Tibet: An Occupied Country

tibet 1A Long History of Sovereignty

While China claims that Tibet has always been a part of China, Tibet has a  history of at least 1300 years of independence from China. In 821 China and  Tibet ended almost 200 years of fighting with a treaty engraved on three stone  pillars, one of which still stands in front of the Jokhang cathedral in Lhasa.

The treaty reads in part: Both Tibet and China shall keep the country and  frontiers of which they are now possessed. 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 hostile  invasion, and no seizure of territory… and in order that this agreement  establishing a great era when 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 witness.

The three stone pillars were erected, one outside the Chinese Emperor’s  palace, one on the border between the two countries, and one in Lhasa.

During the 13th and 14th centuries both China and Tibet came under the  influence of the Mongol empire. China claims today that Tibet and China during  that time became one country, by virtue of the Mongols domination of both  nations. In validating this claim, it must first be remembered that virtually  all of Asia was dominated by the Mongols under Kublai Khan and his successors,  who ruled the largest empire in human history. Second, the respective  relationships between the Mongols and the Tibetans and between the Mongols and  Chinese must be examined. These two relationships were not only radically  different in nature, but they also started and ended at different times. Tibet  came under Mongol influence before Kublai Khan’s conquest of China and regaining  complete independence from the Mongols several decades before China regained its  independence.

While China was militarily conquered by the Mongols, the Tibetans and the  Mongols established the historically unique “priest patron” relationship, also  known as CHO-YON. The Mongol aristocracy had converted to Buddhism and sought  spiritual guidance and moral legitimacy for the rule of their vast empire from  the Tibetan theocracy. As Tibet’s patrons they pledged to protect it against  foreign invasion. In return Tibetans promised loyalty to the Mongol empire.

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, 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 conquested 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 an 1949.

tibet 2

1. Tibet governed itself without foreign influence, conducted its own Foreign  affairs, had its own army and operated its own postal system. Tibet sovereignty  was recognised by its neighbours as well as by Britain, with whom Tibet entered  into a series of treaties regarding travels and trade.

2. 1904 Britain invaded Tibet and subsequently Convention agreed between  Tibet and Britain.

3. 1912 The last of the Chinese troops expelled from Tibet and Dalai Lama  proclaims Tibet Independence.

4. During the Second World War Tibet remained neutral, despite strong  pressure from the USA, Britain and China to allow the passage of raw materials  through Tibet.

5. Tibet conducted its international relations primarily by dealing with  British, Chinese, Nepalese and Bhutanese diplomatic missions in Lhasa, but also  through government delegations traveling abroad. When India became independent,  the British Mission in Lhasa was replaced by an Indian one.

6. When Nepal applied for membership of the United Nations in 1949, it cited  its treaty and diplomatic relations with Tibet to demonstrate its full  international personality.

7. If Tibet was part of China, then there was no need for the 17 point  agreement which was forced upon the Tibetan delegation to sign in China in 1951  and then China announced to the world that Tibet was liberated (from whom?).

8. From 1951 to 1959 China broke every promise that she made towards Tibet,  resulting in the Tibetan uprising against China in March 1959. His Holiness the  Dalai Lama and 100,000 Tibetans escaped into exile. From that day onwards Tibet  affectively became an occupied country.

9. Today from the legal standpoint, Tibet to this day has not lost its  statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation. Neither China’s  military invasion nor the continuing occupation by PLA has transferred the  sovereignty of Tibet to China.

As pointed out earlier, the Chinese government has not claimed to have  acquired sovereignty over Tibet by conquest. Indeed, China recognises 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. Its  claims are based solely on the alleged subjection of Tibet to a few of China’s  strongest foreign rulers in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries.

How can China – one of the most ardent opponent of imperialism and  colonialism – excuse its continued presence in Tibet, against the wishes of  Tibetan people, by citing as justification Mongols and Manchu imperialism and  its own colonial policies?

– Dr. Michael C Van Walt Van Pragg (International Lawyer) The Status of  Tibet

10. 28th October 1991, US Congress under a Foreign Authorisation Act passed  the resolution wherein they recognised “Tibet, including those areas  incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai,  AN OCCUPIED COUNTRY under the established principal of international law”. The  resolution further stated that Tibet’s true representative are the Dalai Lama  and the Tibetan Government in exile as recognised by the Tibetan people.

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