In 1950 Mao Zedong's Chinest communist forces invaded Tibet. By late 1950 a guerrilla war had erupted there as Tibetans resisted coercive modernization efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On 17 November 1950, the Dalai Lama was called upon to assume the role of Tibetan head of state in order to give voice to Tibetan demands for political and religious autonomy. Until 1959 the Dalai Lama engaged in a careful policy aimed at preserving Tibet's traditional religious and political structures while attempting to negotiate with CCP leaders. In March 1959, however, the Tibetan capital of Lhasa erupted in violence after a huge anti-Chinese demonstration was savagely crushed by the Chinese Army. Fearing for the Dalai Lama's life, his advisors counseled him to flee Tibet, which he reluctantly did. He took up residence in Dharamsala, India, the official seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Since his forced exile, the Dalai Lama has constantly sought to focus the world's attention on the plight of the Tibetan people, even appealing to the United Nations for support. He has also encouraged Tibetans to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against Chinest communist rule. He displayed considerable diplomatic and political skill in presenting Tibet's case on the international stage and won widespread respect. In 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
for his nonviolent opposition to the Tibetan occupation. He has been widely received in capitals around the world and has met with all of the world's major religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II five times during 1980–1990.
The numerous publications of the Dalai Lama—both political and spiritual in nature—as well as his constant travel to make personal appeals for support and his nonconfrontational approach began to bear fruit in 2002. That year he again undertook negotiations with the Chinese government for Tibetan autonomy that are still ongoing.
Andrew J. Waskey
Marcello, Patricia Cronin. The Dalai Lama: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003.; Piburn, Sidney D. The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1990.; Strober, Deborah Hart, and Gerald S. Strober. His Holiness the Dalai Lama: An Oral Biography. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005.