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The History of Kham John Studley 12th Feb 2004 It is hardly surprising that here in this wild, forgotten land, should be found one of the most rugged races on planet earth, and an independent fighting spirit that was birthed during the reign of great Tibetan Empire of Songtsen Gampo. (AD 630-82 1) Songtsen Gampo was a Tibetan chieftain who, in AD 630 set out to unify the wild tribes of central Asia. Twenty years after taking up arms, he had raised one of the fiercest armies of all time and extended his empire over Kham and Amdo, which had been the domain of the White Wolf Qiang, as well as most of central Asia and well into China (Marshall & Cooke 1997) From the frightened Chinese emperor he demanded a daughter in marriage. The emperor was obliged to comply and also to pay an annual tribute to the Tibetan King. So powerful was Tibet at this time that when in AD 763 a subsequent Chinese emperor refused to pay the fifty thousand rolls of silk owed in tribute to the Tibetan court, Trisong Detson (741-798 AD) Songtsen Gampo’s great-grandson, invaded China and captured the capital of the Celestial Empire (which was Xi’an (or Chang’an) in those days). The Tibetan king then deposed the Chinese emperor and replaced him temporarily with his own brother-in-law. Later when King Ralpachen converted to Buddhism the Tibetan empire began to disintegrate, and Kham became more independent. In 821 during a lull in hostilities Tibet and China made a pact of nonaggression (Snellgrove & Richardson 1986 Strauss 1992 Stein 1972) ,

In the 1,200 years that followed, however, the history of Kham was marked by endless feuds between warrior chiefs in deadly competition for supremacy over Kham’s remote hinterlands (Lane 1994). By the end of the 12th century the Kingdom of Ling, home of the epic hero King Gesar, had expanded, to include most of Kham, if we are to believe his “super human” exploits (Samuel 1992). In the 1600’s the Naxi Kings (of NW Yunnan) felt strong enough to make incursions into Tibetan territory, resulting in recurrent fighting on the southern Kham cultural-ecological frontier. This made the Tibetans build watch and defense towers across southern Kham separating the Tibetans from the Tibeto-Burmans (van Spengen 2002 Rock 1930 Roosevelt & Roosevelt 1929). The kingdom of Ling must have declined because it apparently played no significant role by 1640 in Gushri Khan’s campaigns in Kham, when his principal opponent was the pro-Bon King of Ben. By the 17th century the kingdom of Derge had enlarged itself at Ling’s at Beri’s expense, and subsequently much of Eastern Kham became part of the extensive Derge estate. It would appear, however that Ling and Ben continued as a semi-independent states. In spite of Derge’s overlordship Eastern Kham’s nomads were notorious for their independent nature, and could hardly be considered submissive to anyone except their immediate tribal chiefs. When, as occasionally happened, a foreigner was foolish enough to challenge the Khambas, they would unite, their quarrels momentarily forgotten. When this occurred there few who could oppose the “Race of kings”, not the Chinese, or even Chenggis Khan, who eventually came to terms with them on the basis of patron-priest relationship (Peissel 1972) A Chinese toehold The Chinese were unable to get a toehold in Central Tibet until the early 1700’s. In 1717 the Dzungar Mongols were threatening Tibet and partly due to intrigue and partly due to the threat posed by Dzungars, King Lhabsang Khan, agreed to the help offered by the Manchu Emperor Kang Xi. Although the Emperor’s first army was wiped out, his second army


encountered less trouble, because the Tibetans had put the Dzungars to flight. More importantly, this army was assured of a friendly reception because it had brought the Seventh Dalai Lama with it (Kang Hsi had previously captured him). This to my knowledge is the only time Tibet ever paid Tribute to China, in return for recognition and protection. Consequently, in 1728, a new boundary between China & Tibet was established, most of kham was placed under the jurisdiction of Sichuan or Yunnan province (Kolmas 1967) a Chinese garrison was established in Lhasa, and the Tibetan Chiefs who lived to the east of the boundary were given seals as semi-independent feudatories of Manchu China, in spite of this few Chinese dared to enter Kham for fear of being murdered. The Manchu protection however was short lived. When the Gurkhas invaded T!bet in 1856 no Manchu assistance appeared and help faded altogether by the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 (Goldstein 1997 Guibaut 1949) It is not widely known that throughout most of their history neither Tibet nor Kham paid tribute to China. The true nature of Sino-Tibetan relations was obscured by attempts by the Chinese to present tribal peoples as perpetually subservient to China. Thus we hear of nomads coming to “pay tribute”, “present homage” or “sending hostages” when in fact this was a diplomatic smoke screen which disguised the payment of large bribes to the frontier peoples in order to appease them. While the biases in the sources are fairly transparent, they have often been uncritically perpetuated in modern scholarship through a process of secondary ethnocentrism (Barfield 1989). Nag-sked Mgon-po rnam-rgyal Even before the 19th century there was an emergent ethno-national consciousness among the Khambas. It was, however only as a result of Nag-sked Mgon-po rnam-rgyals campaign that the Khambas began to impact Tibetan and Chinese consciousness (See Epstein 2002) Nag-sked A-mgon was the chief of a tiny tribe of about 60 families from Nyarong (Xinlong) county who subdued over 30 years, the whole of kham from Chamdo to Kanding. This coincided with tumult and disorder throughout China & Tibet. kham experienced famine, China two Opium Wars (1839-1842 & 1856-1860) and the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864) and Tibet, warwith the Dogras (1841) and the Gorkhas (1850-1856). While the Manchu Emperor and Tibetan Government faced turmoil A-mgon had succeeded in creating a parallel power in kham, and was on the verge of changing the political shape of kham and the whole of Tibet (Tsening 1985) The governor of Sichuan was unable to prevent this and Tibetan government was forced to keep an alert vigil of this man. While alive he was both hated and feared, but in death his life became a legend of epic proportions narrated by one generation to the next. The common people of Kham even swore in his name. Although he was a great conqueror A-mgon could not enjoy the fruits of his military success for long. Whether it was due to an Amban conspiracy or tribal chiefs who had been driven into exile or the need for an explicit border with China the Tibetan government intervened with a strong military force in Feb 1863 and exterminated him through deceit and treachery. With his death Tibet lost one of the last walls preventing Chinese expansion (Tashi Tsering 1985). The only legacy, however for the peoples of Kham was a change in hair style and clothing. The hair style, which is still worn by Khamba men today, comprises yak-hair, rings and red tassels, believed to prevent injury from sword blows. After the betrayal of A-mgon the people of kham lost faith in the Central Tibetans. Although A-mgons rule had had the positive effect of uniting many provinces of Kham, in resisting any invader, that unity was lost after his death, leaving Tibet open to the last incursions of the dying Manchu dynasty. Historical studies of Tibet have taken Central Tibet as their axial focus, and there are no fine-grained studies of A-mgons attempt to restructure society and build a Khamba state. (Epstein 2002) The British Invasion of Tibet


British India’s attempts to open relations with Tibet precipitated the British invasion of 1903-1904 (led by Francis Younghusband) and set in motion a host of conflicting and uncontrolled forces that have dominated Tibetan history up to the present day. In 1904 there seemed a real danger that Tibet could become a British protectorate as had Bhutan & Sikkim, so for the first time China made a concerted effort to bring Kham under their control (French 1994 Mehra 1979 Younghusband 1998) Batang Uprising In 1905 the Chinese promulgated a decree in Batang that reduced the number of monks in monasteries, reduced recruitment for twenty years, and granted land to French Catholic priests. This led to a monk-led uprising during which the Chinese architect of this programme, Feng Ch’uan was killed. In swift retaliation Sichuan provincial officials sent an army, which retook Batang and destroyed the monastery. They appointed Zhou Erh-Feng to continue the work of “consolidation”, and he was so ruthless he earned himself the nickname of “the butcher of monks”. Two thousand of his troops marched on Lhasa, although when his advanced guard arrived they found that the Dalai Lama had fled to India (Goldstein 1989 Coleman 2002) The siege of Sampeling Monastery (1906) When the principal Monastery in Batang was razed to the ground in 1905 most of the surviving monks fled southward to the Sampeling Monastery in the de facto independent Chatreng (Xiangcheng) district. The monastery controlled one of the most lawless areas of Kham comprising the mountain fastness of Konkaling (Daocheng) & Chatreng, whose peoples never acknowledged Chinese rule. Situated between Lijiang & Litang and the Jinsha Jiang & Yajiang Rivers (99.5 and 101 E and 28 and 29.5 N), with unsurpassed scenery, flora & fauna, it was peopled by “Mongfan” of Tibetan and non-Tibetan stock, who had benefited from the illegal trading, slaving caravans and limited banditry for 150 years (Edgar 1935 Du Halde et al 1741 Rock 1930 1931 Yuan Li 2000). As a result of Zhou’s forward policy, and the destruction of whole villages a large number of displaced Tibetans and Chinese army deserters fled to Chatreng and Konkaling and began to engage in large-scale banditry for sheer survival (Shelton 1923 Teichman 1922 van Spengen 2002). They were joined by monks from Batang and from the great monasteries of north-western Yunnan which had been looted by Chinese troops, who had not been paid, and had risen in turn. (Younghusband 1998). Here behind the massive walls and fortifications of Sampeling monastery they bid defiance to the Chinese. Zhao Erh-Feng took up the challenge and laid siege with three thousand Chinese troops. The siege lasted for several months and only came to an end until June of 1906, when the Chinese, who were exhausted and only kept to their work by Zhou’s indefatigable spirit, gained entrance by a ruse and cutting off the water supply. The garrison of monks, fighting to the last were all put to the sword, the monastery looted and destroyed, and the resistance of the local Tibetans overcome for the time being (Younghusband 1998 Edgar 1935 Shelton 1923). The feud however between the Chinese and the peoples of Chaktreng and Konkaling which had begun long before the siege, was not at an end, and the district was destined for many years to come to be a major thorn in the side of Chinese authorities and their attempts to subjugate Kham (Teichman 1922 Younghusband 1998 Mehra 1979 Jeffrey 1974 Rock 1930 l93lYuan Li 2000). Towards the end of 1910 the Chinese garrison mutinied and the local Tibetans rose again in revolt against Chinese rule, destroying the German built bridge at Yajiang (Shelton 1923). Zhou suppressed the rising with his usual severity, leaving the natives of this turbulent district more than ever irreconcilable to Chinese rule ( Edgar 1930, 1935 Teichman 1922 1935 Shelton 1923) By 1912 the monastery was again occupied by Tibetans, and although republican soldiers forced them to retreat to Yunnan, by 1913 they had returned. China insisted at the Simla conference that Batang, Litang, Chatreng & Konkaling remain part of China. This proposal was rejected by the British and as a result was never ratified by the Chinese. In southern Kham rebellion continued to plague the


Chatreng and Konkaling district and surroundings well into the 1920’s, and with a few exceptions it remained a “closed land” for Chinese and foreigners (Rock 1931 Yuan Li 2000 Rehder & Kobuski 1932). For strategic reasons, however it continued to enjoy China’s geopolitical interests (Lamb 1989) The planned creation of Xikang Already as early as the beginning of the last century, with what has been described as “China’s infinite capacity for misrepresentation” maps had been produced showing most of Kham as part of China Having subjugated Eastern Kham by 1908 and placed strong garrisons at all strategic points, Zhou unveiled a plan that was to consolidate the whole of Kham under direct Chinese administration. All of Kham as far west as Giamda (150km east of Lhasa) was to be consolidated into a separate province called Xikang. China wanted to secure as large a buffer territory as possible on her western frontier in case Tibet became a foreign protectorate. China hoped that this new boundary would become accepted as the frontier between China and Tibet (Mehra 1979) Before the plan could be fully implemented, the Qing dynasty fell in a revolution that plunged China into chaos for the next 15 years (van Walt van Praag 1987). Zhao was treacherously murdered by Sichuan revolutionaries in Dec 1911 and by mid-1912 the Chinese had lost control of most of the frontier districts. Simla agreement Britain was starting to become concerned about Chinese expansionism and threats to British interests. In late 1913 under considerable British pressure China agreed to join Britain and Tibet in tripartite talks to Simla (India) to settle the question of the Sino-Tibetan frontier and Tibet’s political status. As a result all Chinese were expelled from Kham (1913-1919), the frontier was moved to the Dadu river (east of Kanding) and Lhasa officials were allowed to administer Kham (Goldstein 1989) In 1913 the Lhasa officials were initially welcomed to kham as liberators, but sizable cultural and linguistic differences existed. The Lhasa officials considered the Khambas stupid and uncouth and saw their stay in Kham as an opportunity to get rich at the expense of the local population. Particularly abusive to local Khambas were the virtually unlimited use by Lhasa officials of free “corvee” (oula) transport for their personal trading ventures. This was exacerbated by the lack of access Khambas had to positions of authority and power in government. With only a few exceptions all major provincial officials were brought in from Lhasa. British Broker peace deal The Chinese did not remain out of Kham very long and in 1918, a Chinese warlord named Peng advanced across Kham, in tne direction of Lhasa. The Tibetan troops were much better trained than those who had faced Zhou Erh-Feng and to Peng’s surprise and humiliation they drove him back, and after months of fighting he was forced to surrender and repatriate 3,000 Chinese prisoners via India. Tibetan troops subsequently moved east towards the border town of Kanding where they threatened to take more prisoners and invade the Sichuan Basin. Hastily the Chinese swallowed their pride and called on the British to use their power and influence to prevent a further advance of the Khambas into China. The British slopped the war by curtailing the supply of arms and ammunition filtering into Tibet by way of Kalimpong. They then delegated Eric Teichman, a British Consular officer seconded to Kanding, to negotiate with the Khambas. Single-handed Teichman struck out alone across the high, unexplored mountain ranges of Kham to get the warriors to agree to an armistice. On August 19th 1918 a peace treaty was signed at Rongbatsa (the Khambas had no ammunition left). It provided for a truce and the acceptance of a provisional boundary, roughly along the Yangtze, except that the newly occupied counties of Derge, Beyul,


and Dengke & Shiqu (to the east of the river) remained under Lhasa administration. A kind of demilitarized zone was established roughly between the Yangtze and the Dadu rivers, which remained independent under very nominal Chinese administration. As a result of the 1918 peace treaty the Chinese magistrates in the newly occupied areas were obliged to retire east, and the administration reverted to pre 1908 Tibetan administration (Teichman 1922a & b) The creation of Xikang This plan was revived again in 1928 by the Nationalist government who now created (on paper) two new provinces, the first Qinghai, encompassing all the Tibetan region of Amdo, the second Xikang, with Kanding as its capital, covering most of Kham. Because neither the Khamba nor Lhasa authorities published maps or were represented abroad, these ridiculous claims were never refuted, and maps all over the world included these new Chinese provinces. A number of western radio hams even contacted R Ford, a British Radio operator in Chamdo, in the mistaken belief that it was part of China (Ford 1990) Most Chinese history books covering the creation Xikang fail to mention how the Khambas responded. While some mention the warlord General Liu Wen Hui and the entry of communist troops, the role of the Pangda brothers and three autonomy movements that shook the Kham political landscape in the 1930’s was simply “forgotten” by official historiography. Unofficial publications however suggest that the Khambas reacted militantly according to their version of the Xikang provincial project. They represent the ways in which Khamba political actions were mapped in response to political exigencies in Central Tibet and China. The Khambas introduced new forms of regional autonomy, while engaging and coping with Chinese and Tibetan nation-building projects (Epstein 2002 Peng Wenbin 2002) General Liu Wen Hui In 1928 the chief of Beri rose in arms against the Lama of Nyarong, and Targye monastery, resulting in war again. A powerful Sichuan warlord, General Liu Wen Hui, took the opportunity of sending troops into the demilitarized zone to support the chief of Ben. As soon as Liu’s troops were involved, the Khamba troops (from Derge) rose up against the Chinese intruders. After five months of bitter fighting the Khambas were able to drive the Chinese troops out of Ben and most of Kham, but their success was short lived. Liu Wen Hui was able to regroup and counterattack by the end of 1931. By May 1932 the Tibetan forces had been driven out of Ganzi and Nyarong, and by July they had lost Derge, which Tibet had held since 1919. Soon afterwards they were forced to pull back to the Yangtze river itself. Liu Wen Hui was making ready to press further westward when he found himself threatened from the rear. His nephew Liu Xiang, also a warlord, was marching on Kanding in a bid for supremacy. Liu Wen Hui had no alternative but to withdraw his troops and return to Kanding. In the aftermath of these events an agreement was reached. On 10th October 1932, Liu and the Tibetan leaders signed a truce in which it was agreed that the Tibetan forces would remain west of the Yangtze river and the Chinese would remain east of it. The river remained the de facto border between Tibet and China until October 1950 (Peissel 1972 Guibaut 1949) The Panga Brothers A few months after the armistice, in April 1932, Liu invaded Kham again, taking the Tibetans by surprise. This attack greatly embarrassed the central Chinese government which was forced to admit that it could no more control the Sichuan warlords than the Dalai Lama could control the Khambas. Led by the Pangda Tsang brothers the Khambas tried to drive the Lhasa Tibetans out of Chamdo and the Chinese out of Ganzi. The brothers very nearly succeeded in their bid for power by which they hoped to unite not only Kham, but the ancient world of Songtsen Gampo. For two years the Pangda Tsangs fought with desperate courage against the Lhasa Tibetans, the Nationalist Chinese and the Chinese communists. They might have been defeated but all over Kham their praises were sung for fighting the Chinese although outnumbered ten to one (Goldstein 1989


Peissel 1972) In reality after the defeat of the Pangda brothers much of Kham, with the exception of Chamdo (ruled and taxed by a Lhasa governor) and Kanding (under the Chinese “governor” of Xikang) continued to be ruled by the local princes of Derge, the rulers of Batang, the great abbots of Litang, and numerous nomad princes. While the rest of China referred to Eastern Kham as Xikang, it made little difference beyond the perimeters of Kanding (Holdsworth 1993 Peissel 1972) and did not prevent the development of three Khamba self-rule movements or Khamba power. They continued to maintain the region’s reputation as a vast outlaw stronghold over which they were the undisputed lords. In 1933 one audacious Khamba chief rode with 5000 of his warriors down into Yunnan province and unceremoniously sacked the town of Lijiang (Lane 1994). The Khambas continued to disregard Chinese administration and refused to accept Chinese currency (Migot 1956) Batana Self-rule Movement (1932) Zhao Erfeng’s (“the butcher of monks”) reforms in 1905 were conducted mostly in Batang, a county in southern Kham, close to the Yangtze. Nearly 30 years later this place was again in the political spotlight, this time as a result of a self-rule movement led by a native Baanese, named Gesangzeren. He attended West China Primary School, a high school in Yunnan and Xikang Officers Training Institute, and became the Nationalist Party’s first Tibetan member. In 1931 he was dispatched, by the Nationalists from Nanjing to organize a provincial party branch in kham. His return as a native Khamba of high rank caused suspicion among Liu Wenhui’s civil and military staff in Batang. They spread rumors and assassinated one of Gesangzeren’s workers. Gesangzeren seized the opportunity to disband Liu’s army in Batang and to proclaim his five-point reform policies • local self-rule • equality among various nationalities • abolition of corvee labour • improvement of agriculture and animal husbandry technology • development of culture and education in Kham Meanwhile he established a predatory committee of Xikang Province, and declared himself Xikang Provincial Commander of the Nationalist Army. Gonnga Lama, however refused, to turn over the weapons taken from Liu’s garrison at Yanjing and when Gesangzeren sent soldiers to attack Gonnga sought help from Lhasa and General Liu. Gesangzeren was recalled to Nanjing ending the Batang movement. From Gesangzeren’s perspective although he did not deny he had exceeded orders in disarming Liu’s troops and appointing himself as commander he received the support of the local people and refused to cooperate with the Central Tibetans (Peng Wenbin 2002). Although Gesangzeren miscalculated his own strength and considered that political reform was slow in Kham he had outstanding leadership qualities and was enthusiastic about local reforms. This was in stark contrast to Liu’s poor performance, corrupt politics and failure to deal with the Red Army (Qing 1975) The Nuola self-rule movement (1935) Nuola (a reincarnate Lama) was a legendary figure in Khamba politics, having mobilized a sizeable Khamba force in his fight with Central Tibetan forces in 1917. When he arrived in Nanjing in 1927 Gesangzeren assisted him in becoming Commissioner of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. The Nationalists in Nanjing hoped that Nuola and Gesangzeren could curb warlord forces in Kham and prevent the Red Army’s march into Kham. Tensions between Liu and Nuola


escalated as Nuola embarked on his pacifying missions in northern Kham. After disarming a regiment of Liu’s troops in Sept 1935 Nuota • proclaimed Khamba self-rule • ordered the removal of Liu’s magistrates in Northern Kham • ordered an attack on Batang As the news spread that the Red Army was marching towards Ganzi in 1936 Nuola was ordered to thwart their movements but he was beaten back, both near Dawu and Drango and forced to flee. This alarmed the Tibetan government who sent troops to occupy Derge. Chiang Kai Shek requested an explanation of this violation of the 1932 agreement and in December the Tibetan forces withdrew to the previous boundary (west of the Yangtze) Seriously ill Nuola died in Ganzi in 1936 and his legendary career ended at the age of 73 so did his autonomy movement in Kham (Peng Wenbin 2002) In contrast to the Batang Incident in 1932 which lasted 6 months and was confined to Batang the Nuola Incident tasted a year and covered most of Kham. There were several reasons for this: • Liu’s forces had already been crippled • Nuola had an army of more than 500 soldiers • His escort comprised divergent sources of support • As a reincarnate lama, a charismatic religious and political figure he was capable of mobilizing a sizeable local force The Ganzi self-rule movement (1939) Liu Jiaju was also from Batang and attended the same “West China School” as Gesangzeren, whom he joined in Nanjing in 1929. His talent was soon recognized leading to his promotion to Secretary-General of the Panchen Lama’s office in 1932 and membership of the Xikang Provincial Committee in 1935. In 1938 the Panchen Lama’s office moved from Qinghai to Ganzi and Liu Jiaju proposed the establishment of a special administrative region, in northern Kham, as a base for the Panchen office. Meanwhile he and other senior members of the office encouraged Yixiduoji, an officer of the Panchen Lama’s entourage to marry Deqinwangmu, chieftain of Ganzi Khangsar, one of the most powerful families in northern Kham. General Liu Wenhui was deeply aware of the political implications of the marriage and of the Panchen Office’s ambitions to take over northern Kham. Previously he had made an arrangement to ally himself with the Khangsar family, adopted Deqinwangmu as his “nominal daughter’ (Ch gan nuer) and had arranged for her to marry one of his officers. Neither of them accepted the arranged marriage citing “ethnic and religious differences”. When Liu Wenhui heard that Deqinwangmu was planning to marry Yixiduoji he decided to imprison her. Outraged the Khangsar family decided to attack and Liu Jiaju was appointed commander. Beginning on 25 October 1939 he:• Released Deqinwangmu • Took the Ganzi garrison commander & magistrate prisoner • Appointed magistrates in northern Kham • Proclaimed Khamba self-rule In December 1939 Liu Wenhui’s army launched a counterattack and recaptured Ganzi and the Khansar family and the Panchens office was forced to flee to Qianghai. In spite of their sometime striking spontaneity the three incidents were not really isolated or accidental but political ones orchestrated by goals calculations and organization (Feng 1992). They were campaigns against Liu Wenhui couched in the appeal of “Kham for the Khampas”, supported by, albeit tacitly at times, the Nationalists striving to curtail provincialism and Tibetan nationalist expansion in kham, and operating upon ties of native place as well as ethnicity. For the Chinese the end-game was the pacification of kham as a prerequisite for ruling Tibet.


PLA enter Kham On Jan 1st 1950 Radio Beijing announced as part of its New Years broadcast that the PLA’s tasks for 1950 included the “liberation” of Tibet, Taiwan & Hainan. At the time there were about 3,500 regular soldiers stationed in kham under the leadership of Governor-General Lhalu Tsewang Dorje. Facing these forces in Kham were a battle-hardened and well-led unit of the PLA comprising 20,000 troops. The Khambas were ambivalent in their support for the Lhasa government. In fact, an Indian intelligence report of 1943 (Goldstein 1989) stated that “in any clash on the Sino-Tibetan border the local Khambas will merely sit on the fence and come down on the winning side”. Although Lhalu realized this and tried to improve relations he and the other Lhasa officials kept sliding back into their old ways. Realizing the fragility of Lhasa-Kham relations the Chinese communists devised an effective propaganda campaign aimed at alienating the Khambas further from the Lhasa government. Seeing this situation Lhalu informed Lhasa in I 949 that he needed new troops and automatic weapons to defend Kham against a Chinese communist attack. Lhasa responded by sending a shipment of Bren & Sten guns, a non-commissioned officer and R. Ford, an English wireless operator. Ford brought three sets of wireless equipment and four operators. In Feb 1950 Lhalu asked Ford to send two operators to Dengke. Situated on the main route running from Kanding to Jyekundo, Dengke was strategically important, and they could warn Chamdo if the Chinese tried to attack by the Jyekundo-Riwoche route (which would cut off Chamdo). Lhalu increased his military strength by conscripting a Khamba militia (Ford 1958). The Chinese communists were planning a Bliztkrieg-like series of lightning thrusts based on the military ideas of Sun Tzu. Six months of intensive training begun in April 1950. The Chinese soldiers were not only taught about high altitude warfare but local religion, custom and language. Thus the Chinese made an elaborate show of support for the status quo in Kham with the aim of alleviating the fears of the Khambas. They promised that the only changes would be the elimination of heavy taxes and that the government would help to develop the area. In July 1950 the first military contact between the two forces occurred in Dengke (in Shiqu County). The Chinese objective was to remove the radio and in this they succeeded, although the battle for Dengke was technically a victory for the Tibetans. A frontier command headquarters was established and the road between Kanding and Ganzi was completed by the end of August 1950 (Goldstein 1989 Tsering Shakya 1999) PLA Invades Tibet On the 7th October while the world’s attention was focused on the crossing of the 38th parallel (in Korea) 40,000 PLA troops from the South-West Military Region attacked Tibet using a plan drawn up by 3 communist officials :- Deng Xiaoping, Liu Baocheng and He Long. (Tsering Shakya 1999). The success of the PLA depended on swift encirclement, given that the enemy were familiar with the terrain and expert horsemen. So speed, surprise and night attacks were employed in order to trap the Tibetan army in a pincer movement, preventing a retreat to Lhasa. In the north the 54th regiment crossed the Yangtze above Dengke, bypassed the Tibetan army at Kbyungpo and were able to attack Riwoche on 15th/I 6th October. From there they marched south, and encircled the Tibetan army, cutting off their escape route. At Dengke Commander Mucha was initially able to block the Chinese attempts to cross the Yangtze. Chinese forces were eventually able to cross north of Dengke and attack Mucha’s northern flank. Mucha was forced to retreat to Chamdo with his force intact. In the central zone, 200 Tibetan troops were well dug-in at the Gamto Druga river (Yangtze) crossing. The Tibetans were able to inflict heavy casualties at the beginning, but eventually increasing numbers of Chinese crossed the river the Tibetans were forced to flee. The Chinese 157th regiment attacked in the south on 7th/8th October. After crossing the Yangtze river in force near Markham and overpowering the Tibetan outposts there, they


pushed towards Markham where Derge Sey surrendered his entire force of over 400 troops. Lhasa was first informed about the invasion on I2th October but this was not publicized. The first public report of the invasion of Kham was an unconfirmed broadcast from Delhi on 15th October. There was no possibility that the Tibetan army could stop the PLA advancing towards Chamdo and so the new Governor of kham (Ngabo) decided to evacuate. Reports suggested that the Chinese still had not reached Riwoche and that the escape rout to Lhasa was safe. Eventually the Chinese took Riwoche and encircled the retreating Tibetan troops near Drukha Monastery. The Tibetans surrendered to the PLA on 19th October. The military action was meant as a display of Chinese military strength; it showed her determination to “integrate” Tibet within the new China. The Chinese could have marched straight on to Lhasa but the repercussions would have been far-reaching. Instead they attempted to convince the Tibetan government that a negotiated settlement could be reached, and that they were still willing to seek “peaceful liberation”. In spite of appealing to the UN, on 20th October 1951, a year and thirteen days after the Chinese invasion of Chamdo, a letter of acceptance of a 17-pont agreement was accepted, and Tibet became part of China. On 26th October 1951 Generals Zhang Guohua & Tan Guansan arrived in Lhasa as representatives of Central Government, and they were followed by several thousand PLA troops. In the years following the signing of the 17-point agreement Mao Zedong, contrary to popular belief in the West, pursued a policy of moderation in Tibet. Although his ultimate aim was clearly to transform Tibet in accordance with socialist goals. Between 1951 and 1959 not only was no aristocratic or monastic property confiscated but feudal lords were permitted to exercise judicial authority over their hereditarily bound peasants. Some Chinese officials in Tibet did however make plans for political and economic reform in 1956 although they were never implemented due to Mao’s intervention. “Democratic reform” begins in Kham The situation, however in ethnographic Tibet (which included Eastern Kham) was very different since these Tibetans were not part of “political Tibet” or the 17-point agreement. “Democratic reforms” started in some parts of Kham and Amdo as early as 1952-53 (Norbu 1986). The Chinese there tried, as elsewhere to orchestrate a class struggle. More roads were built, with the aid of large numbers of Chinese workers. In order to feed them, the Chinese started to “borrow” and then buy stocks of food, causing severe inflation. Taxes were imposed and confiscations and executions followed Additionally vast numbers of Chinese settlers started to be brought into the Chamdo area, and the Chinese made the fatal move of trying to disarm the Khambas. By 1954, a number of atrocities had been perpetuated by the Chinese. In places, those who resisted the Chinese were rounded up, labeled as “reactionaries & serf-owners” and were publically executed. In the small town of Doi, in Amdo, out of five hundred so-called “serf-owners” three hundred were shot in the back of the head in 1953, before a horrified crowd, who were then told that such would be their fate if they opposed socialism (Peissel 1972). This resulted in an uprising by 40,000 “farmers” the formation of a guerrilla movement and an exodus of refugees to Chamdo (Strauss 1992) From 1952 the Chinese began deporting Tibetan children from Eastern Kham, often forcibly to study in Beijing or Chengdu. More than 30,000 children were sent to China between 1952 and 1969. The rigorous programme of indoctrination in communist doctrine and the Chinese version of Tibetan history provoked the Tibetan students in Beijing into an intense awareness of their national identity. Between 1956 and 1957 they openly revolted, but were subdued with an “anti-local nationalism” campaign. This coincided with the notorious “hundred flowers” era in China. The end result was that the Chinese feared to place their “educated” Tibetan youths in positions of authority, and upon their return to Tibet were given harmless jobs, such as interpreters.


The “Kanding Rebellion” In 1954 the Chinese began to organize the “lower classes” and “riff-raff” of the Litang valley to rise against the monasteries and the wealthy. The crunch came in late 1955 when the Chinese authorities levied large taxes on traders returning from India and ordered the monks of Litang Monastery to produce an inventory for tax assessment. The monks refused to oblige and called on the village headmen to take up arms against the communists. In February 1956, the Chinese laid siege to the monastery which was defended by several thousand monks and farmers, and after the Chinese had lost two divisions they took a decisive step to bring the siege to an end. Ilyushin 28 warplanes were flown from the Sichuan plain and with terrible and swift vengeance Litang monastery and surrounding area was bombed and machine-gunned on eighteen separate bombing runs reducing it to rubble. 2000 guerrillas & monks escaped, 2000 surrendered and the Chinese bulldozed the whole town flat (Lane 1994 Peissel 1972). This was one of a series of uprisings against Chinese rule, which spread to Batang, Derge, Chamdo & Ganzi, and the Khambas united and prepared to retaliate (Phuntsog Wangyal 1983) As a result the Khambas were menaced constantly from the air and simultaneously aerial patrols set out to destroy every likely place the rebels could hide. 250 monasteries (including Batang, Changtreng & Geling), and many forts & villages, where rightly or wrongly Khamba guerrillas were believed to be stationed, were bombed This was augmented on the ground by a large Chinese offensive, as one by one the Chinese began to retake towns and villages. The Khambas were not disheartened, quite the reverse, because south of Batang the first planes arrived from Taiwan dropping weapons and ammunition. Every day the ranks of the Khamba guerrillas grew and harassment of Chinese positions was renewed. In the few towns reconquered by the Chinese the communists began to torture the monks, abbots were lashed to horses and dragged through the street, children forced to shoot their parents, monks were set on fire. Between 1956 and 1957 over4,500 people were massacred in the Ganzi area alone (Peissel 1972) A massive migration began of weak survivors drifted to the safety of Lhasa (Norbu 1986). Those who were able to flee to the fragile sanctuary of Central Tibet were lucky, for those who remained behind were marked for extinction. The war raged on more violently than ever, and the Chinese became more aggressive and arrogant towards any Tibetan in Kham, Qinghai and Gansu. Such measures far from suppressing the rebellion, helped to spread it with alarming rapidity. The news of the atrocities triggered open revolt among the Goloks, the Qinghai Amdo the Gansu Sherpas, the Moslem Kasbecks, the Xinjiang Uigurs and 8000 Chinese troops stationed in Xinjiang defected to Russia. Once again the old specter of the lords of central Asia began to haunt the Chinese. It looked as if the whole Chinese dragon might crumble. Mao had now good reason to fear the worst as reports came in of uprisings all over central Asia and inside China. Everywhere, except in Lhasa, China’s great offensive had proved a failure. Reports from the front in Kham seemed to prove that nothing, not even the air raids, could weaken Khamba resistance. The Chinese were not safe anywhere in Kham and their planes and armoured cars were useless against the rebels who were perfectly at home in the hills. Faced with these facts the leaders of Communist China had to admit for the first time that the situation was out of hand. In Lhasa the Chinese openly admitted to the existence of the rebellion in Kham. This severe loss of face was further underlined by their request to the Dalai Lama to intervene. Never in his career had Mao received such a blow or gone so far in publicly admitting failure. Chou En-Lai officially declared that “mistakes had been made” as he considered negotiating for peace. ,

Regardless of the Dalai Lama’s apparent indifference (he condemned the Khamba rebels) the situation in kham remained critical and so in July 1956 Vice-Premier Marshal Chen Yi was sent in person to investigate. Not only did the Marshal see the situation for himself but his party was attacked and ambushed by Khambas. Chen Yi escaped with his life, but he lost 300 of his men. This sobering welcome caused the Chinese government to swallow its pride and make peace


overtures with the Khambas. The Khambas let it be known they would only accept Commander Topgyay Pangda Tsang as their negotiator, and would shoot the Chinese choice, who was the Tibetan traitor Ngabo. With no alternative, the Chinese sent Ngabo back to Lhasa, and began negotiating directly with the rebels. For the Khambas it was a great moment, and towards the end of September the fighting abated while Topgyay sat down to negotiate on equal terms with the Chinese. The Khamba commander began drafting a 10-point agreement; including the postponement of reforms for at least six years, the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Tibet, respect for Tibetan autonomy in the future, that covered the entire ancient realm of Songtsen Gampo. The Chinese agreed to these terms, which were publically confirmed in the Chinese Press. The khambas rejoiced quite unaware that the whole operation was a piece of treachery. The Chinese gained two objectives; a much-needed lull in the fighting and a means to persuade the Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa. When the Dalai Lama reached Lhasa the Chinese reconfirmed that “reforms” would be postponed and the Chinese troops withdrawn, publically repeating the articles of the Khambas’ agreement, but this time with modifications. The Chinese asserted that the Khamba agreement concerned only Tibet west of Chamdo. Thus not only were the Khambas betrayed, but the Chinese sent the troops who were stationed in Central Tibet into Kham to fight the rebels, and Eastern Kham was annexed to Sichuan. Infuriated, the Khambas rose up again with renewed violence. The fact that the Tibetan government was not willing to stand up for Eastern Tibet illustrates how well the Chinese had succeeded in dividing the country. The spoiled Lhasa lords were more concerned with maintaining their fortune and privilege under Chinese rule than sacrificing “ten minutes of their time for the cause of the Khambas or fighting the Chinese force” (Patterson 1960). More than ever the Khambas were convinced that to succeed they must by force, if necessary overthrow the ruling clique in Lhasa and take over the leadership of Tibet. Consequently, while maintaining their positions in Kham they began to infiltrate central Tibet, determined to persuade the peasants to rise and join them in the ultimate battle for their common race. It is not known how many lost their lives in Kham during these years; many more were to die in the famines of 1960-61 and by 1961 refugees reported a staggering drop in the male population. The members of a 1980 delegation saw very few Tibetan men over the age of thirty-five. It was as if two whole generations had been annihilated. In Golok the population in 1957 was 120,000. Between 1958 and 1962 21,000 local Tibetans were killed fighting the PLA. 20,000 more were executed in local prisons, and a further 20,000 died of starvation as a result of famine. In 1962, 53,000 persons were deported and simply “disappeared”. Of the original population only 6000 remained and between 1963 and 1979 these were reduced to 4700. New Settlers (mostly Chinese) were brought in to increase the population in 1979 to 10000 (Phuntsog Wangyal 1983) In Lhasa the traditional hardliners felt that they had been forced into the agreement with China through the invasion of Chamdo and were not really bound by its terms. Consequently rather than try to reach an accommodation with the Chinese, they used the food shortages (Created by the influx of large numbers of Chinese troops) as leverage to persuade the Chinese to withdraw all but a few troops and officials. This was the same strategy they had used in the eighteenth century with the Qing dynasty garrisons. By the mid I 950’s the situation inside Tibet began to deteriorate as Chinese communists tried to institute “reform” and Tibetan hardliners and Khamba freedom fighters began organizing an armed rebellion. Some Chinese soldiers began to defect to the Tibetan side, notably the PLA artillery commander of Lhasa, Colonel Cheng H-Ching. He became disgusted of the killings and manipulation of “simple Tibetan people”. Most of the Khambas, who infiltrated or drifted into Lhasa, subsequently moved south to Lhoka. It was in the south that the famous “Four Rivers & Six Ranges” resistance group, which took its name from the ancient name of Kham, was formed under the leadership of Gonpo Tashi


Andru-Tsang. Fighters from all over Tibet joined the Khamba movement. The Khambas saw force as the only solution, while the Dalai Lama and the monastic community condemned it and the Tibetan government dithered hoping for appeasement. Moreover, the USA was encouraging the anti-Chinese faction and in 1957 started to train and arm Khamba guerrillas. Mao made a last attempt to salvage his gradualist policy in 1957 when he reduced the number of Han cadres and troops in Tibet and postponed socialist land reforms for 6 years, or until conditions were ripe, but it was too little to late (Phuntsog Wangyal 1983) The Chinese failure to put down the rebellion in Kham and the subsequent victorious advance of the guerrillas into Lhoka obliged the communists to revise their attitude towards the Khamba uprising. General Chang Ching Wu, the CIC of the Tibetan military District was recalled to Beijing and a fresh offensive carefully prepared. The Chinese tried to further exploit the mistrust between Central Tibetans and the Khambas. The Chinese sought by any means to revive the spectre of the Khambas as bandits and rivals of Lhasean sovereignty. Chinese secret police were sent to hunt down the rebel leaders, and Khamba refugees were attacked by Chinese soldiers or shot at by spotter planes. Such repressive measures had the opposite effect from that hoped for by the Chinese, as increasing numbers of Central Tibetan joined the Khambas in Lhoka. In Eastern Kham & Amdo Chinese repression was reaching a climax, as fifteen thousand babies and young children were forcibly deported “in order that their parents could do more work”. Any parents who protested were thrown into the river or threatened with execution. This caused even more refugees to make their way firstly to Lhasa, and as a result of secret police harassment, on to Lhoka. In bold dashes and hazardous sieges the Khambas conquered the Chinese strongholds along the Brahmaputra, along the trails leading to Bhutan and India, and blocked the Sichuan-Chamdo highway. All over Tibet the guerrillas were so active the Chinese postponed a visit by President Nehru. This loss of face went unnoticed by the outside world. In the last months of 1958 Khamba leaders repeatedly approached the Tibetan cabinet urging them to stand up in defense of their common cause. Each time the delegations were instructed to return to Kham and make peace with the Chinese. The Khamba’s patience wore out and in December they attacked two Chinese garrison less than 30 miles from Lhasa and made one last appeal to the Dalai Lama. His failure to back the freedom fighters and his lack of comprehension of the situation eliminated any scruples about their decision to take the government of Tibet into their own hands. Certain that the Dalai Lama had been brainwashed by some of his ministers (Ngabo et al) and by the Chinese, the Khambas decided that the time had come for them to act. His holiness was now to be carried away by the speed of events. The Khambas were determined to seize power. The stage was set, and all that remained to be determined was how and when they would take control. At the beginning of Feb 1959 Radio Beijing announced that the Dalai Lama was to attend the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Given that the Dalai Lama had not formally accepted the invitation this alarmed most Khambas. They were concerned that as in 1954, he would be kidnapped and used as a propaganda tool, seriously handicapping their planned rebellion in Tibet. It was in this highly charged atmosphere that the Dalai Lama received a direct invitation, by-passing normal protocol, to attend a theatrical performance, alone, in the PEA headquarters. Rumors soon spread that the performance was a trap and the Dalai Lama was about to be abducted. The Chinese had laid many similar traps for influential figures in Kham, not to mention the one for leaders in the Jomdo Dzong (See Norbu 1986). In the already tense city, crowds of people set out for the Norbulinka (Summer Palace) to prevent him going to the Chinese camp. Among them were hundreds of fully armed Khambas. The abduction scare provided the Khambas with the


opportunity for forcing the Dalai Lama and his ministers into opposition to the Chinese, and consequently they took over leadership of the crowd. They formed a Freedom committee and immediately made clear their intention of taking over the cabinet and forming a new government. They ordered a unit of heavily armed Khambas to surround the Norbulinka and replace the Dalai Lama’s bodyguard. The Dalai Lama and his entourage suddenly realized that they were no longer leaders of Tibet and they would have to negotiate directly with Freedom Committee. Regardless of anything the Dalai Lama may have thought about the Khambas endangering his life, they were very concerned about his safety. While the Chinese and Ngabo were trying to devise some means of getting the Dalai Lama out of rebel hands, the Khambas were thinking of taking the Dalai Lama out of reach of the Chinese. For the Khambas it was immaterial if the Dalai Lama wanted to go or not. There was no choice but to obey the Freedom committee. It was decided initially that he was to be taken to the Khambas’ stronghold in Loka, and the chamberlain was instructed to prepare him. At nightfall on 17th March 1959 dressed as a Khamba soldier the Dalai Eama and a small entourage were smuggled out of the palace, initially to Loka and eventually into exile in India. The Chinese did not suspect anything until the 18th, but it became known that in their efforts to locate him they would, if necessary, bombard the summer palace. This angered the crowds, who were still, unaware that the Dalai Lama had left, and were prepared to lay down their lives to defend him. In their indignation the crowds did not stop to think of the might of China or the strength of her garrisons. Years of frustration had revived their warrior spirit and their traditional hatred of the Chinese. Much has been written about the uprising in Ehasa (Tsenng Shakya 1999 Goldstein 1997 van Walt van Praag 1989), but the Khambas had never really hoped to overcome the huge Chinese garrison in one attack. There were only 2000 Khambas in Lhasa, half were there for a New Year Festival and half to protect the Dalai Lama from pursuit by the Chinese. It was not a battle in the classic sense of the word. It was the first clash between the Central Tibetans and the Chinese occupation force and certainly not the last one (Peissel 1972) Although it took the PEA only a few months to recover control of southern and south-eastern Tibet, it took 15 years before the organized guerrilla warfare was reduced to significant proportions (Goldstein 1997) Mao’s gradualist policy had failed and both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government renounced the 17-point plan. Reprisals and executions (87,000) were carried out and large numbers of monks and laymen were herded into prisons or labour schemes. Property was confiscated and redistributed and the population was categorized into various classes. This division in society created an atmosphere in which one Tibetan could not trust another and mutual suspicion reigned. Monasteries were dissolved at the outset and monks were put to work. In 1959 only 36 aged monks remained out of 500 in Sakya monastery. Monasteries, castles and historic buildings were destroyed and national festivals and celebrations were banned. The main aim was to destroy the basis of Tibetan civilization, or anything that gave the Tibetans a distinct identity of their own (Norbu 1974) Buddhism was destroyed and Tibetans were forced to abandon deeply held values and customs that went to the core of their cultural identity. The class struggle sessions and the constant barrage of propaganda contradicted and ridiculing everything they understood and felt, sought to destroy the social and cultural fabric of the Tibetan’s traditional way of life (Goldstein 1997) It is estimated that between 1955 and 1959 65,000 Tibetans were killed and in the year following the uprising 87,000 Tibetans were executed in Central Tibet alone. In one 17 day period in 1966 ca 69,000 Tibetans were executed around Lhasa, and in 1972 ca 500 Tibetan youths were executed in Kongpo Tramo. The Gansu railway construction & Qinghai borax mines accounted for the lives of ca 24,000 Tibetans up to 1980 (Richardson 1982 Bhushan 1976 MulIin 1983) After 1959 both the Tibetan exiles and China competed to legitimize their own representation of Tibetan history and current events. The Chinese talked about the extreme cruelty and abuses of the


old feudal system and serfdom, and the Tibetan in exile talked about a host of Chinese cultural and human rights violations, including genocide. This confrontation of “representations” continues to the present with some crude attempts, by the Chinese to co-opt Tibetan scholars to re-write the history of Tibet, legitimizing their claim to it (Kanamaru 2000). Today it is not uncommon in China to find propaganda leaflets in hotels, frequented by Westerners with titles such as “The peaceful liberation of Tibet”. How they can describe the death of 1.2 million Tibetans as “peaceful” beggars belief. Cultural Revolution In July 1966 over 8000 Red Guards stormed into Tibet and impatiently begun to put the Party’s policy into effect with increased vigour and sped. Their targets were the “Four OIds” traditions, thoughts, culture & customs. Once unleashed the Cultural Revolution in Tibet escalated into an orgy of oppression. The destruction of religious institutions and monuments was completed (Phuntsog Wangyal 1983) -

!987 Demonstrations in Lhasa On Sept 21st 1987 the Dalai Lama made his first political speech in the US before the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus, arguing that under international law Tibet is an independent county under illegal occupation. The speech raised serious human rights charges including the Chinese-inflicted holocaust on the Tibetan people and concluded with a 5-point proposal for solving the Tibet Question. The speech was well received in the US and later ratified by the Senate and President Reagan. On 27th Sept, less than a week after the Dalai Lama’s speech, nationalistic monks from Drepung monastery in Lhasa staged a political demonstration in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama’s initiative. They were arrested, but four days later on I st Oct another group of ca 30 monks demonstrated to show their support for the Dalai Lama and to demand the release of the arrested monks. The police quickly look them into custody and started beating them. A crowd of Tibetans who had gathered outside the police headquarters demanded these monks be released, and before long, this popular protest escalated into a full-scale riot and up to 20 Tibetan were killed when police fired at the crowds. Beijing was shocked by the riot and the anti-Chinese anger it expressed. Now Beijing had to face the reality that thousands of average Tibetans were angry enough to face death and prison by participating in a massive riot against the government and Chinese rule. To make matters worse for the Chinese this was followed by a second riot, during the Great Prayer Festival on 5th March 1988, in front of foreign guests and journalists. The arrests and the clampdown that followed further drew the mass of people to the side of the radical nationalist (Goldstein 1997) By the end of 1989 Beijing’s strategies for Tibet were in a shambles, and a raft of measures were introduced including economic development, leadership strengthening, better education for Tibetan cadres, and improved security. As a result there have been fewer riots and demonstrations. Economic development has been accelerated by providing large subsidies for development projects aimed at building infrastructure and productive capacity. A few Tibetans have clearly benefited, but the policy is creating a serious backlash. Thousands of Han and Hui have either been resettled in Tibet or have been drawn to Tibet as a result of “economic integration”. The number of non-Tibetan living in Tibet is unprecedented in Tibetan history. The primary beneficiaries of the development projects appear to be Han colonists, at the expense of local Tibetan people, their culture and the environment. This has been exacerbated with the introduction since 1999 of the Great Western Development Strategy (TIN 2000) Unrest in Kham continues to this day, as China tries to prevent the break up of the Peoples Republic of China. Since the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, and its own peoples attempt at democracy (1990) China has been paranoid that it will go down the same road. As a result it cracks down very hard on and separatist or independent initiatives. Tibetan Buddhists Xinjiang Muslims and Underground Christians (Christians were responsible for spearheading democracy in Russia &


East Germany) have been particularly singled out for harsh treatment. Dissident activity continues to this day in the Ganzi area against a background of increasing religious repression. The Patriotic Education campaign, which reached the monasteries in the Ganzi TAP in 1997, has led to increased restrictions on religious practice, attempts to reduce the size of the area’s monasteries, reduce the numbers of influential teachers, and a requirement that all monks and nuns denounce the Dalai Lama, all of which have triggered resistance (TIN 1999)


Kham History 2004