Did CIA Call Dalai Lama A Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship?

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Did the CIA admit that Tibetans wanted Communist liberation, because the Dalai Lama government was a corrupt and decadent dictatorship?

Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the FACTS really are!


Claim : CIA Admits Dalai Lama Runs Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship!

Pro-China activists and Sinophiles have been sharing a screenshot of the 1948 CIA cable on Tibet, as evidence that the CIA knew that the Tibetan people wanted Communist liberation because the Dalai Lama government was a corrupt and decadent dictatorship.

CIA Cables (1948): The Dalai Lama government was an absolute dictatorship and “one of the most corrupt and decadent to be found in the world today”, 90% of Tibetans wanted Communist liberation, only the 10% of wealthy landowners would be pro-US.

Dalai Lama 1948 CIA cable partial


Truth : CIA Did Not Call Dalai Lama Government Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship!

The truth is – this is yet another example of Chinese propaganda, to justify their annexation of Tibet. Here are the facts…

Fact #1 : It’s A 2-Page CIA Cable

First, it is important to note that this is actually a 2-page CIA cable.

Whoever created that fake news, intentionally shared only a section of the first page, leaving out the rest of the first page, and the second page.

Fact #2 : CIA Released That Cable

Secondly, it must be pointed out that the CIA publicly released that cable. That’s why sections in that document were redacted.

So those who claimed that the cables were leaked is lying to you.

You can view and read that cable in its entirety here, in the official CIA reading room.

Fact #3 : Dalai Lama Was Only 13 Years Old

The 14th Dalai Lama was only 13 years old in 1948, so he held no power in the Tibetan government at that time.

He was represented by a regent, Ngawang Sungrab Thutob – the third Taktra Rinpoche, who was the acting head of the Tibetan government.

He only assumed his full duties on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15 – after the People’s Republic of China occupied Tibet.

Was Dalai Lama Government Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship?

Fact #4 : Tibetans Wanted Independence With Soviet Aid

The CIA cable did point out that about 10% of the Tibetan population are pro-American, and the majority are from the aristocratic, wealthy and religious classes.

But the same cable also noted that the Tibetans wanted independence, with Soviet aid – not Chinese aid.

The full cable even pointed out that the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) government is “trying hard to bring about close cooperation between Tibet and the USSR.

It was NOT MENTIONED that the Tibetans were interested in Communist liberation. There is a big difference between being liberated by a Communist country, and seeking independence with their aid.

Also, seeking independence is quite different from becoming annexed by China and turning into a province. That’s not independence.

Fact #5 : Tibetans Were Contemptuous Of The Chinese

One reason why the fake news creator only showed you a small portion of the cable is because it actually states that the Tibetans were “contemptuous of the Chinese“.

In Lhasa there is a Chinese Government Office. The Tibetans are generally contemptuous of the Chinese and often carry out open anti-Chinese demonstrations in front of this office.

This fact is important to note, because pro-China activists claim that the Tibetans wanted Communist liberation, and the Chinese were just giving them what they wanted.

Even if the Tibetans wanted Communist liberation, it was obvious that they would reject liberation of the Chinese persuasion.

Fact #6 : China Was Not Under CCP In 1948

It should be noted that in 1948, China was ruled by the Kuomintang government, not the current People’s Republic of China that was only established on 1 October 1949.

It was the People’s Republic of China that invaded Tibet in October 1950, and formally annexed it in October 1951.

Flag of Tibet

Fact #7 : China Promised Tibetan Elites Continued Power

After the Battle of Chamdo, the People’s Republic of China promised that if Tibet was “peacefully liberated”, the Tibetan elites could keep their position and power.

This was even enshrined in the Seventeen Point Agreement signed by Tibetan representatives and the People’s Republic of China :

Point 4 : The central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The central authorities also will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama. Officials of various ranks shall continue to hold office.

This runs contrary to the narrative that China was liberating Tibet from a corrupt, decadent dictatorship to give power back to the common people.

Fact #8 : CIA Did Not Call Tibetan Government Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship

Another reason why the fake news creator did not share the full CIA cable is because it would expose the fact that it was not the CIA who called the Tibetan government a corrupt, decadent dictatorship.

The CIA cable merely included a quote from the 14 March 1948 issue of the North China Daily News, which is a Shanghai English language daily.

In that article, Professor Li Yu-i, who spent 3.5 years in Tibet described the government of the country as “the most corrupt and decadent to the [sic] found in the world today“.

Whether Professor Li is accurate in his assessment or not, the fact remains – it was not the CIA who called the Tibetan government a corrupt and decadent dictatorship.

Was Dalai Lama Government Corrupt, Decadent Dictatorship?


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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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