I am a college student who has studied China extensively in school. I can speak Chinese and have traveled to China several times and to Tibet once. While I have never agreed with many of the Chinese governments policies in the areas of religion, personal freedom, Tibet, and Taiwan, I think this book could have done more for its cause.
I decided to read this book after I spent 2.5 weeks in Tibet last year while studying in China. Tibet was one of the most fascinating places I have been to and I really wanted to know more about what happened there after China invaded. This book tells the Dalai Lama's story very well. Up until the last 15 pages or so, I really loved the book. However, before closing, the Dalai Lama makes several accusations about Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet (beatings, child abductions and the like) but provides no evidence of their existence.
While I personally feel Tibet was and still is a sovereign country and what China has done is wrong in many ways, the charges made in the last few pages don't belong in this book. While the Dalai Lama's story of his life and last days in Tibet are very powerful, I really think it would have been even better had the those last parting shots been omitted. Charges of human rights abuses such as these are very important and would be better served in a book of their own.
I think most Americans will enjoy this book but not share the same reaction I had to the last few pages. I have studied China for several years now and have heard accusations from both China and the world on countless occasions on a wide range of issues. Maybe this is why I get turned off when I don't see concrete evidence included when someone makes a charge such as the Dalai Lama does at the end of his book. I still think the Dalai Lama is a wonderful man and has an important story to tell, but feel this one could have come across a little better.
The cry to "free Tibet" takes on new meaning and a more personal conviction after reading this book. This original autobiograhpy, published in 1962, is an intimate narrative of the Dalai Lama's life from his humble beginnings as the son of a Tibetan farmer to his evolution as the greatest spiritual leader known to the modern world.
It is also the story of a young man struggling with responsibilities that are unimaginable for someone so young and of a remarkable people who were willing to give up their lives in order to protect their unique way of life.
But, more importantly, this book tells the story of an attempt by a mighty military power to eliminate a small peace-loving culture thus eliminating it's religion, a religion based simply on having compassion for all living things. In this regard, the efforts of the mighty power failed. The government of China may have been successful in taking the beautiful land from the Tibetans (thanks in part to the rest of the world turning a blind eye to what was happening) but the culture and religion is still thriving thanks to the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his government in exile.
In conclusion, this book reminds us that we all need to be aware of how frangible freedom is and that all peace-loving people must join hands throughout the world, regardless of cultural and religious beliefs, to protect that precious thing called freedom.