The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet
The Tibetan people are well known for being devoutly religious and peace-loving. Few, however, know that thousands of Tibetans took up arms against the invading forces of Communist China and for more than a decade waged a bitter and bloody guerrilla war of resistance. From the mid-1950s until 1969 the Tibetans were aided in their efforts by an unlikely ally: the CIA.
Between 1957 and 1969 the CIA armed, financed, and helped train Tibetan guerrillas who operated first inside Tibet, and later — after the Dalai Lama’s escape to India in 1959 — from a base in Mustang, a remote corner of northwestern Nepal. This project, code-named ST Circus, was one of the CIA’s longest-running covert operations. The withdrawal of the CIA’s support in 1969 was as abrupt as its initial involvement was unexpected: The Tibetans had simply fitted into America’s larger policy of destabilising or overthrowing Communist regimes, and when that no longer applied, they were abandoned.
Featuring unique archival footage and exclusive interviews with former Tibetan resistance fighters and surviving CIA operatives, this powerful documentary reveals for the first time this hitherto unknown chapter in Tibet’s recent history — a tale that is both heroic and tragic, and full of sad ironies and unexpected twists that overturn all preconceptions about both Tibet and the CIA. It was produced by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam.