Was Tibet "independent" in history?

2016-02-18 11:06:00 | From:China Tibet Online

An article on the "backstory to the 13th Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Proclamation of Independence" issued on Feb.13, 1913 was published recently on a Dalai group’s website,indicating the signing of the "Mongolia-Tibet Treaty" by the 13th Dalai Lama in December 1912 aimed to declare "Tibetan independence".

However, we may ask under what circumstance this treaty was signed? Was it legally binding in international law? As a matter of fact, the 13th Dalai Lama had never recognized this treaty, and his tendency for “independence” was not planning to totally separate Tibet from China with which Tibetans had united politically for a long period of time. In addition, the “Tibetan independence”, which evolved during the late 19th century would never have been existent without the incitation of the British imperialists schemed to tear Tibet from its motherland.The pro-"Tibetan independence" activities was merely a farce.

Let's take a look back on history.

According to the book "The Historical Status of China's Tibet", in 1600 the British colonists set up the East India Company in India for commercial exploitation, and in 1757 it reduced India to the status of its colony. In 1835, Britain leased Darjeeling from Sikkim as the “summer resort” of the East India Company. From then on, Britain secured a foothold in the Himalayan areas. After conquering Sikkim in 1860s, the British started to invade Tibet. The then Tibet local government fought fiercely against the British invasion while the Qing Dynasty High Commission supported it in their struggle against the British. However, Tibetan troops were defeated in 1888 due to the conceding policies of the Qing Court (China's central government in the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911) and the poor equipment. In 1893, as the British gained access to Yadong for trade purpose, the door to Tibet was finally jarred open for the British.

Having failed to pressure the Qing Court and later the 13th Dalai Lama directly to observe the unequal treaties, and fearing that the Czarist Russia’s possible intervention in Tibetan affairs, the British made the second invasion into Tibet in 1902. Under the leadership of the 13th Dalai Lama, the local government of Tibet mobilized troops to fight against the invading British. In 1904, the war was ended with the forced signing of the "Treaty of Lhasa", an unequal treaty signifying Tibet’s complete inclusion into the British sphere of influence.

From then on, the British moved to foster Pro-British forces in Tibet including the 13th Dalai Lama. However, he was ambivalent toward the situation. He failed to seek support from the Czarist Russia, he lacked confidence in the Qing Court for its corruption and signing of the unequal treaties between the Qing Court and the British, he decided to ease tension with Britain.

In October, 1911, the Qing Dynasty was toppled and the Republic of China was born. The then president Yuan Shi-kai following the ideas of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (founding father of the Republic of China) issued an order that "Areas inhabited by the Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui peoples are all part of the territory of our Republic of China." However, in the history book written by Dutchman Michael Walt van Praag in 1987 entitled "The Status of Tibet" never mentioned that the Tibetans were actually reluctant to divorce from the motherland, and that the 13th Dalai Lama contacted the government of the Republic of China soon after its founding. And the central government set up the Bureau in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs in July 1912.

Despite the historical fact, Van Praag wrote arbitrarily: “This shows the Republic of China had made major changes in related policies of the previous Qing empire. For the first time in history, it said that Tibet and Mongolia are a component of the Chinese territory."

In fact, Yuan Shi-kai was not the first person to say the above. When the British were preparing military campaign against Tibet in February 1913, even Lord Geroge Hamilton, a British Indian affairs minister, said “Tibet must be recognized as a province of China."

In early 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama declared that the Chinese emperor and religious and government leader of Tibet only maintained the "patron-lama" relationship. However, none of his speeches and documents implied Tibet would become "independent" from the Qing emperor. It was Van Praag who played up the tendency shown by the 13th Dalai Lama and some others in the upper ruling class of Tibet in the early days of the Republic of China as the beginning of Tibet as an "independent state", the book said.

It was also in early 1913 that the "Mongolia-Tibet" Treaty was "officially signed" between Tibet and Mongolia in Kulun (Ulan Bator) of Mongolia, recognizing "each other’s sovereignty of each territory". However, the treaty was not considered legal due to the status of the Tibetan representative Derzhi, a Mongolian lama of Russian nationality. And the 13th Dalai Lama himself denied that he had ever authorized this lama to negotiate about any treaty, according to the analysis of a Chinese netizen on rednet.cn.

Furthermore, the international status of Mongolia itself could not testify the legality of the treaty because Mongolia was not recognized by China and the Soviet Union as a sovereign state until 1945. As a part of China when the treaty was signed, Mongolia's recognition of "Tibetan independence" cannot be deemed as "international recognition".

As a matter of fact, the 13th Dalai Lama actually didn't make up his mind to achieve "Tibetan independence" because he was confronted with many restrictions, such as the traditionally inseparable relations between Tibet and the motherland which had been in existence for hundreds of years since the Yuan Dynasty(1271—1368), many international treaties, which declare in explicit terms that China enjoys sovereignty or suzerainty over Tibet, opposition from those in the upper ruling class in Tibet who hated the British invasion and were in favor of unity with the motherland, fond feelings cherished by the broad masses of the Tibetans for peoples of other nationalities in China, and the announcement made by the president of the Republic of China concerning the harmony of the five races in China, according to the book "The Historical Status of China’s Tibet".

So the 13th Dalai Lama talked a lot but did a little in this regard. He solicited opinions on future government affairs in Tibet after returning from India in 1913. During discussion on ties with the motherland, most representatives proposed opposition to the erroneous polices followed by the Qing imperial courts and voiced objection to Tibetan separation from the motherland, the book said.

In the book written by the 13th Dalai Lama himself entitled "Tibet: Past and Present", Charles Bell admitted that of the Tibetan monks and lay people, there were those who favored the Chinese Party, a fact which could not be denied. Tibet which had the tendency for "independence" was not planning to totally separate itself from China with which they had united politically for a long period of time. And it is worth notice that the British imperialists had a finger in the pie.

In essence, "Tibetan independence" is a sheer term coined by the Westerners and used by the 14th Dalai Lama and his followers.

The 14th Dalai group's claim that "Tibet was an independent country before 1949" is simply aimed to resume their privileges as theocrats in old Tibet. Following this logic, "Tibet is China’s colony." However, in accordance with the International Law, "the colony" and the "occupied country" must have sovereignty and the right to ask for resumption of the "independent status". Thus the claim denies China’s right to exercise sovereignty over Tibet in the future, which goes absolutely against the non-secession principle on China’s Constitution and the Law of Regional Ethnic Autonomy, according to the book.

According to the International Law, the secession was only valid when the separated country had virtually abandoned to maintain its sovereignty over the seceded part of the territory,as the Netizen said. As the war-torn China became a semi-colonial state since 1842, the Chinese central government was not strong enough to stop Tibet from seeking "independence". However, just as Michael Reisman, professor of the Law School of Yale University in the U.S. pointed out that traditionally the central government is allowed to lose its control of its remote territory under special circumstances. In this case, the temporary loosened control and ineffective administration of Tibet between 1913 and 1951 could not testify that China had lost its sovereignty over Tibet. Secondly, the international community has never recognized its "independent" status. As the U.S. announced, "In 1978, we declared that we recognized Tibet as a part of China, and we have never challenged China's request for its sovereignty over Tibet, nor any other third country."

As is known to all that the Dalai group has never stopped masterminding "Tibetan independence” since they fled abroad in 1959. Their recent plot to “mark” the problematic announcement of “Mongolia-Tibet Treaty" and the following "1913 Tibetan Proclamation of Independence" on Feb.13, 1913 by the 13th Dalai Lama was clearly meant to seek "Tibetan independence".

Yet even the treaty itself can prove that Tibet is a part of China because it also showed the double relationship between the leader of the central government and the Tibetan religious leader, in which the secular lord-subject relationship preceded the "patron-lama" religious tie.

In conclusion, the Dalai group’s recall of the "13th Dalai Lama’s announcement of Tibetan independence" in early 1913 could in no way attest that Tibet is an "independent state" in history

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