I have many Tibetan friends. Whether in Tibet in the past or later in the United States, when Tibetans tell the story of their families during the period in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) entered Tibet, many of them usually begin with the same event: the full-scale confiscation of guns.
Most Tibetans live as nomads, so weapons are an important part of their lives, used against wild animals and human beings as self-defense.
In 1950, the CCP and representatives of the Dalai Lama signed a 17-point agreement not to carry out “reforms” in the Dalai Lama-controlled areas of Tibet, preserving their original institutions and way of life. But on the west bank of the Jinsha River, one of the first things the communist army did was to confiscate guns on a large scale. Tibetans in Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan provinces rioted and fled in large numbers after a 1959 uprising failed. These Tibetans fled to the heart of Tibet, often in large groups, with entire tribes numbering in the thousands.
The Chinese communist army pursued and intercepted them, and large numbers of Tibetans died on the way, including the elderly, the weak, women, and children.
A Tibetan I know, who was 8 years old when he fled from Qinghai, told the story of his tribe which refused to hand in their guns, fought back, fled, and was eventually exterminated. His parents and siblings all died, and he himself was the only one in the family who was rescued and later adopted by other Tibetans.
After 1959, the CCP no longer recognized the 17-point agreement. Tibet, which was the first region that experienced the CCP’s policy of “one country, two systems,” came under the full control of the CCP.
Another friend of mine came from the west bank of the Jinsha River, which was part of the former Tibetan local government area. In 1959, when the CCP started to ban guns in all of Tibet, his father and more than 50 people from his tribe went to the mountains with guns and confronted the CCP. A year later, the CCP forced the group to surrender by holding their families as hostages, most of whom were eventually shot dead.
Not only Tibet, but also other ethnic minorities, including Mongols, Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Yi, were forced to surrender their extremely outdated guns. As compensation, they were allowed to keep small and medium-sized knives for use in the field.
But in the last decade, knives were also deemed a major threat by the CCP.
In Xinjiang and Tibet, especially among Uyghurs and Tibetans, a real-name system is required for knife purchases. In Xinjiang, even for kitchen knives, an ID card and a QR code must be engraved on the knife.
As a Han Chinese, the restrictions are even stricter. I clearly remember a big sign hanging at a train station, “Anyone carrying a knife such as a dagger is subject to two years of re-education through labor.” Re-education through labor is a long-standing CCP administrative measure beyond the rule of the law which authorizes the public security bureaus to imprison people for up to three years on various charges without a court ruling.
The Chinese regime abolished the re-education through labor system in 2013.
The CCP does not “discriminate” against any ethnic group when it comes to the control of guns and knives, and all people must bow down without any dissent.
US Gun Rush
In the United States, many are rushing to buy guns for the same reason: ensuring the ability to protect themselves.
According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), more than 7.7 million background check applications for gun purchases were accepted nationwide in January and February, an increase of over 2 million compared to the 5.4 million check for the same period a year earlier. It’s also a 5 million increase over the 2.7 million checks done in the same period a decade ago in 2011.
A National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) survey shows that almost 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020.
Some first-time gun owners told The Epoch Times that they’re worried about the ability to defend themselves as some politicians push left-leaning policies.
If you think Americans will never fall into the helpless and desperate situation as my Tibetan friends, think about this: the rooftop Koreans in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
In 1992, riots were also sparked after four officers—three of them white—connected to the beating of Rodney King, a black man, were acquitted. The riots lasted for four days and resulted in 53 deaths, over 45,000 fire-related responses, and more than $1 billion in property damage, a Federal Emergency Management Agency report (pdf) says.
Korean-owned stores were particularly targeted in the 1992 riots. Stanley Sue, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, testified (pdf) that Korean Americans suffered half of all of the property damage that occurred in Los Angeles.
On the afternoon of April 29, a large mob gathered a few miles from Koreatown, also known as West Los Angeles due to its location on the west side of the downtown area. Several large gangs in Los Angeles declared a truce so they could work together to raid Koreatown.
The large group of rioters was armed with a lot of guns and ammunition robbed from stores. The police in Los Angeles were not able to provide protection for the local citizens. On April 30, Korean residents began to form their own armed defense teams.
When the mob stormed into Koreatown, they were confronted by a more organized militia. Koreans who owned small stores and gas stations were armed to the teeth, standing on the roofs of their businesses in an all-out war against the mob, relying on fortifications made of concrete piles, vehicles, and furniture.
All Koreans had to fulfill mandatory military service, with even the scrawnier Koreans receiving four years of formal military training in Korea. They clearly had more experience in fighting than the mob. From then on, the Koreans were given the nickname “Rooftop Koreans.”
“I will never forget the sight of the Korean grocers on the rooftop holding rifles to guard themselves against looters,” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page said during a hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Office of Personnel Management Auditorium in 1992 (pdf).
What if the rooftop Koreans didn’t have guns?
In the early days, the American continent was sparsely populated and rule of law was not yet in place. When family property was threatened, it was impossible to wait for police on horseback to arrive a month later, so the right to own a gun was inevitable. Eventually, American independence was achieved by the militia.
Success of Self-Governance
The right to own guns in the United States Constitution, however, is not just for these historical reasons. The founding fathers of the United States wanted to create a society with a small government that would rely primarily on civilian self-governance to achieve economic success, social stability, and prosperity. Therefore, popular self-armament is both the cause and the effect of maintaining a small government in this country.
Guns need to be managed, but how they are managed is a big issue.
In modern society, guns actually help the disadvantaged rather than the powerful. Imagine if there were no civilian guns in the United States, any criminal could break into any house at will. Especially in neighborhoods with the elderly population, they could go on the rampage because they are usually young and strong enough to sweep through a neighborhood with a stick or their bare hands. But with guns, it’s a different story. An 80-year-old grandmother can still be very deadly, so criminals need to think twice about entering a private house.
Even if all guns were banned, it would only prohibit law-abiding citizens, and criminals would still be able to find guns, which would only make them more rampant. The police are limited in number and it is difficult to prevent crime as it takes place, so banning people from owning guns may create an even bigger security loophole.
The push from President Joe Biden and some Democrats for stricter background checks and gun control seems to be putting the cart before the horse.
On one hand, opening up the borders means opening the door to organized crimes, and reduced police input at the same time leads to an increase in the overall crime rate. On the other hand, banning guns across the board is tantamount to weakening the public’s capability to protect themselves.
I suspect that there are some who want to see crime rates in the United States skyrocket, leading to chaos and creating justification to establish a super-government surveillance state. I hope this is just a conspiracy theory and not true. But that’s what communist regimes do.
Having lived under a communist system, I can’t help but be very wary of that possibility.
Alexander Liao is a journalist who covers international affairs, focused on the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. His work has been published in newspapers and financial magazines in the United States and Hong Kong.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.