From the centuries-long battle against Mongol rule that began in the 13th century to the on-going high-profile struggle with China, Tibetans have been fighting for a truly independent state for centuries. Below are some key events in Tibetan history.

Aug. 8, 2011: Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard University legal scholar, is sworn as the new head of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharmsala, replacing the Dalai Lama as the leader of Tibetans' political struggle for autonomy.

May 23, 2011:  The 60th anniversary of the signing of the 17-point agreement that established Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.

April 27, 2011: Sangay is confirmed as the new prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile after Tibetans outside China vote in elections in March.

March 17, 2011: A 20-year-old monk from the Kirti monastery in Sichuan Province who set himself on fire in protest against Chinese rules dies. The monastery was the site of demonstrations during the 2008 uprising of monks and other Tibetans.

March 10, 2011: Dalai Lama announces he is stepping down as political leader on the anniversary of the 1959 failed uprising against China that sent him into exile. He will remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

January 2010: Talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and China resume for the first time in 15 months.

December 2008: China cancels a summit with the EU and breaks off talks with France after the EU decides to allow the Dalai Lama to address the European Parliament and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whose country held the EU presidency at the time, meets with the Tibetan leader.

March 2008: Hundreds of Tibetan monks from monasteries around Lhasa take to the streets in protest against Chinese rule on the anniversary of the 1959 failed uprising and while the world is closely watching China in lead-up to the 2008 Summer Games. The protests soon turn deadly and spread to neighbouring regions with large Tibetan populations.

The number of people killed over several weeks of the demonstrations is in dispute, with Chinese officials saying around 20 died and hundreds were arrested, and Tibetan exile groups putting the death toll at more than 100. At least two people are later executed by China for their role in the uprising.

Han influx

July 2006: New railway linking the Chinese city of Golmud and Lhasa opens. Tibetans fear the rail link is China's way of bringing in more Han Chinese into the territory and undermining the Tibetan presence.

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Armed Chinese paramilitary policemen patrol a street near Jokhang temple in Lhasa, Tibet on May 12, 2011. (Reuters)

September 2006: The Dalai Lama is granted honorary Canadian citizenship.

April 2004: Liberal Paul Martin becomes the first Canadian prime minister to meet with the Dalai Lama. The talks are informal, and it is not until 2007 that a Canadian prime minister, Conservative Stephen Harper, meets the Dalai Lama formally and publicly.

September 2002: The first direct formal contact between Dalai Lama representatives and Chinese officials in China since 1993.

March 1999: Beijing designates Tibet an "inseparable part of China" and will open the doors to the Dalai Lama provided he drops his demands for independence for Tibet.

January 1999: The third-ranked Tibetan lama flees China in a week-long trek across the Himalayas to India to meet with the Dalai Lama.

December 1998: The Dalai Lama says he is open to talks with China "without any precondition, anytime, anywhere."

April 1998: Tibetan activist Thupten Ngodup dies after setting himself on fire in protest against police efforts to stop a hunger strike. The event signals a growing restlessness among Tibetans.

November 1996: Indian police detain 50 Tibetan exiles during Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit.

April 1994: Mobs burn Tibetan office in Dharamsala India, alleging that a Tibetan stabbed an Indian youth to death. Tibetan activists ask Indian government for protection.

August 1993: The Dalai Lama holds a rare news conference to say he is fighting for political autonomy and not complete independence for Tibet, saying there are seven million Chinese and only six million Tibetans in the region.

June 1993: The Dalai Lama threatens to end the Tibetan fight for independence because of violent pro-democracy activists in Lhasa.

August 1992:  High-level Tibetan exiles go to China to hold "open-minded" talks with Beijing.

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A Tibetan woman carries a plastic bottle of water on her back in Naqu in May 2011. (Rooney Chen/Reuters)

December 1991: Li Peng visits India, marking the first visit of a Chinese premier in 31 years.

March 1989: China imposes martial law. Tibet's government in exile disbands, schedules elections for 1991 and sets five-year terms for elected representatives.

1988: Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visits Beijing, signaling a thaw in relations as New Delhi relaxes its support for complete independence for Tibet.

War on 'old culture'

1976: China's ban on religious practices is lifted.

1966: Cultural Revolution begins in China. Red Guards enter Lhasa in a campaign designed to stamp out the so-called Four Olds: "old customs, old habits, old culture and old thinking." Religious practices are banned and more than 4,000 monasteries are destroyed.

1965: Tibetan Autonomous Region formally established.

1964: The Panchen Lama, who had accepted Chinese sponsorship, is deposed and replaced by a secular leader after making statements supporting the Dalai Lama.

1962: China launches attack along Tibet-India border to reclaim territories it says were wrongly given to India by Britain.

March 1959: Tibetans launch an armed separatist revolt. Thousands die battling Chinese troops. The Dalai Lama flees to India with 80,000 followers, establishing a government in exile.

1956: Scattered uprisings begin throughout Tibet.

May 23, 1951:  Tibet and China sign a 17-point agreement under which Tibet becomes a "national autonomous region," ceding control over external affairs to China but nominally retaining autonomy over culture and religion. Tibetans argue their government was forced to sign the agreement and withdrew from it days later. China does not acknowledge that withdrawal.

October 1950: Chinese People's Liberation Army invades Tibet. One of the justifications is the succession of the 10th Panchen Lama with rival candidates supported by Tibet and China.

Early 20th century

1913-1914: Britain, Tibet and China hold conferences in India and tentatively work out an agreement under which China maintains control over Tibet and the region is divided into an inner Tibet to be incorporated in China and an outer autonomous Tibet. China, however, does not ratify the agreement and continues to claim all of Tibet as a "special territory."

1912: With the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty in China, Tibet expels the Chinese and reasserts independence.

1906: Britain recognizes China's control over Tibet.

1904: British military expedition led by Sir Francis Younghusband enforces granting of trade posts at Yadong, Gyangze and Gar.

1893: Britain obtains a trading post at Yadong.

1788: Gurkhas from Nepal invade Tibet and the two sides go to war four years later.

1720: Ch'ing dynasty replaces Mongol role in Tibet. China claims control over Tibet, although it is often nominal only.

Mongol rule

13th century: Tibet falls under Mongolian influence, which lasts until the 18th century.

12th century: Indian Buddhists come to Tibet to flee Muslim invasion.

8th century: Scholar Padmasambhava creates Tibetan Buddhism out of the principles of Mahayana Buddhism, which was practiced in the Tibet kingdom.

618-906: During the T'ang dynasty, China establishes trade relations with Tibet. Frequent wars of conquest ensue in the following centuries.