Tibet has been ruled by China since the invasion of 1949. Today a smaller Tibet is governed as a semi-autonomous region (TAR). 93 per cent of the people living in Tibet are Tibetans but there is a growing number of Han Chinese. This number is expected to further increase since the completion in 2006 of the China-Tibet railway.
The Chinese view Tibet as historically part of China. They believe their influence in the region has been positive, turning it into a modern, wealthier society.
The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile believe China illegally occupies their country. They claim that since 1949, the Chinese authorities have ruthlessly repressed the Tibetan people.
The Free Tibet Movement claims that the culture of Tibet is being systematically wiped out by China. In what some have described as cultural genocide, traditionally Tibetan symbols and artefacts have been removed by force:
Supporters, such as TV personality Joanna Lumley, have documented thousands of human rights abuses against those who have protested Chinese rule in Tibet. Abuses include the widespread use of torture and excessive use of the death penalty. In 2015 Human Rights Watch claimed the use of repressions and torture remained widespread. The Chinese authorities deny these claims.
Falun Gong is a spiritual movement that was founded in 1992. Spreading quickly, it was believed as many as 70 million people in China were followers of Falun Gong by 1999.
Frightened by the rapid rise in membership of Falun Gong (seen as an 'evil cult'), the Chinese authorities banned the movement in 1999. Along with a huge campaign against the teachings of Falun Gong, the authorities also began a crackdown on those actively practising it. According to human rights groups, supporters of Falun Gong have been harassed, imprisoned and brutally tortured. There are claims that as many as 3,500 people may have been executed.
Since 2006 there have been allegations that Falun Gong prisoners have been used for organ harvesting. In the past China has admitted the use of organs from death row prisoners, but the authorities deny the harvesting of organs from political prisoners.