Okay so I've tried numerous times to discuss this on e-sangha, only to be censored every time. First of all, I want to explain this: I carry a profound respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, (and even planned months in advance to see him in Seattle in 2 weeks! woo!) but there is somewhat of a - well what I feel - skewed history of Tibet.
A few years ago I traveled to China. I only knew a superficial amount of Chinese history, but I asked a lot of questions. While I was there I met a Tibetan man who (was not in tibet, but Xi'an -- very far from home!) said it wasn't always so that the Dalai Lama and Communists we enemies.
(Right to left) Dalai Lama, Mao Zedong, Panchen Lama; photographed by Hou Bo in 1954 in Beijing
I only know a little about this, but there is a Maoist version of events of Tibet http://rwor.org/a/firstvol/tibet/tibet1.htm.
From my experience most "Free Tibet" folks are good progressive people like myself. And I support Tibetan independence. However, I don't support some mythological romanticizing of Tibetan society, Tibetan Buddhism or even HHDL.
I don't believe everything the Maoists claim , however they do have some valid criticisms of Tibetan feudal society.
An excerpt from the Maoist claims:
Does anyone else have more information on this -- or informed opinions?
Serfs were treated like despised "inferiors"--the way Black people were treated in the Jim Crow South. Serfs could not use the same seats, vocabulary or eating utensils as serf owners. Even touching one of the master's belongings could be punished by whipping. The masters and serfs were so distant from each other that in much of Tibet they spoke different languages.
It was the custom for a serf to kneel on all fours so his master could step on his back to mount a horse. Tibet scholar A. Tom Grunfeld describes how one ruling class girl routinely had servants carry her up and down stairs just because she was lazy. Masters often rode on their serfs' backs across streams.
The only thing worse than a serf in Tibet was a "chattel slave," who had no right to even grow a few crops for themselves. These slaves were often starved, beaten and worked to death. A master could turn a serf into a slave any time he wanted. Children were routinely bought and sold in Tibet's capital, Lhasa. About 5 percent of the Tibetan people were counted as chattel slaves. And at least another 10 percent were poor monks who were really "slaves in robes."
The lamaist system tried to prevent any escape. Runaway slaves couldn't just set up free farms in the vast empty lands. Former serfs explained to revolutionary writer Anna Louise Strong that before liberation, "You could not live in Tibet without a master. Anyone might pick you up as an outlaw unless you had a legal owner."