Dharamshala â With a written history of more than 2000 years, Tibet remained an independent, sovereign state. However the People's Republic of China (PRC) justifies its occupation by claiming that Tibet has been part of China for around 800 years. Its claim is not supported by the facts.
Tibet, whose people are a uniquely distinct race from surrounding countries, has maintained a unique culture, written and spoken language, religion and political system for centuries are a uniquely distinct race, making its historical territory the worldâs 10th largest nation.
For a short period of time in the 13th and 18th centuries, Tibet came under a degree of outsider influence. Tibet broke political ties with the Yuan emperor in 1350, before China regained its independence from the Mongols. In the 13th century Tibet fell under Mongol influence, which lasted until the 18th century. In 1720, the Ch'ing dynasty replaced Mongol rule in Tibet. China thereafter claimed suzerainty, however it is merely nominal.
Tibetâs recorded history stretches as far back as 127 BC. As with all of the great nations of the world, the interactions with its neighbors was numerous; sometimes violent, often destined to prevail over adversaries. Tibet often defeated the T'ang dynasty in the many battles fought between the 17th and 19th centuries. In the year 821 Tibet, under Ralpacan, and the T'ang Dynastic ruler Hwang Te entered into a treaty as independent nations after nearly 200 years of conflict. The T'ang Dynasty had made many pacts and signed peace treaties with Tibet before, of which none lasted too long, until the powerful Tibetans threatened the existence of the T'ang Empire and consequently this bilingual treaty was drafted and signed.
The Treaty in part reads: "The two nations, Tibet and China, shall keep the country and frontiers which they now possess. The whole region to the East of that being the country of Great China and the whole region to the West being assuredly the Country of great Tibet, from either side there shall be no warfare, no hostile invasions, and no seizure of territoryâ¦ And in order that this agreement establishing a great era where Tibetans shall be happy in Tibet, and Chinese shall be happy in China shall NEVER be changed, the Three Jewels, the body of Saints, the sun and the moon, planets and stars have been invoked as witnesses." This twas engraved on three stone pillars of which one is still standing in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet.
When Mongol Empire Genghis Khan expanded toward Europe and China in the 13th century, the leaders of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism concluded an agreement with the Mongols in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable conquest of Tibet. Mongols conquered China while Tibetans and Mongols established the unique 'priest patron' relationship, also know as CHOYON. The relationship became so vital thatÂ Kublai Khan invited the Sakya Lama to become the Imperial Preceptor and supreme pontiff of his empire after he conquered China and established the Yuan Dynasty, and was ruled thereafter directly by Mongol rulers. As Tibetâs patrons they pledged to protect it against foreign invasion. In return Tibetans promised loyalty to the Mongol empire.
The relationship that still exists today between the two powers is a reflection of the close cultural affinity between the two peoples. To claim that Tibet became a part of China because both countries were subjected to varying degrees of Mongol or Yuan Dynasty control, as the PRC does, is indeed totally absurd. The Mongol Empire was a world empire; no evidence exists to indicate that the Mongols integrated the administration of China and Tibet or appended Tibet to China in any manner. It would be unheard of to claim that Spain should belong to France because both came under Roman domination, or that Burma became a part of India when the British Empire extended its authority over both territories.
The Mongol-Tibetan relationship was thus based on mutual respect and dual responsibility. In stark contrast, the Mongol-Chinese relationship was based on military conquest and domination. The Mongols ruled China and the world, while the Tibetans ruled Tibet. The Mongol empire ended in the mid-14th century. In 1639, the Dalai Lama established another cho-yon relationship, this time with the Manchu Emperor, who in 1644 invaded China and established the Qing Dynasty.
By the middle of the 19th century, the Munchu influence in Tibet had waned considerably as the Manchu empire began to disintegrate. In 1842 and 1856 the Manchus were incapable of responding to Tibetan calls for assistance against repeated Nepalese Gorkha invasion. The Tibetans drove back the Gorkhas with no assistance and concluded bilateral treaties. In 1911 the cho-yon relationship came to its final end with the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. Tibet formally declared its Independence in 1912 and continued to conduct itself as a fully sovereign nation until its invasion by Communist China in 1949.
Tibet's status following the expulsion of Manchu troops is not subject to serious dispute. Whatever ties existed between the Dalai Lama and the Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty were extinguished with the fall of that empire and dynasty. From 1911 to 1950, Tibet successfully avoided undue foreign influence and behaved, in every respect, as a fully independent, modern state. During this time, Tibet successfully maintained diplomatic relations with several nations, however relations with China were strained. The Chinese waged a border war with Tibet, formally urging Tibet to "join" the Chinese Republic, while claiming all along to the world that Tibet already was one of China's "five races."
In 1912, the 13th Dalai Lama - the political and spiritual leader of the Government of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly- issued a proclamation reaffirming Tibetâs independence: "We are a small, religious, and independent nation." Tibet had its own national flag, currency, stamps, passports and army under the auspices of a political government system; signed major international treaties, and maintained diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. Tibet has maintained a unique culture, written and spoken language, religion and political system for centuries.
In an effort to reduce Sino-Tibetan tensions, the British convened a tripartite conference in Simla in 1913 where representatives of the three states met on equal terms. The British delegation reminded his Chinese counterpart that Tibet had entered the conference as an "independent nation recognizing no allegiance to China," and the conference proved to be unsuccessful at resolving the difference between Tibet and China, as China refused to sign the treaty.
It was, nevertheless, significant in that Anglo-Tibetan friendship was reaffirmed with the conclusion of bilateral trade and border agreements. In a Joint Declaration, Great Britain and Tibet bound themselves not to recognize Chinese sovereignty or other special rights in Tibet unless China signed the draft Simla Convention that would have guaranteed Tibet's greater borders, its territorial integrity and full autonomy. China never signed the Convention, however, leaving the terms of the Joint Declaration in full force.
Tibet conducted its international relations primarily by dealing with the British, Chinese, Nepalese, and Bhutanese diplomatic missions in Lhasa, but also through government delegations travelling abroad. When India became independent, the British mission in Lhasa was replaced by an Indian one. During World War II Tibet remained neutral, despite combined pressure from the United States, Great Britain, and China to allow passage of raw materials through Tibet.
Tibet never maintained extensive international relations, but those countries with which it did maintain relations treated Tibet as they would with any other sovereign state. Its international status was in fact no different from, say, that of Nepal. Thus, when Nepal applied for United Nations' membership in 1949, it cited its treaty and diplomatic relations with Tibet to demonstrate its full international personality.
For Tibet, the year 1949 was a key turning point in history, as the People's Liberation Army of the PRC first crossed into Tibet. After defeating the small Tibetan army and occupying half the country, the Chinese government imposed the so-called "17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" on the Tibetan government in May 1951. The presence of over 40,000 troops in Tibet, the threat of an immediate occupation of Lhasa, and the prospect of the total obliteration of the Tibetan state meant the agreement was signed under duress, therefore lacking validity under international law.Â
Tibet has maintained throughout its history a distinctive national, cultural, and religious identity separate from that of China. Chinese archival documents and traditional dynastic histories, including those pertaining to periods of Manchu and Mongol rule, never refer to Tibet being made "an integral part" of China. Several countries, including Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal, British India, and Czarist Russia recognized Tibet as an independent nation or dealt with Tibet independently of any Chinese Government. In 1949-50, China launched an armed invasion of Tibet in contravention of international law. At the time of Chinese occupation, Tibet possessed all the attributes of statehood under international law including a defined territory and population, an independent government, and the ability to conduct domestic affairs and independent international relations, as found in 1960 by International Commission of Jurists.
From a legal standpoint, Tibet has never lost its nationhood on the crossroads of history. It is an independent state under illegal occupation. Neither China's military invasion nor the continuing occupation by the People's Liberation Army has transferred the sovereignty of Tibet to China. The Chinese government has never claimed sovereignty of Tibet by conquest. In fact China recognizes that the use or threat of force (outside the exceptional circumstances provided for in the UN Charter), the imposition of an unequal treaty, or the continued illegal occupation of a country can never grant an invader legal title to territory. Instead its claims are based solely on the alleged subjection of Tibet to a few of China's strongest foreign rulers in the 13th and 18th centuries.Â
History thus being established, Chinaâs claims sovereignty over Tibet is based solely on the brief conquests of some of the worldâs strongest rulers in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. However, China has remained one of the worldâs most ardent opponents of imperialism and colonialism, so how can they excuse the continued presence in Tibet, against the wishes of Tibetan people, by citing as justification Mongols and Manchu imperialism?
More than 30 new countries have been created after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. Thus, contemporary international law holds that recognition of a nationâs sovereignty can occur either by explicit, or implicit acts, including such as negotiations, treaties, and diplomatic relations. Tibet has repeatedly been explicitly recognized by many countries and enjoyed diplomatic relations with most countries prior to the invasion by the PRC, suggesting its sovereignty. Mongolia explicitly recognized Tibet's sovereignty by signing the 1913 Treaty with Tibet called the âTreaty of Friendship and Allianceâ, signed by both Nations. The Nepalese government in its 1949 application to the UN for membership listed Tibet as an independent country with which Nepal maintained full diplomatic relations. The Nepalese diplomatic mission in Lhasa maintained full embassy status, staffed with an Ambassador right up until 1962.
More recent examples continue to suggest sovereignty, as El Salvador formally requested that China's aggression against Tibet be placed on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly. During the four U.N. General Assembly debates on Tibet in 1959, 1960, 1961, and 1965, many countries including the Philippines, Ireland, Thailand, United States, Nicaragua explicitly stated that Tibet was an independent country, illegally occupied by China. "Aggression" and "Invasion" were widely used terms to describe the Chinese occupation of Tibet during these debates.
The Thai Ambassador to the UN stated, "The majority of states refute the contention that Tibet is part of China.â The U.N. passed three resolutions in 1959, 1961, and 1965 regarding Tibet, stating that Tibetans are deprived of their inalienable rights to self-determination through the illegal occupation by China.
As Mr Frank Aiken, Irelandâs UN Ambassador, who remarked during the 1959 UN General Assembly debates on the question of Tibet, âLooking around this assembly â¦ how many benches would be empty in this hall if it had always been agreed that when a small nation or a small people fall in the grip of a major power no one could ever raise their voice here; that once there was a subject nation, then must always remain a subject nation. Tibet has fallen into the hands of the Chinese Peopleâs Republic for the last few years. For thousands of years â¦ Tibet was as free and as fully in control of its own affairs as any nation in this Assembly, and a thousand times more free to look after its own affairs than many of the nations here.â
May other countries made statements in the course of the UN debates that reflected similar recognition of Tibet's independent status. Thus, for example, the delegate from the Philippines declared: "... It is clear that on the eve of the invasion in 1950, Tibet was not under the rule of any foreign country." The delegate from Thailand reminded the assembly that the majority of states "refute the convention that Tibet is part of China." The United States of America joined most other UN members in condemning the Chinese "aggression" and "invasion" of Tibet.
On October 28th, 1991, US Congress under a Foreign Authorization Act passed the resolution wherein they recognized âTibet, including those areas incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai, "AN OCCUPIED COUNTRY" under the established principal of international lawâ. The resolution further stated that Tibetâs true representative is the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile as recognized by the Tibetan people.Â Â Â
In Tibet today, religious persecution, violations of human rights, environmental destruction, and economic inequalities and the wholesale destruction of religious and historic buildings continue on a constant and regular basis. Tibetans inside Tibet continue to resist the destruction of their national identity despite the loss of 1.2 million brothers and sisters. Our new generations must be determined to regain the country's freedom passed down by our older generation. The creation of Tibetan democracy within exile is a significant achievement for the progress of humanity and an important symbol of modern civilization.
Despite these facts and figures, some countries and their corporations continue to support communist China economically. This shows their blatant lack of respect for these critical issues of political and religious freedom and human rights. Nations that claim to want peace must be courageous and act in the interests of basic freedoms and human rights rather than simply in the interest of economic gain or global resource exploitation.
Freeing Tibet calmly, clearly and coolly could set an example to the world. It could become a symbol of change and a model for fighting against abuses of human rights, womenâs rights, and political, religious and cultural freedoms across the globe. It could be an example of democracy loving people overcoming authoritarian rule and injustice. The international community seems to be silent on this particular legal issue, even witnessing the destruction of a people and a country. However history is what happened in the past, and while it cannot be rewritten, the truth will never die.