The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama by Melvyn C. Goldstein

Tibet is a sparsely populated region on a high plateau north of the Himalayas. In fact, for thousands of years, many Tibetans have lived in areas that are now provinces of China: Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. The Chinese province of Tibet is the largest part of ethnographic Tibet. For the vast majority of its history, Tibet has been an independent country, separate from China. However, because of its peaceful Buddhist nature, Tibet has never had a strong military, and so has not been able to defend itself. At various times in its long history, it has turned to the Mongols, the Manchus and the British to protect it.

The people of Tibet speak a language that is not a dialect of Chinese (the language of the majority Han ethnicity of China). The Tibetan language is similar to Burmese, the Dzongkha language of Bhutan, and various minority languages of Yunnan province. Tibetan has a written script imported from northern India.

Before Buddhism spread to Tibet, they had a shamanistic Bon religion. All Tibet Buddhist sects are part of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. The current “Yellow Hat” Geluk Buddhist sect was introduced into Tibet in around 1400 by an Amdo monk named Tsongkapa. The Yellow Hat form of Buddhism came to dominate Tibet in the years before Tibet came under Manchu rule. The Dalai Lama is the main leader of the Yellow Hat Buddhists, while the Panchen Lama is a secondary leader.

Mongol Empire:
Tibet was conquered by Genghis Khan, paid him tribute, and became part of the Mongol empire. The Chinese interpreted this as Tibet becoming part of China, but the Tibetans saw themselves as parallel to the Chinese, both parts of the Mongol empire. During Mongol rule, the main Buddhist sects were the Red Hat sects, Sakya and Kargyu. When Tibet was allied with the Mongols, Tibet provided the Mongols with religion, and the Mongols provided the Tibetans with military protection.

Ming Dynasty:
During the ethnic Chinese Ming dynasty, Tibet’s relationship with China was one of suzerainty: the Ming dynasty controlled Tibet’s foreign affairs, while Tibet had control of its own internal affairs.

Manchu Dynasty:
The Qing (Manchu) Dynasty ruled China from 1720 to 1911. During the Manchu (Ching) Dynasty, Tibet was under the protection of the Manchus. During the late nineteenth century the British, who were in India, established trade relations with Tibet.

Republic of China (1911):
When Sun Yatsen took power in 1911, he saw Tibet as part of China and wanted to expel the British from Tibet. Britain was not willing to fight for Tibet. Britain did make Bhutan and Sikkim into Indian protectorates. The British made a part of Tibet near Bhutan into the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Mongolia was able to become an independent country after World War II due to the support of Joseph Stalin.

People’s Republic of China (1949):
In 1950 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet and conquered the Tibetan army at Chamdo. Little blood was shed before Tibet surrendered. Tibet turned to the United Nations for help in preserving its autonomy from China, but the United Nations refused to support Tibet, due to the opposition of Britain and India. Between 1951 and 1959 China left Tibet alone to run its own affairs. In 1959 the C.I.A. supported a rebellion for independence in Tibet, but it failed. The C.I.A. continued to support the Tibetan rebels in their base in Nepal. The Chinese communists claimed that they were trying to liberate Tibet from feudalism and serfdom. They outlawed Buddhism and collectivized agriculture. The Tibetan were allowed to keep their language, however.
During the late 1960s the United States abandoned its support for Tibet, because it wanted to improve relations with the PRC.

Until the twentieth century, no Chinese people lived in Tibet. Many Han Chinese and Hui Muslims have moved to Tibet since 1984 to work in modernizing the Tibet and building infrastructure. There are now many Han Chinese living in Tibet, but they are regarded as being only temporary workers. The Chinese have become more tolerant of Buddhism since Mao passed away. Their religion is no longer outlawed, as it was during the Mao years. The PRC one-child rule is less strictly enforced in Tibet.

Independence Movement:
The Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government live in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. In 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize. The rulers of China do not want Tibet, the Uyghur Turkic Muslim people, Taiwan or Hong Kong to be independent. Many Tibetans would settle for what Hong Kong currently has: one country two systems. But the Chinese rulers don’t want them to have that. The United States Congress has made efforts during the past 25 years to give greater recognition to Tibet. The author believes that it is unrealistic to believe that the PRC will ever allow Tibet to become a separate country.


The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe

Fujian ( 福 建) Province:

There is not much arable land in Fujian Province in China. It is mostly mountains and the coast. Its coast is opposite Taiwan. Fujianese are also called Fukienese. Many Fukinese have gone abroad for opportunity. 

Little Fuzhou:

In the 1980s New York’s Chinatown, traditionally Cantonese, became more Fukinese. Men emigrated from Fukien Province first, then sent for their wives and children after they had established themselves in the United States. The New York City Fukinese settled in their own enclave, Little Fuzhou, in east Chinatown, where they could speak their own dialect. The Cantonese looked down on the new Fujianese immigrants. In Chatham Square in Little Fuzhou there is a statue of the Fujianese hero, Lin Zexu, who opposed the British during the Opium Wars. 

New York Chinatown Gangs:

Before the Fujianese arrived in New York, there were the traditional Cantonese Tongs. The word tong ( 堂) means meeting hall. The tongs started out as benevolent associations to help immigrants. But they developed a dark side, involving heroin, prostitution, protection and gambling. Reading about the Chinese, I often come across the prominence of gambling. There must be something about the Chinese character that draws them to gambling. Perhaps it is their love of money, or their lack of belief in a deity that controls everything that happens, so some things are left to chance. The two main New York Cantonese tongs were the Hip Sing (協 勝) and the On Leong (安 良). Benny Ong (Uncle Seven) directed the Hip Sing tong and its Flying Dragons gang. The main rival of the Hip Sing was the On Leong, with headquarters on Mott Street in Chinatown, and which was affiliated with the Ghost Shadows street gang. During the 1990s, Ah Kay (Guo Liang Chi) was the leader of the Fujianese Fuk Ching gang in New York City’s Chinatown. He started with extracting protection money from Chinese restaurants, and later got involved with immigrant smuggling. 

Chinese Immigrant Smuggling

The immigrants smuggled into the United States were not indentured servants. They did not spend years working off their debt to their smugglers. Instead, they spend years working off their debt to their families already here. The family members already here paid the smuggler within a few days of the arrival of the new family member. Canada had more open immigration policy during the time that U.S. policy was more restrictive. Many Chinese go first to Canada and then sneak across the border to the United States. Human smuggling became attractive to organized crime, due to short jail terms if caught. After the Tiananmen Square confrontation of June 1989, the United States government became more sympathetic to Chinese immigration and Chinese activists seeking asylum. Ah Kay was able to stay in the United States, because he claimed a connection to the pro-democracy movement in China. After the 1986 U.S. immigration act, the Chinese underworld made money providing backdated documents for illegal immigrants to prove that they had been in the country for awhile already. For example: pay stubs, employment records, leases, bills. Chinese were smuggled not only across the Pacific Ocean to California and Mexico, but also across the Indian Ocean, around Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean to the East Coast of North America. There were many way stations, including Bangkok, Thailand. The fact that there are Overseas Chinese and Chinatowns throughout the word facilitates their travel. Sister Ping (Cheng Chui Ping) was one of the main snakeheads during the 1990s. She was involved not only in the human smuggling business, but also money transfers. She charged only 3%, which was less than what the banks charged. She had a reputation for reliability in the smuggling of Fujianese immigrants. 

Golden Venture:

Ah Kay and his Fuk Ching gang handled the transport of the Chinese immigrants from a snakehead’s ocean-going vessel sitting in international water to the land using smaller fishing boats. Sister Ping used Ah Kay’s people and their boats for her offloading. The main case discussed in this book is the Golden Venture. The immigrants started in Fujian Province of China, stopped over in Bangkok, Thailand, then took the ship Najd II under the control of the Fujianese snakehead Weng Yu Hui. The ship made it as far as Mombasa, Kenya. The people transferred to another ship, the Golden Venture, to make it around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Atlantic to New York. When the Golden Venture arrived in New York, Ah Kay was in hiding from a rival gang, so there was no one to do the offloading. Instead, the Golden Venture was run aground on New York’s Rockaway Beach. The book tells the story of what happened to the immigrants after they arrived, and how law enforcement handled the smugglers.