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The Chinese Invade Tibet

October 7th, 1950

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. Back in January, Beijinghad released a telegram from the Panchen Lama to Chairman Mao. ‘On behalf of the Tibetan people, we respectfully plead for troops to be sent to liberate Tibet, to wipe out reactionaries, expel the imperialists …and liberate the Tibetan people.’ The Panchen Lama was traditionally one of the most important religious figures in Tibet. This one was twelve years old and living in China.

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