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Why is the Tibetan Government in Exile?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan Government in Exile, claims to represent the government of Tibet from its headquarters in Dharamsala, India. No nation recognizes the CTA as a formal government, and it continues to negotiate with China to achieve a semi-autonomous status. In addition to its political work, the CTA also provides a number of services for Tibetans throughout the world. Though it was once associated with the Tibetan independence movement, the two now have different aims.

Reason for Exile

The Tibetan Government in Exile formed after China occupied Tibet in 1951 and annexed it into the People's Republic of China (PRC). Tibet had declared independence in 1912, and although its independence was not formally recognized by many countries, it had operated autonomously for almost four decades. Before 1912, China had controlled the area pretty much continuously since the early 1700s, which was the basis for its annexation. The leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, left after widespread rioting in 1959, and went to India, where he formed the CTA.

Aims and Actions

The primary aim of the CTA is to see Tibet gain autonomy in its administrative affairs. It does not want to rule Tibet itself; but rather, wants to see a Tibetan-appointed government in the region instead of a Chinese-appointed one. It also hopes to keep Tibetan culture alive, which it does by hosting cultural and religious events and creating schools for Tibetans living outside of the area.

In addition to this, the organization also hosts conferences and events to focus the world's attention on the issue of Tibetan governmental autonomy, preserving the area's natural environment, and helping Tibet develop. The Dalai Lama has traveled all over the world both as a religious leader and as the leader of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Efforts of the CTA are hindered by the fact that it has yet to be recognized as a formal government, despite worldwide debate about the status of the Tibetans.


The CTA includes a full cabinet with officials who focus on issues like education, public service, religion, culture, health, finances, and security. It also includes a parliament, and in 2001, Tibetans around the world elected a Prime Minister, Professor Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche. The structure of the Tibetan Government in Exile is designed along democratic principles, in an attempt to demonstrate that Tibet is a modernized society, and that the government could justly rule if it was restored.

Tibetan Independence Movement

The CTA is no longer closely involved with the Tibetan independence movement, which wants Tibet to be a free and independent nation. The CTA's official stance is that Tibet should have some degree of autonomy, but remain part of China. Many in the government want it to have powers similar to Hong Kong, Macau, or Xinjiang.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon148664 — On Feb 02, 2011

China is very aware of the deep impact of Indian culture and Religion on Tibet. Some of the ancient holy places of Hindus like Mount Kailash and Mansarovar are now controlled by China and Indians have problems to visit these places freely like they used to do for more than 4000 years.

Buddhism went from India to Tibet and Hindus never had problems to visit their holy places in Tibet before the Chinese take over.

China is not interested in Tibet's welfare but is interested in its strategic location to have a land connection to Arabian sea. It has taken over the disputed territory of Kashmir between Tibet and Pakistan.

They are proposing to Pakistan to build a rail link connecting Beijing to Karachi. The impact of this transcontinental rail link is immense in terms of China dominating the world scene militarily.

China's connections with Tibet are next to nothing in terms of religion and culture. India did not have the foresight of the Chinese when it accepted that China was part of China. This is the biggest blunder made by India.

Tibet is one third of China in size. No wonder the Chinese do not want to relinquish their right to Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhism is a different animal and the Chinese regime cannot control it forever.

Chinese Regime should realize that Tibetans will eventually have their freedom, by way of autonomous state inside China or totally independent country.

By anon69730 — On Mar 09, 2010

China has its own history and so does Tibet. Don't listen to any of the two - just read the history and it will tell you what the fact is.

By anon28042 — On Mar 10, 2009

Historically speaking, Tibet has always had a close tie with central China. Not only the communists, but the nationalists (in Taiwan now) as well, claim Tibet as part of China. I am not a historian but I believe in 1950, China wasn't using liberating serfs as a pretense, rather China always deems Tibet as part of China. Serfdom was abolished in 1959 after the biggest serf owner, the Dalai Lama, fled to India. As for Dalai Lama, I cannot believe he sincerely promotes autonomous status of Tibet. He represents a small group of ex-serf owners. Just because he is up against the Chinese communists, he is beautified beyond recognization. Of course, not everyone is supporting the Chinese rule in Tibet, but again, not everyone is support the Dalai Lama either.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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