Old Tibet, under the feudal serf system, had only three officially operated, small traditional Tibetan medical establishments, having simple and rough medical equipment, and a few private clinics. There were close to 100 practitioners. Even adding folk doctors of Tibetan medicine, the number totalled only about 400, averaging less than 0.4 per 1,000 people. These medical establishments and medical workers chiefly served the nobility and officials. Absolutely no medical treatment was given to the broad masses of serfs and slaves when they fell ill. Deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox and the plague occurred frequently and even ran rampant. According to records, in the 150 years before the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, smallpox raged four times, and the contagion in 1925 caused 7,000 deaths in the Lhasa area alone. Epidemic typhoid fever in 1934 and 1937 took more than 5,000 lives in Lhasa. When some infectious diseases spun out of control, the former Tibetan local government did not take measures to save the afflicted but, on the contrary, drove them into high mountains or deep valleys, whose exits were guarded by troops. This resulted in the death of the expelled sufferers. Historical records show that in old Tibet, the average life span was 36 years, and the growth of the Tibetan population stagnated for a long time.
The primary task facing Tibet in the development of public health
care has been to gain control over the most deadly infectious diseases. The Chinese
After the Democratic Reform in 1959, the autonomous region gradually established a medical and health network throughout Tibet. In 1991, the region boasted 1,197 medical establishments, 401 times as many as in 1951. There were no hospital beds in 1951 but 5,077 in 1991. Professional medical workers numbered 9,740, or 98 times higher than in 1951. Among them 7,749 were health technicians, with Tibetans accounting for 80 percent of the total. Now, 88 percent of Tibetans are living in rural and pastoral areas, where there were 850 health establishments containing a total of 2,300 beds and 3,700 medical workers in 1991. A further 3,500 local rural doctors and health workers directly serve the masses of farmers and herdsmen. In Tibet, on average, there are 2.3 beds and 2.1 doctors per 1,000 people, figures equal to and above the national average respectively, and also higher than that of middle-income countries.
Traditional Tibetan medical science, comprising Tibetan medicine and
pharmacology, has been handed down and developed. The government invested 20 million yuan
in building a new inpatient department of the region's Hospital of Traditional Tibetan
Medicine, as well as five local hospitals of this kind. In 1991, there were 1,015 Tibetan
medicine doctors and pharmacists in the whole region. In order to meet the needs for the
development of Tibetan medicine, the autonomous region founded the Tibetan Medical College
and the Tibetan Medicine
Scientific research institutes of Tibetan medicine have put more efforts into the study of plateau sickness and other diseases which endanger the lives of Tibetan people, and have achieved important research results. Tibetan medical workers are both domestic and international leaders in rescue and the treatment of plateau pneumochysis, mountain coma and chronic plateau sickness.
To train more health workers, the Tibet Institute for Nationalities has opened a medical department. In addition, the Health School for the Tibet Autonomous Region has been established and another two in Xigaze and Qamdo. These schools have trained more than 6,000 high- and middle-ranking health workers. Since 1980, more than 5,000 health workers in the region have received on-the-job training, which has helped raise their professional and administrative levels.
The government provides free medical care for all Tibetans. This,
plus considerable improvements in medical and health conditions, has greatly raised the
average life span and health level of the Tibetan people. Average life expectancy has
risen from 36 years before liberation to 65 years at present. When compared with 1965, the
average height and weight of young Tibetans in the Lhasa area increased by 8.8 cm and 5.2
The government has special policies on birth control in Tibet. Family planning is not practiced for the farmers and herds people who constitute 88 percent of the region's entire population. The government only conducts publicity campaigns to inform them about rational births and ways to have healthy babies. Tibet has a vast expanse of territory, but few land resources which can be developed. In 1991, the average amount of cultivated land per person was only 1.54 mu. As Tibet's population has been increasing at a fast rate, population control is necessary. Since 1984, the regional government has advocated and carried out the policy of two children per couple among Tibetan cadres, workers and the staff of enterprises and residents in cities and towns. However, among the Han cadres, workers and staff members in Tibet, the policy of one child per couple has been advocated and enforced. Only 12 percent of the people in Tibet are covered by the family planning policy. In the process of carrying out family planning, the government always persists in the principle of "mainly publicity, volunteering, and service," and prohibits any form of forced abortion.
Over the past 40 years, the population of Tibet has rapidly mounted.
Between 1950 and 1990, there was a net increase of 1.196 million people in Tibet, with the
number of Tibetans climbing to more than 2 million, more than double the figure of 1
million in 1950. In 1951, when Tibet was peacefully liberated, there were no accurate
population statistics provided by Tibetan local government. When China conducted the first
national census in 1953, the Tibetan local government headed by the Dalai Lama reported
that there were 1 million people in Tibet. The second national census in 1964 showed that
the population in Tibet was 1.251 million, of which 1.209 million were Tibetans, making up
96.63 percent of the total. The third national census in 1982 said there were 1.892
million people in Tibet, of whom 1.786 million were Tibetans, accounting for 94.4 percent.
The fourth national census in 1990 showed that
On the question of the size of the Tibetan population, the Dalai clique has spread many rumors. The most sensational was that more than 1.2 million people were killed after the peaceful liberation of Tibet. In 1953, the Tibetan local government under the Dalai Lama reported the population stood at 1 million people. If 1.2 million inhabitants had been massacred, it would have been a case of genocide and certainly the population in Tibet could not have increased to the present 2 million.
The Dalai Lama clique has also contended that geographically Tibet
extends far beyond the boundaries of today, including areas inhabited by the Tibetans in
Sichuan, Qinghai and other places, making a total population of 6 million. This so-called
Tibet Major is merely a conspiracy hatched by imperialists in an attempt to carve up
China. As a result of long historical changes, ethnic Tibetans have settled not only in
Tibet but also in areas in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. But these areas
were not under the jurisdiction of Tibet in the past, and the former Tibetan local
government never administered any Tibetan-inhabited areas beyond Tibet.
Another lie is the claim that a large number of Hans have migrated to Tibet, turning the ethnic Tibetans into a minority. It is very easy to confuse and poison the minds of people who are not aware of the truth. In Tibet, the natural conditions are harsh, the air is oxygen-poor and the climate is bitterly cold. Most of the land consists of mountains, wilderness, and permafrost and snow zones. Customs there are so different from those in the heartland of the country that people from the interior can hardly adapt to them. Tibet is not like the western part of the United States, where large numbers of people moved in for development. The figures from various national censuses have thoroughly exploded the lie that the Han population in Tibet has already surpassed that of the Tibetans.