It is widely believed that the Dalai Lama fled Tibet once Chinese troops gained control over the region. Actually, these two events have nine years between them.
Tibet’s self-proclaimed independence in 1913, after the fall of Qing Empire of China, was never recognised legally by any country. So, once China sorted out the Civil War, it saw it only as natural to claim the territories succeeded from the state of Qing.
Once the Chinese People’s Liberation Army forces defeated Tibet’s army on October 7, 1950, Beijing started a campaign of re-integrating Tibet into the People’s Republic of China …
… Then, in early 1958, CIA agents in Lhasa delivered a new secret message from the US urging the Dalai Lama to make a formal request for American assistance, which he declined despite the fact it would have been backed by the newly-formed Chushi Gangdrug (Four Rivers, Six Mountains) tribal alliance. The Dalai Lama was consistent in avoiding foreign help to spare his compatriots from a possible war with China – but he did not succeed.
On June 16, 1958, Chushi Gangdrug’s military wing formed a National Volunteer Defence Army which began a full-scale insurgent warfare a whole year before the famous Tibetan uprising started (on March 10, 1959).
Also in 1958, the CIA began a new training programme for future Tibetan guerillas. Codenamed “The Colorado program” it lasted for seven years at Camp Hale in Colorado and neighboring the Butts Field Air Force Base. No fewer than 200 Tibetans were trained during these years.
At the same time, the CIA made sure the Tibetans were armed by dropping weapons and equipment for their guerillas.
In total, from July 1959 till May 1960, about 362 tonnes of weapons, ammunition and equipment – as well as 85 trained guerilla warfare specialists – were dropped into Tibet,
The US State Department closed down the Tibet project fifteen years later when, in 1974, it officially ceased to aid the Tibetan government in exile.
Following the 1959 uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to India where he stays in exile to this day. (full long text).