One of the greatest lies ever sprung by Western politicians on their credulous electorates — and still widely believed — is that the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 was an illegal and brutal effort.
How legal or illegal the Chinese occupation was, who can say? International law is a very elastic thing, and, as for domestic ownerships, it’s usually the case that possession is nine-tenths of the law. How brutal or relatively unbrutal the invasion was will probably never be known for a considerable time until private accounts start coming into light.
But one thing for certain is that, in 1949, Tibet was a deeply feudal society in which most of its people were serfs. It was, in fact, very similar to Tudor England where about one third of the productive land was owned by church and monasteries and two-thirds by no more than about 200 aristocratic families. In Tibet’s case there were no churches, of course, only monasteries, and the other land owners were about a score of aristocrats.
We can be reasonably certain that the average Tibetan today is a great deal happier than his grandparents were and if there’s any call for national independence — which is highly likely in due course — it will come under the aegis of a well-educated Tibetan middle-class, not the Dalai Lama and his Buddhist abbots.