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Tibet is located in central Asia, surrounded by the
highest mountains in the world. It is north of India, Nepal and Bhutan, west of
China, and south of Russia, Mongolia, and East Turkestan, covering a land mass
of three times the size of the state of Texas. Tibet is sparsely populated, but
rich in minerals, and home to many many rare fauna and flora. The headwaters of
Asia's major rivers are located in Tibet; such as the Indus in Pakistan, Sutlej,
Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, Salween in Burma, Mekong in Laos and Thailand,
and Yangtse and Yellow River in China.
Tibet is made up of three regions,
collectively known as the Chol-Kha-Sum. From Ngari Korsum in Western Tibet to
Sokla Kyao, the region is known as U-Tsang; from Sokla Kyao to the upper bend
of the Machu (Yellow River) it is known as Dotod or Kham, and from the bend of
Machu to Chorten Karpo, it is called Domed or Amdo.
history may be divided into four major periods; the rise and the fall of early
kings from the 3rd century B.C. to the 13th century A.D.; the rise and the fall
of the Sakya rule from 1247 to 1368; the rise and the fall of the hegemony of
1368 to 1644; and the rise of the Dalai Lama's influence and rule from 1644 to
All through these periods, Tibet was not a part of China.
The Chinese claim Tibet to have become a part of China when the Tibetan king,
Songtsen Gampo took Princess Wen-ch'eng Kung-chu of the Chinese Emperor T'ai-tsung
in marriage; at other times, the Chinese point to the Mongol rule (the Yuan Dynasty);
and still other times, China states that Tibet came under Chinese rule at the
time of the 5th Dalai Lama. With no historical foundation to support their claim,
they jump from century to century, hoping to find a period in Tibetan history
to legitimize their claim. But there is none.
The Tibet-China relationship,
beginning from King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, was based on political
and military power to create peaceful coexistence between the two countries. From
the Chinese perspective, it was to avoid military confrontation with the Tibetans
and the marriage stood as a guarantee for Tibetans from invading China. Starting
from the Sakya rule over Tibet, the priest-patron relationship came into being
between the Mongol rulers and Tibet. This relationship was inherited by the subsequent
rulers in China and the latter used Tibet's influence over the Mongols to hold
off their attacks on China. In the priest-patron relationship, the priest provided
the spiritual guidance and the patron provided protection of the priest's country.
This protection did not make the priest a subordinate to the patron nor the patron
the owner of the priest's domain or territories under his rule.
during the expansion of the British empire, Britain deliberately used a western
political terminology to describe the priest-patron relationship that existed
between Tibet and China. The term the British used was 'suzerainty'. Britain stated
that China had suzerainty over Tibet and used that as the premise for their dealings
about Tibet with China. This may have been designed to stop the Russians from
gaining influence in Tibet, which the British saw as a threat to their rule in
Tibet refused to accept any treaty in which they were not a party.
This refusal lead to the British invasion of Tibet in 1904. Before the Younghusband
expedition was set in motion, Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy in India, wrote
to the Secretary of State of India revealed that: "We regard Chinese suzerainty
over Tibet as a constitutional fiction... a political affectation which has only
been maintained because of its convenience to both parties."
Dalai Lama fled to Mongolia when Britain invaded Tibet. China did not assist Tibet,
or protest against the invasion. The Tibetan army was no match for the British,
and they were defeated with heavy casualties. The British army marched into Lhasa
and imposed the Lhasa Convention of 1904. China was not a party to this agreement.
In 1906, Britain signed an agreement with China who accepted the terms of the
Lhasa Convention. Tibet was not a party to the agreement and so refused to accept
it as binding on them. Britain also signed another treaty with Russia in which
they accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and to deal with China in all matters
pertaining to Tibet. Tibet was not a party to this agreement and Tibet refused
to accept it.
The British insistence on Chinese suzerainty over Tibet
encouraged China to stake their claim and invade Tibet in 1910. The 13th Dalai
Lama fled for the second time in less than a decade. This time He fled to India
and stayed there for over two years. The Dalai Lama returned to Tibet in January
1913, and reclaimed Tibet's independence and expelled the Amban, the Chinese representative
in Lhasa, and all of the Chinese soldiers and traders.
In 1914, Tibet,
Britain and, at the latter's insistence, China convened border talks in Simla,
India. Tibet and Britain signed what is called 'the Simla Convention' which established
the border between India and Tibet. The demarcation is called the McMohan Line.
In fact, when the newly independent India requested the Tibetan Government to
re-negotiate the borders between the two countries, the Tibetan Government decided
to wait to give time to know India better.
Until 1949/1950, Tibet's
status did not change; Tibet did not renounce her sovereignty to become a part
of China. Under international law, by mere occupation of one country by another
country, the occupied country does not become a part of the occupying country.
Therefore, as long as Tibetans do not renounce their sovereign rights voluntarily,
China has no legal basis for their claim over Tibet.
| u.s. tibet committee ]
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