San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


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For Mahayana Buddhists, samsara literally means “wandering-on,” but in theory, it refers to the cyclical nature of birth and re-birth characterized by suffering that a Buddhist must break out of in order to achieve nirvana, a state free of suffering. Since the occupation and incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China (“China”) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Tibetan people have experienced a far more intense form of metaphorical samsara at the hands of the Chinese administration. The term “genocide,” coined by Raphael Lemkin in the wake of the Holocaust, combines the ancient Greek word “genos” meaning race or tribe, and “cide,” derived from the Latin infinitive “to kill.” He defined it as the execution of a plan with the objective of disintegrating political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the destruction of personal security, liberty, health, dignity and even the lives of the individuals belonging to the target group. The term genocide was intended to describe what Nazi Germany had done to the Jewish people; however, scholars have since used the term to describe an array of different atrocities intended to destroy a people or a culture. Since the incorporation of Tibet, many have been claimed that China has been systematically attempting to destroy Tibetan culture, and the Dalai Lama stated in no uncertain terms that Tibet is the victim of cultural genocide. The oppression of the Tibetan people by China has led to protests, violence, and even self-immolation. The Chinese oppression of the Tibetan people entreats the questions: does the law offer Tibet a remedy for the destruction of its culture? Can justice be brought to the Tibetan people through the channels of current international law? How can the cycle be stopped?