Since the 1950s Tibet has been involved in a political struggle with China. Seeking political and religious sovereignty after the Chinese communist invasion, Tibet mounted several armed rebellions, none of which were successful against the brutal Chinese army. While there was peace after Tibet signed the 17 Point Agreement, admitting it was district of China, further violent struggle was on its way. During the Chinese crackdown on the 1959 Tibetan uprising 87,000 Tibetans were killed in central Tibet alone. Tibetan exiles count the historic death toll at 1.2 million. Devoted to pacifism the Dalai Lama was torn between supporting Tibetan liberation and condemning violent rebellion. The Dalai Lama described his position as being in the middle of two "volcanoes, likely to erupt at any moment."
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's the Dalai Lama watched China drive Tibet to the brink of violence and barbarism. Believing the conflict could only be resolved through negotiation, the Dalai Lama and advisers proposed the Five Point Peace Plan in 1987, philosophical legislation promoting the middle path in Chinese-Tibetan relations. Some Tibetan youth saw this as submission and the first step in destroying Tibet's cultural heritage. Collectively the Chinese government wrote it off as an attempt at "independence, semi-independence, or independence in a disguised form" which was unacceptable. Since then Tibet has suffered a constantly violent Chinese occupation and the exile of thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, inspiration for recent accounts of immolation.