern Tibet were preventing the CCP from supplying a large enough army in Central Tibet to impose what Mao considered to be full communism.

Why was the Communist Youth League fighting the communists’?

Map of Tibet
A map showing Tibet, with the 3 Provinces of U-Tsang Kham, Amdo, and Kham. All of Eastern Tibet, as shown in the map above has been annexed to Chinese provinces.

Amdo and Kham were two provinces in Eastern Tibet. Armed resistance began as soon as Chinese People’s Liberation Army started to emerge (PLA) in 1949. In Kham and Eastern U-Tsang the Khampa population had rebelled in large numbers in 1955-56. They were incited by communist orders to confiscate guns and register them. In Amdo to the north, many others rebelled against the 1958 gun confiscation and property forfeiture orders.

Since ancient times, Tibet had an extensive Muslim population. This was completely tolerated by Buddhist theocracy. PLA invaders did not tolerate this. Since 1954, some Muslims living in Amdo were fighting with the Buddhists against communists. (Post 2.) (Post 2.). In April 1958, Muslim Salars in Xunhua’s county (Amdo), joined forces with the enemy. The interfaith rebellion lasted for one week and spread to eight more towns. The rebellion was supported by 68 per cent of Chinese Communist Party members (CCP) and 69 per cent of the Communist Youth League.

Xunhua’s subsequent CCP investigation revealed that 78 percent had joined rebellion because they held “extremely misunderstood ideas about God”. . . Preferring to leave the Party than to give up their religion. Or even choosing death over to follow their path. Jianglin Li: Tibet in Agony – Lhasa 195956 (2016)

Mao, Panchen Lama, & Dalai Lama. Peking, Feb. 24, 1955.

Mao, in China as well as Tibet, worked hard to make traditional religions obsolete by creating a new one. Worship of Mao reached its apex as the government-established religion in the late 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution.

Mao knew that the devotion of other religions was not possible. As Mao’s guest, the Dalai Lama (1954-1955) and Panchen Lama (2nd-ranking), spent many months in Peking during 1954-1955. Mao loved to entertain his guests and was a friendly host.

Mao said to the Dalai Lama: “I understand your well.” Religion is poison, of course. It suffers from two major flaws: First, it undermines the race and second, it slows down the progress of the country. It has poisoned both Tibet and Mongolia. Dalai Lama My Land and My People 117-18 (2006).

Amdo has more fighting

According to estimates, there were 10,840 Tibetan rebels in Tsikorthang County. This included 1,020 nuns and monks. Chinese PLA formed an infantry unit in July 1958. The PLA regiment declared victory in July 1958. Five months later the Tibetan survivors fled the hills. Chinese soldiers were told by the Tibetan people that they were liberators. However, a PLA commander complained indignantly to his superiors. The Tibetan masses helped the rebels by feeding, sheltering, and hiding them.

The Communist Party Committee of Amdo reported in June 1958 that there had been a hundred thousand rebels. These rebels were from 240 tribal groups and made up one fifth of Tibet’s population. There were 6 prefectures and 24 counties involved in the uprising, along with 307 monasteries.

A unified national rebellion is organised in Lhasa

Lhasa, the capital of Central Tibet (Central Tibet), was becoming overcrowded by refugees. Around ten-to fifteen thousand Chinese had fled Maoism from China. They were happy running their own small businesses. CCP expelled them to China. The communists then announced that they would register refugees from Kham or Amdo, who lived around Lhasa. They would also be expelled unless the CCP granted them permission to remain in Lhasa. Some disappeared after they joined the resistance force. Many had combat and arms experience during the previous revolts in Eastern Tibet.

Part 3 describes the efforts of wealthy Lhasa merchant Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang to organize a united resistance to invaders. It was now time for the creation of an all-Tibet army resistance. He sold all his wealth to purchase ammunition and arms—including rifles and handguns from Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Czechoslovakia. To join the resistance, his 46 employees were “armed up to their teeth” and given horses. Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang, The Resistance Movement of Tibet: Four Rivers, Six Ranges 59-60 (1973).

Tibetan Buddhism teaches that being born rich, powerful, or intelligent automatically entails the moral obligation to help other sentient beings who are less fortunate. Mikel Dunham, Buddha’s Warriors – The Story of the CIA Supported The Chinese Invasion and Tibet’s Ultimate Fall, Tibetan Freedom Fighters 250 (2004).

Chushi Gangdruk, a new nation’s resistance arm was created. The new national resistance army was established in Triguthang, a valley located under a hundred miles from Lhasa.

Chushi Gangdrug Tensrid Daglang Mak (the Kham Four Rivers Six Ranges Tibetan Defenders the Faith Volunteer Army) was their full name. The Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Religious and Political Resistance was also their name. Kham was known by the traditional name “Four Rivers and Six Ranges”. These rivers include the Yalung, Salween and Yangtze.

Twenty-to thirty thousand Chushi Gangdruk were in Lhoka at the time of proclamation.

There were many types of monks: farmers, nomads or peddlers. The monks carried their rifles, flintlocks hunting guns and swords. . .

Li, Tibet and Agony, at 69.

Chushi Gangdruk flag.

The Chushi Gangdruk raised their flag, which was a cross of swords against a yellow background. The Chushi Gangdruk protected Buddhism from communism by using yellow as their color. Manjusri is the bodhisattva, who slashed through ignorance to end communism. Another sword was an emblem of courage and was created by Tibetans.

The Chinese communists made Tibet sign the Seventeen Point Agreement in 1951. They wanted to give up Chinese sovereignty for Chinese promises. Seventeen Point Agreement was created to free Tibet from Western imperialism. Eight Americans or Britons were living in Tibet at that time. Each of them had permission from Tibet’s government to assist the government with projects like radio communication.

Ironically, the Chushi Gangdruk reacted to the Seventeen Point Agreement’s deceitful words: “The Tibetan people shall unify and drive out the imperialist aggressive forces of Tibet.” Seventeen Point Agreement, § 1.

The Chushi Gangdruk Resistance Army: How it worked

Chushi Gangdruk units of guerilla fighters were, to the best extent possible formed from people who had come from the same place or the same district. Although they weren’t necessarily military specialists, officers were considered the top men in the area. However, they had the loyalty and confidence of their troops which was vital. Eighty-eight rebel groups joined the Chushi Gangdruk.

The Chushi Gangdruk had been buying arms from everywhere. They were able to “steal” weapons from Tibetan military arsenals without the intervention of the Tibetan government. While the PLA attempted to stop raids against its arsenals, many times it failed. Gompo Tashi was purchasing Russian-made pistols and rifles in India, Nepal and Sikkim at that time (at the moment, an Indian protectorate which had been independent from India until 1950), Bhutan and Pakistan. The Tibetan cabinet. KashagHowever, this order wasn’t always followed.

The new weapons supplies and the unity of the Chushi Gangdruk led to the cutting off three strategic highways south from Lhasa by the Chushi Gangdruk, which thwarted PLA mobility. He was leading his men in hit and run raids against Kongpo (Nyinghci Prefecture), an area in Central Tibet between Lhoka, Chamdo and Chamdo. Derge can be found further east in Kham (Eastern Tibet). Following the CCP’s takeover of his assets and killing his family members, Derge was made a rebel leader.

The Dalai Lama

Chinese communists were infuriated at Chushi Gangdruk. This was clearly a national coordinated campaign that went far beyond the previous local rebellions. CCP ordered the Dalai Lama’s deployment of the Tibetan army against Chushi Gangdruk. In direct disobedience to a Chinese order, the Dalai Lama stated that, if an army was ordered to combat the Chushi Gangdruks, it would join them. The Tibetan cabinet. Kashag, agreed with the Dalai Lama—well aware that the army might remove the KashagRather than fighting the Chushi Gangdruk, In fact, in November 1958 many soldiers of the Tibetan army deserted for the Chushi Gangdruk.

While the Dalai Lama made announcements encouraging rebels to surrender their arms, the Chinese censors were so strict and the messages clearly intended for the Chinese that freedom fighters couldn’t see the meaning behind them, the Chinese censors did not make any. While they understood that His Holiness may not approve of the actions taken, they found comfort in knowing that he did not oppose them. Roger Hicks & Ngakpa Chogyam, Great Ocean 105 (1984) (authorized biography).

The Chushi Gangdruk’s Strengths

The number of rebel organizations grew, and more were formed. One example is a group of 10 men with 4 rifles that grew into 40 families and later to 300. In late 1958 the rebellion had grown to be massive. A few Tibetans who fled India to become Chushi Gangdruk members returned to Tibet. Every tribe of Kham was resisting with arms. Amdo rebelled, twenty thousand Goloks were also fighting (a tribe that is not Tibetan in Amdo).

The Tibetans enjoyed a moral advantage. PLA troops were only allowed to fight because it was their duty. They had an image of either a raped or murdered father as motivation to continue their fight when the Chushi Gangdruk “drawn their swords.” And, unlike the Chinese soldiers they had the ultimate trump card. They had nothing to lose. Dunham, 261.

Tibetans were favored by the terrain. They were well-versed in the terrain, which was not the case for the Chinese. Their bodies were adapted to thrive in thin air and the exhaustion of the inhabitants from the lowlands. Like the Korean War, there were some PLA soldiers who deserted when they could. Chushi Gangdruk was required to distinguish between PLA deserters and PLA spy spies.

PLA hired local bandits as rebels to plunder villages and discredit resistance. They worked tirelessly to eradicate the fake flag criminals.

Chushi Gangdruk Weaknesses

Other challenges faced the rebels. They were skilled with swords and firearms but not in guerilla warfare. After returning to Tibet with CIA-trained leadership, they could share knowledge about tactics and operations but were unable to interact or reach all the resistance groups in Tibet.

The resistance often ran out of ammunition and arms. Although Tibet had many firearms before 1949, most of them were matchlocks and flintlocks. These firearms are far superior to semi-automatic bolt action firearms which were invented late in the nineteenth century. As for ammunition, many Tibetan families before 1949 had quantities sufficient for ordinary uses—such as hunting, or family and community defense from bandits—but not for protracted guerilla warfare with numerous battles lasting hours or days.

Information sharing among rebels was a challenge. Lhasa was the only place where newspapers could be published. They were managed by CCP collaborators. Information nodes were monasteries, but even within them news could not be spread except by word-of-mouth. “Tibet was an informational culde-sac of a million. Dunham, at 251.

Volunteers were without radio equipment, which hampered coordination. This was actually a good thing. The PLA has been revealed to have cracked simple radio encryption codes used by the Tibetans in secret Chinese military documents. In addition, PLA spying was conducted inside Tibetan resistance forces.

The numerical power of the PLA

Manpower was the greatest advantage of the PLA. Because the Tibetan population was small (perhaps three million), attrition and lack of medical care gradually reduced their numbers. However, the PLA didn’t care about soldiers’ safety and was able to replace soldiers who died in China with an unlimited supply. The Tibetans stated that if one PLA soldier was killed, then ten will replace him. They would kill ten soldiers to replace them with a hundred. The Tibetan ammunition shortage made the Chinese superiority even more pronounced. They couldn’t afford to fire many rounds that didn’t result in casualties.

In military history, there are many fighters who were, man for man, superior to their opponents, but who were eventually defeated by sheer force of numbers—for example, the Romans against the barbarian tribes during the last century of the Western Roman Empire, New Zealand’s Maori natives against the invading British in the nineteenth century, or the Germans against the Soviets in World War II.

Late 1958 saw massive Chinese reinforcements arrive. The situation in Eastern Tibet was almost under control by the end of 1958. However, there were still years-long resistances.

After the local revolts had been crushed, all the men who were able to bear arms would be taken into the PLA and held or sent to prison. laogaiSlave labor camp. Their families were permanently labeled as being of the lowest social class. Even those who cooperated with communists, prominent citizens disappeared mysteriously forever.” Li, Tibet and Agony at 61-63. “In Yulshui Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture [Amdo]Ghost towns and widows were created by the slaughter. To avoid death, the young men disguised themselves with sheepskin jackets and hid among their sheep flocks. Italics. at 63

Central Tibet: The Situation

In Central Tibet, Chushi Gangdruk had the initiative. The Lhoka army advanced 30 miles from Lhasa during the winter 1958. Without heavy military escort, travel between China and Lhasa became impossible because of the presence in Chamdo of Khampa Prefecture (in the east of Central Tibet), of resistance fighters. Some of these logistical problems were solved by the PLA’s new Lhasa airport.

A militia was established in Lhasa by the PLA’s Tibet Military Command on November 8, 1958. This included Han, who Mao had previously exported to Tibet. The militia quickly became well-organized and well-armed. A PLA garrison was established near Lhasa. The PLA had built up artillery to be able to attack any building in the capital and shut down access to the whole valley.

The Chinese imperial army was now ready to take the next step, namely eliminate the Dalai Lama.