1987–1989 Tibetan unrest

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The 1987–1989 Tibetan unrest were a series of pro-independence protests that took place between September 1987 and March 1989 in the Tibetan areas in the People's Republic of China: Sichuan, Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, and the Tibetan prefectures in Yunnan and Gansu. The largest demonstrations began on March 5, 1989 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, when a group of monks, nuns, and laypeople took to the streets as the 30th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising approached. Police and security officers attempted to put down the protests, but as tensions escalated an even greater crowd of protesters amassed. After three days of violence, martial law was declared on March 8, 1989, and foreign journalists and tourists were expelled from Tibet on March 10.[1] Reports of deaths and military force being used against protesters were prominent.[2] Numbers of the dead are unknown.



  • September 27 — A demonstration in Lhasa was broken up on the first day by Chinese authorities. This night was reported as the "black night".[3][4]
  • October 1 — Riots took place in Lhasa. Six people died, including a monk from the Sera Monastery, and two other Tibetans were injured. According to the official New China News Agency, rioters tried to snatch guns from policemen and 19 policemen were hurt during the conflict.[5][failed verification] The demonstrators stoned the police and set a police station afire near Jokhang Temple, and police fired into the crowd.[6]


  • March 5 — A revolt took place at the celebration of the Great Prayer (Monlam Prayer Festival). The riots cost the lives of three persons according to Chinese sources; thirty according to the Tibetan opposition.
  • June — The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, altered his demands to the Chinese government. In his speech at the European Parliament on June 15, 1988, the Dalai Lama proposed a solution for Tibet "in association with the People's Republic of China."
  • December 10 — Further riots in Lhasa. According to official sources one person died; unofficial sources spoke of twelve.


  • January 19 — Sentences were pronounced in consequence of the arrests made during the riots of 1988 with deterrent harshness. The sentences ranged from three years imprisonment to the death penalty (with delay of execution).
  • January 28 — The death of the Panchen Lama of Tibet, the second authority after the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government took initiative to search for his successor (reincarnation). Tibetans attributed the death to murder by Chinese authorities and were concerned about the unprecedented interference in a centuries-old tradition of succession.
  • February 6 — Riots around Monlam and the Tibetan new year (Losar). Chinese authorities cancelled the celebration of Monlam Chenmo, which precedes Losar each year. Losar took place in 1989 on February 7.
  • March 5 — A religious event ended in a massacre. Official sources speak of eleven deaths and one hundred wounded. The occasion for the massacre, according to Chinese sources, was the stoning of a Chinese police officer; Tibetan sources claim that the event was attacked by the Chinese police.
  • March 6 — Riots spread to the center of Lhasa. Chinese stores were wrecked and as a result a state of emergency was called. This enlarged the power of Chinese authorities.
  • March 7 — All foreigners including journalists were evacuated. This signified an end to the provision of information to the rest of the world on the riots. Five people died in two days according to official sources. However, Tang Daxian, a former Chinese journalist present in Lhasa during that period, claims 387 civilians plus 82 religious people have been killed, and 721 people have been injured, according to a report he saw from Public Security Bureau.[7]
  • April 15 — China's former Secretary-General (until 1987), Hu Yaobang died. Hu was a supporter of the withdrawal of the Chinese army from Tibet and his death led to a student protest in Beijing. The Tiananmen Square protests followed a few months later on June 4, 1989, and were crushed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hobart Mercury, "Tibet braces for crackdown," 10 March 1989.
  2. ^ Becker, Jasper. Tibetans fear more secret brutality. The Guardian (London), 10 March 1989.
  3. ^ "Tibetans protest seeking release of political prisoners". Tibetan Youth Congress. September 27, 2004. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  4. ^ "Tibetans protest seeking release of political prisoners". Phayul.com. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  5. ^ "Prisoners of Tibet (1987-1998)". Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  6. ^ Gargan, Edward a; Times, Special to the New York (October 3, 1987). "Tibetan Protest for Independence Becomes Violent". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  7. ^ "Chinese Said to Kill 450 Tibetans in 1989". Associated Press. August 14, 1990.

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