Disillusioned but not disenchanted…
The region of Tibet lies in Central Asia, China to its east and India to its south. It currently lies under the control of the People’s Republic of China, its attempts at gaining full independence having failed. However, these attempts are not unfounded. Tibet has the right to its independence. This right is due to historical factors and legal factors including an Anglo-Tibetan treaty, a declaration of independence, the Seventeen-Point Agreement, along with the International Commission of Jurist and United Nation’s statements.
The historical factors surrounding Tibet are the first reasoning for its independence. Tibet as a state is an ancient one, full of its own tradition and culture setting it apart from China. As far back as 1652 the Manchu emperors of China, including the first one Shun-Tse, have recognized the Dalai Lamas as the Kings of Tibet. Tibet and China lived in a sort of mutual respect for one another. For a long period of history Tibet enjoyed the sovereignty of their religious rulers, naturally isolated due to its geographic location.
Various legal factors contribute to the case for Tibet’s independence. In the early Twentieth Century British representatives in India recognized the Chinese-Tibetan relations as “a constitutional fiction” in terms of Chinese suzerainty. Furthermore in 1904 the British signed a convention with the Tibetan government at Lhasa, thereby acknowledging its actuality as a form of government and making it so that Tibet had made a formal international agreement as a sovereign power. To further instill Tibet as a country, in 1906, the British convinced China to recognized the Anglo-Tibetan treaty, thereby ending Chinese power in Tibet. Despite this agreement, in 1910 China invaded Tibet and when the Chinese army was removed the thirteenth Dalai Lama proclaimed Tibet to be an independent nation. To finalize this in 1913 Britain and Tibet signed a document giving Tibet autonomy and for the next thirty-eight years there was no Chinese with authority in Tibet. This lack of Chinese authority includes no Chinese army, policemen, laws, judges, or newspapers, thus giving Tibet total freedom. In this time Tibet entered into up to five international agreements, further showing its acknowledgement as a country.
Apart from the historical aspects and the legal aspects in the first half of the Twentieth Century, events after 1950 further push the case for Tibetan independence. In 1950 China agreed with India that it had no interest in forcing Tibet into anything, however once again going against its words China, this time Communist, invaded Tibet afterwards in order to free it from “imperialist oppression”. In 1956 China once again confirmed that it didn’t wish to force Communism on Tibet however its actions where contrary, eventually going so far as to deny Tibetan peoples of their basic human rights.
In 1951, the Tibetan delegation had signed the Seventeen-Point Agreement, an agreement giving Tibet many rights under Chinese authority including regional autonomy. However, as was the case throughout Tibetan-Chinese relations, China acted against what it had agreed to, violating the Seventeen-Point Agreement on many points. The Chinese agreed to “not to alter the existing political system or the status and functions and powers of the Dalai Lama,” however it actively proceeded to persecute the Dalai Lama and the government, eventually forcing the Dalai Lama into exile. The Chinese also guaranteed freedom of religious beliefs but proceeded to persecute the Tibetan religion. The Chinese said that “no [economic] reforms were to be carried out by compulsion,” but they then dismantled the Tibetan economy and trade. All of this has been confirmed by the independent organization of the International Commission of Jurist. Such statements have also been made by the United Nations concerning Tibet’s right to basic human rights which have been denied by China.
Apart from all of this there is furthermore no agreement or document by which China is given authority over Tibet. Other international powers have not recognized China’s power over Tibet. In addition, the powers during World War II, including China, recognized Tibet’s claims to neutrality.
Tibet is fully entitled to its independence from China. For hundreds of years it was recognized as a sovereign nation apart from China, dating back as far as the Manchu emperors. It has entered into various trade and international agreements with world powers including Great Britain, thereby acknowledging its form as a country. It gained an extended period of independence in which its government issued a Declaration of Independence under the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Following this it was forcibly taken over and deprived of its independence and sovereignty which it had enjoyed for so long. Its Chinese rulers of made a habit of making agreements with Tibet and other powers and then breaking them. These actions alone should serve to void China’s claim to power over Tibet, should it claim to rule the area it should at least keep its own agreements. Instead it deprives Tibet of its basic rights, committing near genocide, yet another justification for removing Tibet from China’s power. The Communist government of China has no cause for claim to Tibet, if for no other reason than it is not the same established government that in ancient times had any claim to Tibet and no legal statute or internationally recognized document has been issued by which to give China power over Tibet.