THE FRESHLY ELECTED MEMBERS of the Commission of Tibetan Peoples’ Deputies stand together after the first parliamentary election of the Central Tibetan Administration. The members of the CTPD took their oath on 2 September 1960—a date whose anniversary the Tibetan people now observe as Democracy Day.
Tibet asserted independence from China in 1912, after the rule of the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty ended. The thirteenth Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, returned from Darjeeling, where he had lived in exile for three years. He resumed control of Tibet and ruled from Lhasa until his death in 1933. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, was brought to Lhasa in 1937, when he was two years old. He was 15 years old when he became the leader of Tibet, in 1950.
In 1950, Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet, leading to negotiations about the region’s sovereignty between Tibetan authorities and the Chinese state, as well as bitter conflict. In 1959, in the midst of the Tibetan Uprising, when the Chinese army is estimated to have killed some 87,000 Tibetans, the Dalai Lama and his retinue fled Tibet and settled in India.
Upon his arrival, the Dalai Lama began to build the institutions of an exiled Tibetan government. In February 1960, at Bodh Gaya—where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment—he outlined a plan to set up an elected body consisting of various representatives. A few years later, in 1963, a constitution of a free Tibet was circulated.
The Dalai Lama continues to lead the exiled Tibetan government from Dharamsala. Though he now negotiates in favour of Tibetan autonomy within China rather than full independence, the Chinese state is still sceptical of him. Meanwhile, periodic unrest continues to sweep through Tibet. The Chinese government has encouraged thousands of Han Chinese people to move to the region, and Tibetans now constitute an ethnic minority in Lhasa.