IN CHOOSING to invite prominent Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi to his Beijing banquet today, President Bush is drawing attention to Chinese human-rights violations. If Bush is serious, he should bear in mind the tragic situation in Tibet. In 1959, China consolidated its military occupation of Tibet. For nearly three decades, that small Himalayan country virtually disappeared from western consciousness. Tibetans, however, continued to demonstrate against the colonization and forced assimilation of their ancient culture, in spite of China's often harsh and repressive response. Tibetans finally gained the West's attention in 1987. On Sept. 27, Oct. 1 and Oct. 6 of that year, while I was in Tibet to help organize a U.S.-Tibetan medical expedition, I witnessed the demonstrations in Lhasa that made world headlines, confirmed the deaths of six Tibetans who died immediately from gunshot wounds and beatings and treated others in secret. Since these outbreaks, China has restricted independent travel through Tibet by journalists and denied requests fron congressional and international human-rights groups which have sought to investigate reported human-rights violations. China has steadfastly insisted that Tibetans are thriving, despite numerous reports to the contrary by Tibetan refugees, many of whom allege that terrible crimes continue to be committed against their people. While in Tibet in 1987, for example, I met a woman who said that her baby had been killed by a lethal injection and that she herself had been sterilized against her will at Lhasa's People's Hospital. I was haunted by her story. Last fall, I visited Tibetan exile communities in India to interview recent refugees on this most controversial of allegations against the Chinese: that China's Tibetan birth control policy includes forced abortion, sterilization and even infanticide. All of the Tibetans I interviewed gave detailed accounts of such activity. A Tibetan doctor named Pema, who worked in a Chinese hospital in Amdo, told me the following story: "There are two types of Chinese birth-control teams, one in the hospitals and another that goes from village to village. Both teams have a monetary incentive to do abortions and sterilizations on as many women as possible. The more names the Chinese doctors collect, the more money they get from their government, and from the women who are charged between 100 and 200 yuan (six months salary) per operation." Forced abortion and sterilization of Tibetan women were common during the Cultural Revolution but were suspended in the late 1970s. While China denies that forced abortion and sterilization are part of its birth-control policy, a growing number of reports as well as congressional testimony indicate that there is reason to suspect a resurgence in these practices. After interviewing Tibetan nurses and doctors who had worked in Chinese and Tibetan hospitals, monks and lay Tibetans who had lived in the cities of Lhasa, Amdo and Kham, I was able to develop a sense of how the Chinese birth-control policy is being applied in Tibet. According to the reports I collected, mobile teams implement birth-control policy for Tibetans living in small villages and nomad areas of Amdo and Kham. For those women who live near a Chinese hospital, birth control-units in Chinese (not Tibetan) hospitals implement birth-control policy. At regular meetings, work-unit leaders tell Tibetan women that, while it is legal for Tibetans to have a second child, it is best for Tibetan women to have only one, like the Chinese. Those who agree to sterilization after the birth of their first child are praised. A monetary incentive of 100 yuan and a woolen blanket may also be given at the hospital. Both Chinese and Tibetan women must be married and be between the ages of 25 and 35 to have a child. A Tibetan woman who desires a second child must wait for four years before becoming pregnant again. Women who violate these rules are forced to have an abortion, often accompanied by sterilization and economic sanctions. Sanctions for having a third child are so severe that many Tibetan women choose to have their children at home. Poorer village Tibetans and nomads, who are often unable to pay even a small fine, have livestock or other material possessions confiscated. Couples where one or both parents work in a Chinese organization are fined the most. Thubten Geshe, a Tibetan physician who practiced at Lhasa's hospital of Tibetan Medicine, gave me the following example: The second child of a friend of his died. When the parents asked for permission to have a third child, this was refused. The woman became pregnant anyway and secretly delivered the baby at home during the summer of 1986. When the police discovered this, the parents were fined 3,000 yuan and demoted. The fines imposed on third children are more severe than those imposed on the parents. Third children have no legal right to attend school, work, travel, own property or receive a ration card. There are thousands of such children in villages. Their economic and social exile is complete and is rapidly producing a generation of illegal children who must collect refuse or dung to earn a living. Some of the most shocking allegations I heard from the refugees concerned infanticide, the killing of a newborn child. Three women whom I interviewed described how a relative or acquaintance of theirs had delivered a normal baby, only to have the nurse kill it with a lethal injection in the soft spot on the forehead. A particularly appalling story I heard came from a pair of refugee Buddhist monks, Ngawang Smanla and Tsewang Thonden. "In the autumn of 1987," they told me, "a Chinese birth-control team set up their tent next to our monastery in Amdo. The villagers were informed that all women had to report to the tent for abortions and sterilizations or there would be grave consequences. For the women who went peacefully to the tents and did not resist, medical care was given. The women who refused were taken by force, operated on, and no medical care was given. Women nine months pregnant had their babies taken out." During the two weeks the birth-control tent stood in the village, the monks claimed that all pregnant women had abortions followed by sterilization, and every woman of childbearing age was sterilized. "We saw many girls crying, heard their screams as they waited for their turn to go into the tent, and saw the growing pile of fetuses build outside the tent, which smelled horrible. "The birth-control teams were initiated in 1982," the monks continued, "but since 1987 there has been a tremendous increase in the number and frequency of the teams that move from town to town, and to nomad areas." Also since 1987, police torture has become routine, according to the refugees. Five of the Tibetans I interviewed stated that specially-trained Chinese torture units brought draconian techniques to Lhasa's prisons in the wake of the demonstrations. One monk named Norbu told me that four of his brother monks had been tortured for demonstrating. "Each monk was stripped naked and beaten with clubs with nails driven through the ends, rifle butts, electric cattle prods and truncheons, until they passed out. Then they would be revived with cold water. Their testicles were crushed." Tinley, a Tibetan policeman who had worked in Lhasa's predominantly Chinese police force, said that rebellious prisoners are tortured for up to six months, while recalcitrant ones are executed. "If a prisoner is adamant and says that Tibet is independent, then he will be stripped naked and beaten. The police are free to beat the prisoners to death." Tinley described his special methods for breaking joints, and how he beat prisoners using cattle prods, rifle butts and rocks. According to Tinley, "If a prisoner dies during the beatings . . . it is the prisoners' fault." Are these reports trustworthy? Interviewing indigenous Tibetans would have been preferable to interviewing refugees. Refugee accounts could be fictitious, biased or represent aberrations in Chinese birth-control policy. However, these accounts are both widespread and consistent with accounts from other travelers. There may be a double tragedy in Tibet's birth-control situation, because it may be misused by those interested only in opposing abortion. In 1985, allegations of coercive abortion and sterilization within China itself prompted the United States to eliminate its $46-million contribution to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). UNFPA funding will soon come before Congress again and will doubtless be affected by allegations about Tibet. This would be an exploitation of the Tibetans, whose problems transcend any single issue, at the expense of population-control efforts elsewhere. The U.S. Congress has condemned China for egregious human-rights violations against Tibetans, a sentiment which has since been expressed by the European Parliament as well. To China, this constitutes meddling in its "internal affairs;" it has denied requests from Asia Watch and Amnesty International to investigate violations of Tibetans' human rights. But to Tibetans, this is a matter of survival. The Reagan administration failed to address human-rights violations in Tibet. To have done so, the Chinese warned, would jeopardize increasing business and military interests. On his first trip to China as president of the United States, George Bush has a remarkable opportunity to stand up for human rights in Tibet before it is too late. Blake Kerr is a physician involved in international human-rights activities.