THE Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1950 and the systematic plundering, killing, and repopulation of that once-sovereign nation is a tragic story that is well documented, but not well known. The Tibetans are a stubborn, proud people, and the Chinese have wiped out 1.2 million of them, a sixth of the population, since 1950. What's worse - the story is still going on. Since the Tibetan insurrection last March (200 to 800 Tibetans killed, thousands arrested) the already isolated, mountainous country has been virtually sealed off from the outside world by the Chinese.
That's why the Nobel committee could not have chosen a better time to give its venerable peace prize to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. The prize is given as much to Tibetans as to the Dalai, and rightly (though subtly) gives the leadership in China the back of the hand. The Nobel committee is putting the world on notice about China's effort to dissolve and eradicate a Tibetan identity.
The Dalai Lama was only 16 when the Chinese invaded with 84,000 troops and defeated the 8,000-man Tibetan Army in 11 days. For nine years, he tried to mediate and compromise with the Chinese generals. But during the hottest part of the uprising in '59, with Chinese cannon trained on his summer palace, the Dalai Lama escaped with 80 followers over the Himalayas to India.
Tibet was then devastated by the Chinese. Tibetans went through what a UN human rights committee in the early '60s called genocide. Of the 6,250 monasteries that have dotted the ranging hills and valleys of Tibet for more than 1,200 years and provided the center of Tibetan culture, only 13 were not gutted - ransacked, used for Chinese target practice, dynamited. Billions of dollars worth of art and artifacts were stolen, the gold melted for bullion.
Meanwhile, in India the Dalai Lama and 100,000 refugees carried out a plan to rebuild Tibetan culture. It's been a successful effort. The Dalai Lama's message: Build schools, plant crops, save the religion. Educate. Work. Reconstruct the community. Live up to the democratic constitution. One day the world will hear us.
Now the Nobel committee has heard.
China must stop the huge population transfer to Tibet, remove its military (one soldier for every four Tibetans), and restore Tibetan autonomy. In that order.
Currently China is trying to swamp Tibet with people. To the 100 million living in Szechuan there are major incentives - high wages, free goods - to move to the Tibetan uplands. Chinese houses and businesses now surround old Tibetan cities. In Lhasa, the capital, there are 150,000 Chinese to 50,000 Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama, who describes himself as a ``simple Buddhist,'' is an example of nonviolent resistance. He has opposed terrorism. Not by armed force, but by moral strength he's fought on. It's time the world took notice.