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                                                                           In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet. Nine years later the
​                                                                           Chinese occupation brutally suppressed the Tibetan people’s resistance
​                                                                           movement, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee for his life to India. Over

                                                                           100,000 of his people followed him across the treacherous Himalayas, and
​                                                                           thousands of refugees every year are still risking their lives, as gross abuse of                                                                                human rights and ecological devastation continue
in Tibet unchecked. In fact, the Tibet issue has been in a deadlock: The Chinese government
continues to refuse the dialogue with the Dalai Lama.  The international communities including the
United Nation never seriously face China as the communist country is becoming a superpower
​                                           politically and economically. On the other hand, over the border in

            Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan Government in Exile, a new
                                         Tibetan generation has been born into a foreign land. Nonetheless 

            their dedication to their homeland remains a daily reality with the passion of its elders who escaped

                                           from Tibet. The 40th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising is marked by love and struggle as the

                                           refugees unite across the generations in their devotion to the rooftop of the world, Tibet…

TIBETAN REFUGEES: A Struggle Beyond Generations documents the cry for freedom of Tibet in exile.

“More than fifty years have passed since the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate, was forced to flee his homeland. Yet Free Tibet remains a living struggle for his people.”

Story Line


* This documentary is composed of 4 chapters:


History of Tibet, including China’s invasion, annexation, and occupation of Tibet; and Tibetan refugee communities.


Overview of activity of the Tibetan YouthCongress. Profiles of two young refugees born and raised in exile.


Elders’ messages to younger generations of Tibetans about the Free Tibet struggle.

Last Chapter: 

Actions, conclusions, and hopes of the Dalai Lama and other refugees working for a Free Tibet


*Here are the main characters of this film:

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

The present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6 1935 in the province of Amdo, northeast Tibet. When he was two years old he was recognized as the reincarnation of the late Thirteenth Dalai Lama, the location of the young child being just as predicted and his body marked in the traditional way. In 1939 he was brought to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where he was enthroned in 1940. The Dalai Lama lineage are manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Chenrezig.

In 1949 the newly-established communist China invaded Tibet. A year later, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was requested by the Regent, the Cabinet and the National Assembly to assume full political authority though he was only fifteen - three yeas short of traditional majority. For the subsequent nine years, the Dalai Lama strove to achieve peaceful co-existence with the Chinese. However, this proved impossible as the Chinese atrocities kept on mounting,creating ever more disillusionment among Tibetans. Tibetans aired their resentment of Chinese occupation by staging armed, popular uprisings, which spread to the entire nation and finally erupted in an uprising in Lhasa on March 10, 1959.

When the situation became hopeless for Tibet, the Dalai Lama was requested to flee the country in order to carry on the Tibetan struggle from the outside world. Escaping by night and in disguise, he left Lhasa on March 17, 1959, crossing safely into India on March 31, 1959 where he was warmly received and given asylum.

Nearly 80,000 Tibetan refugees managed to follow the Dalai Lama into exile and are now resettled primarily in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Switzerland, the United States and Canada. Seeking both to save his people and the Tibetan culture, the Dalai Lama began a peaceful struggle to preserve Tibet's identity and regain it's independence.

On December 10, 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee emphasized "that the Dalai Lama, in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet,consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people. "

Kalsang Dorjee

Kalsang Dorjee, born in Bhutan, works for the Tibetan welfare office in Dharamshala,India. He is actively involved in the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), working for the liberation of Tibet. Kalsang organizes an activist peace march across India to mark the 40th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.

Tenzin Lungtuk

Tenzin Lungtuk, born in India, is a promising young monk of the Dalai Lama’s Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala.  He entered the monastery at the age of eleven. Tenzin devotes his life to the perpetuation of Tibetan Buddhism.

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PRODUCED BY Tensystem Inc.   DIRECTOR: TANAKA Kunihiko   EDITOR:  TANAKA Kunihiko 
PHOTOGRAPHY: TANAKA Kunihiko  NARRATOR: David Schaufele  

SCRIPT: TANAKA Kunihiko  / Evan Heimlich /Faith Bach  
PUBLIC RELATIONS: Himalaya Archive Japan
Running Time: 120 Minutes   Production Year: 2002

Untold Story behind the Production

Since he became interested in the Tibet issue in 1987, TANAKA Kunihiko, its film director, has reviewed many documentaries and programs about Tibetan refugees, and found they tend to portray the refugees as 1) poor people escaping from Tibet because of the Chinese oppression, and/or 2) naive and religious people following the Dalai Lama.  The majority of the works on the Tibet issue, moreover, focus exclusively on the Dalai Lama’s activities, and reinforce audiences’ “Shangri-la” stereotypes about Tibet and its refugees.                                            So, this first documentary of the Tibetan Refugee Documentary                                            Project intentionally and specifically focuses on the challenges
                                        faced by Tibetan refugees especially the youths, describing their “                                        true faces”.  After finishing a gra-duate degree in journalism and                                          mass communication in the US, Tanaka went back to Japan and                                          started to ask several media (TV) production companies to work with his project.  However, they declined to support it. The main reason was really obvious. The Tibet issue has been taboo in the Japanese mass media.   One boss of a company said, “We can’t touch the Tibet issue.” Companies fear that the Chinese government’s reaction would cause trouble for their business. Yet Tanaka never thought about giving up.                                          The important year 1999 was drawing near: the 40th                                                            anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising; 50th anniversary of China’s                                          invasion and annexation of Tibet; 10th anniversary of the                                                      Tiananmen Square crackdown; and the 10th anniversary of the                                            Nobel Peace Prize for the Dalai Lama.  Someone had to record                                            what ordinary Tibetans would say and do in that important year.                                          Camerawork for the first documentary began in February 1999,                                            and proceeded very well as Tanaka established excellent                                                      rapport with Tibetan refugees he met.  Before the start of the                                                peace march on the anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, the                                                Dalai Lama made a speech in Dharamsala.  Of the many                                                      journalists who covered the speech, only Tanaka, with his camera, accompanied the peace march it launched.  The PM was truly meaningful because it was the first big march which ordinary Tibetan refugees, who used to mainly follow the Dalai Lama and the exile government, took the initiative in organizing.  Tanaka also secured an exclusive, one-hour interview in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama, excerpts of which are in the documentary.  That interview with the “Living Buddha” took place on Buddha Jayanti, Buddha’s birthday.   Some Tibetan Buddhist must say, “It’s your karma!”.

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