A Struggle of Blood and Fire: The Imposition of Martial Law in 1989 and the Lhasa Uprising in 1959

A Struggle of Blood and FireDOWNLOAD THE REPORT »

Tibet Information Network, February 1999

At present the situation in our region is, on the whole, stable. The appearance of the stable situation came from a severe struggle of blood and fire, at great cost to the country and its people, and with the arduous efforts of the Party […]

– Xinhua statement on the order to lift martial law in Lhasa (30 April 1990)

 
Martial law was officially declared in Lhasa for the first time in the history of the People’s Republic of China at midnight on 7/8 March 1989. It was a harsh and unprecedented reaction by the authorities to three days of demonstrations that had been sparked by the shooting of Tibetans by security police in the Barkor.

At least 70 Tibetans were shot dead during the 5-7 March demonstrations and unofficial reports state that at least a thousand Tibetans were detained in the early hours of 8 March and the crackdown that followed. It is impossible to know the exact number of deaths and detentions because of the strict security in Lhasa at the time and the fluctuating population of the city. Many of the Khampas, beggars, traders and others who were visiting Lhasa at the time became involved in the protest.

This report includes vivid eyewitness accounts and an overview of the impact of martial law in Lhasa. Three months later the Chinese leadership were to impose martial law again, in the form of the Tiananmen massacre in June 1989.

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