Report on the conflict between Tibet and China:
Chinese forces invaded and occupied independent Tibet in 1949 . This was an act of unprovoked aggression, and there is no generally accepted legal basis of China’s claim of sovereignty. At the time of the invasion by troops of the People's Liberation Army of China in 1949, Tibet was an independent state in fact and law. The military invasion was a violation of an international law, and constituted an aggression on a sovereign state. Today's continued occupation of Tibet by China, with the help of several hundred thousand troops, represents an ongoing violation of international law and of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people to independence.
Tibet’s history dates back over 2000 years. It was in the Tibetan imperial age, that the country of Tibet was first united under one ruler, and at this point in history there was no dispute over the existence of Tibet as an independent state. The present claim to Tibet by China is based entirely on the influence that the Mongol and Manchuk emperors exercised over Tibet in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries.
As the Mongol Empire expanded in the thirteenth century toward China in the east and Europe in the west, the Tibetan leaders of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism formed an agreement with the Mongol rulers in order to avoid the otherwise inevitable conquest of Tibet. They promised political allegiance, and religious blessings and teachings in exchange for patronage and protection. This religious relationship became very important, as did the racial and cultural affinity between the two groups.
Tibet broke away from the Yuan emperor before China regained its independence from the Mongols with the establishment of the native Ming dynasty. And it was not until the eighteenth century that Tibet once again come under a degree of foreign influence.
The Manchus, who conquered China and established the Qing dynasty in the seventeenth century, embraced Tibetan Buddhism as the Mongols had and developed close ties with the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, who had by then become the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet, agreed to become the spiritual guide of the Manchu emperor. He accepted patronage and protection in exchange.
The "priest-patron" relationship, which the Dalai Lama also maintained with numerous Mongol Khans and Tibetan nobles, was the only formal tie that existed between the Tibetans and Manchus during the Qing dynasty. It did not, in itself, affect Tibet`s independence.
It was the imperial troops sent into Tibet by Manchu emperors to protect the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people from foreign invasion or internal unrest, that brought about a Chinese influence in Tibet between 1720 and 1792. Manchu influence did not last for very long. It was entirely ineffective by the time the British briefly invaded Tibet in I904, and ceased entirely with the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in I911.
From I911 to I950, Tibet successfully avoided undue foreign influence and behaved, in every respect, as a fully independent state. Tibet remained neutral during the Second World War, despite strong pressure from China and its allies, Britain and the U.S.A. The Tibetan government maintained independent international relations with all neighbouring countries, most of whom had diplomatic representatives in Lhasa.
The turning point in Tibet's history came in I949, when the People's Liberation Army of the PRC first crossed into Tibet. After defeating the small Tibetan army, the Chinese government imposed the so-called "I7-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" on the Tibetan government in May I951. Because it was signed under duress, the agreement was void under international law. The presence of 40,000 troops in Tibet, and the prospect of the total obliteration of the Tibetan state left Tibetans little choice.
A treaty was imposed on the Tibetan government in May of that year, acknowledging sovereignty over Tibet but recognizing the Tibetan government's autonomy with respect to Tibet's internal affairs. As the Chinese consolidated their control, they repeatedly violated the treaty and open resistance to their rule grew, leading to the National Uprising in 1959.
In the uprising in 1959, 100,00 Tibetans fled to Nepal and India along with Tibet’s spiritual and temporal ruler the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had spent 10 years of ceaseless but unsuccessful effort to have the Chinese regime recognize the rights of the Tibetan people to live with freedom and dignity.
The destruction of Tibet's culture and oppression of its people was brutal during the twenty years following the uprising. 1.2 million Tibetans, one-fifth of the country's population, died as a result of China's policies; many more were forced to live in the terrible conditions of prisons and labor camps; and in an attempt to destroy Tibets religious faith more than 6000 monasteries, temples and other cultural and historic buildings were destroyed and their contents (irreplaceable jewels of Tibetan culture) pillaged.
Since 1959 the Chinese have wreaked havoc on the delicate ecosystem of Tibet, with massive deforestation, mining, pollution of scared rivers and lakes and most alarmingly using the open nomad plains as nuclear testing and dumping sites. In 1980 Hu Yao Bang, General Secretary of the Communist Party, visited Tibet - the first senior official to do so since the invasion. Alarmed by the extent of the destruction he saw there, he called for a series of drastic reforms and for a policy of "recuperation". His forced resignation in 1987 was said partially to result from his views on Tibet. In 1981, Alexander Solzhenytsin still described the Chinese regime in Tibet as "more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world."
In Tibet today Chinese outnumber Tibetans by as much as three to one in some areas, and everyday countless innocent Tibetans are jailed and tortured for the crime of pursuing their own beliefs. There is no religious freedom in occupied Tibet. No human rights, and no freedom of speech. More than a million Tibetans have died from the Chinese occupation of torture, starvation, and execution.
Tibetan women have no rights over their bodies, and nuns are brutally raped in Chinese prisons. The Chinese authorities impose strict controls over Tibetan women’s rights to have children, and they must seek permission to have a family. Failure to do so results in severe penalties including forced sterilisations, forced abortion sometimes up to nine months, and enormous fines often five times an annual income.
There is no economic or educational equality in occupied Tibet. Tibetans are forcibly silenced and discriminated against . There are currently more than 700 political prisoners in Tibet, many arrested for no known reason other than being Tibetan. 5 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the reincarnated Panchen Lama (second highest figure in the Tibetan religious hierarchy) has been abducted by the Chinese, and the world fears for his safety. He is the youngest political prisoner in the world.
Despite forty years of Chinese occupation and various policies designed to assimilate Tibetans and to destroy their separate national, cultural and religious identity, the Tibetan people's determination to preserve their heritage and regain their freedom is as strong as ever. The situation has led to confrontation inside Tibet and to large scale Chinese propaganda efforts internationally. Tibetans continue to protest peacefully, along with supporters of their plight all over the world. 4000 Tibetans continue to flee their homeland to a life in exile every year.
From a legal standpoint, Tibet has to this day not lost its statehood. It is an independent state under illegal occupation. Neither China's military invasion nor the continuing occupation has transferred the sovereignty of Tibet to China.
Essay written out of personal interest in the issue of a free Tibet