Historical Documents / November 28, 2016

Was Tibet an independent nation?

What are the signs of an Independent Nation? Here are some documents proving that Tibet was an independent country till the Chinese walked in October 1950…

  • Signs of an Independent State
    In international law, a State is suzerain if the treaties concluded by this State are ipso facto concluded for the vassal and if a war of a suzerain is ipso facto a war of the vassal. This was not the case of China vis-a-vis Tibet. Moreover, a suzerain State must have a defined territory and population, a government possessing authority over this territory and the capacity to enter into relations with other recognized States.
    Tibet had all these attributes and many more, such as its own postal stamps, currency, decorations, flag, etc. The Tibetan passport was accepted by several countries until 1950.
  • Flag and Nationalities (published in the Tibetan World)
    Reuters recently published a fascinating piece of information. Phuntso Wangye, a veteran Tibetan Party leader would have written a series of three letters to President Hu Jintao. Wangye is not an ordinary Tibetan; in the forties, he was the first Tibetan Communist and in September 1951, he led the Chinese troops into Lhasa…
  • Statement of The Indian Government at the UN in 1965
    As representatives are aware, for the past fifteen years the question of Tibet has been from time to time under the consideration of the United Nations. It was first raised here in 1950 at the Fifth session of the General Assembly but it could not be placed on the agenda, In fact, my country opposed its inclusion at that time because we were assured by China that it was anxious to settle the problem by peaceful means. However, instead of improving, the situation in Tibet began to worsen, and since then the question has come up several times before the General Assembly of the United Nations.
  • The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law (1959)
    The allegation against the People’s Republic of China can be fitted into three broad legal categories:
    1) Systematic disregard for the obligations under the Seventeen-Point Agreement of 1951;
    2) Systematic violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Tibet;
    3) Wanton killing of Tibetans and other acts capable of leading to the extinction of the Tibetans as a national and religious group, to the extent that it becomes necessary to consider the question of Genocide.
  • Canadian Archives on Tibet
    Declassified documents from 1950 through the 1960s show that Canada considered Tibet to be “qualified for recognition as an independent state.” These documents also show how the Canadian government’s concern over the outcome of United Nations votes led Canada to publicly avoid the question of Tibet’s political status in favor of human rights. But while Canada downplayed Tibet’s political status, it also accepted that the issue of human rights includes the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.
    These declassified documents consist of a trove of secret memos, correspondence, and diplomatic cables.
  • The Tezpur Declaration (April 1959)
    It has always been accepted that the Tibetan people are different from the
    Han people of China. There has always been a strong desire for independence on the part of the Tibetan people. Throughout history this has been asserted on numerous occasions. Sometimes, the Chinese Government have imposed their suzerainty on Tibet and, at other times, Tibet has functioned as an independent country. In any event, at all times, even when the suzerainty of China was imposed, Tibet remained autonomous in control of its internal affairs…
  • The 17-Point Agreement (1951)
    The fact that Article 1 of the 17-Point Agreement states: “The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet; the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland-the People’s Republic of China”, is a proof that Tibet and China were two separate entities in 1951.
  • The Tibet Issue at the UN (1950)
    The report is the result of three years of research conducted at the United Nations Archives in New York, the United Nations Peace Palace Archives in Geneva, and the International Court of Justice Library at The Hague. The report shows how the international community – in particular the United Nations, individual UN Member States, parliamentary bodies and diplomats – can help to solve the issue of Tibet. Principal findings of this research can be summarised as follows: “The International Mistake of The Century” explores the primary reasons why there has been no solution, nor significant move towards a solution, for the crisis in Tibet. A primary reason is that the United Nations, and individual Member States, have been conducting their decisions based on the false assumption that Tibet is not a “State”, but “an internal affair” of China.
  • The Dalai Lama’s appeal to the United Nations (1950)
    In the years preceding 1912, there were indeed close friendly relations of a personal nature between the Emperor of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The connection was essentially born of belief in a common faith and may correctly be described as the relationship between a spiritual guide and his lay followers; it had no political implications. As a people devoted to the tenets of Buddhism, Tibetans had long eschewed the art of warfare, practised peace and tolerance, and for the defence of their country relied on its geographical configuration and on non-involvement in the affairs of other nations. There were times when Tibet sought but seldom received the protection of the Chinese Emperor. The Chinese, however, in their natural urge for expansion, have wholly misconstrued the significance of the ties of friendship and interdependence that existed between China and Tibet as between neighbours. To them China was suzerain and Tibet a vassal State. It is this which first aroused
    legitimate apprehension In the mind of Tibet regarding China’s designs on its independent status.
  • Nepal Application to the UN in 1949
    When Nepal applied to join the United Nations, it was required to submit proof that it was a sovereign state with the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
    Tibet Justice Center has made available a copy of Nepal’s application package of July 22, 1949. This application clearly shows that Nepal considered Tibet a sovereign state.
  • The British position in 1949
    On December 14, 1949, during a debate on Tibet in the British Parliament, His Majesty’ Government was asked to clarify its position. When a member “asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the terms of the Letter and the accompanying Memorandum sent in 1943 by His Majesty’s Government to the Chinese Government on the subject of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet”, the Secretary of State replied in the affirmative.
    This was the official position of the British Government
  • A Telegram from the Government of India (July 1947)
    The Government of India would be glad to have an assurance that it is the intention of the Government of Tibet to continue relations on the existing basis until new arrangements are reached on matters that either party may wish to take up.
    This is the procedure adopted by all other countries with which India has inherited treaty relations from His Majesty’s Government.
  • The Asian Relations Conference in 1947 (article in phayul.com)
    Year 1947 saw a new birth for India, “when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance” as Nehru put it.
    Probably because the soul of the Indian nation had suffered so much during two centuries of colonisation, the first Indian Prime Minister thought that India should take the lead to unite Asia. Thus was born the concept of a pan-Asian Conference. In January 1946, Nehru had already written to Gandhi: “Almost every country of Asia from the west to the east and south, including the Arab countries, Tibet, Mongolia and the countries of South-East Asia as well as the Asian Republics of the Soviet Union, will be represented by leading men. That is going to be a unique event in history.”
  • The Status of Tibet in 1945 (British Archives)
    Until the Chinese Revolution of 1911, Tibet acknowledged the suzerainty of the Manchu Emperors and a measure of control from Peking which fluctuated from military occupation to a more nominal link. Since 1911 Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence.
  • The British Policy Towards Tibet in 1945
    I am directed to refer to your letter dated the 5th February 1945, in which the Government of India were asked to state their considered views on the whole question of policy towards Tibet, and in particular on the following points,
    (1) The degree and nature of the autonomy which it is considered Tibet should enjoy and the significance to be attached to the conception of Chinese suzerainty;
    (2) How far His Majesty’s Government and the Government of India should be prepared to go in support of Tibetan autonomy;
    (3) The line to be adopted in any international discussion on of this subject and whether the initiative should be taken to encourage such international discussion.
  • The Validity of the McMahon Line (from the Report of the Officials)
    The Indian side [led by Shri J. S. Mehta, Director, China Division, Ministry of External Affairs and Dr. S. Gopal, Director, Historical Division, Ministry of External Affairs] also established beyond doubt that the traditional boundary in the Eastern Sector had been formalized in 1914 by an exchange of letters between India and Tibet. At that time, Tibet had enjoyed the power to sign treaties and to deal directly with neighbouring States on matters regarding the boundary. The Chinese Government had recognised these rights enjoyed by Tibet and had been aware of this formalization of the Indo-Tibetan boundary at the Simla Conference.
    The Indian side had made it clear that, they were reluctant to discuss the history of the relations between China and Tibet and had only considered it in their initial statements to the extent that it was relevant to the exchange of letters formalizing the boundary in 1914.
  • Exchange of Letters regarding the Indo-Tibetan Border (1914)
    As it was feared that there might be friction in future unless the boundary between India and Tibet is clearly defined, I submitted the map, which you sent to me in February last, to the Tibetan Government at Lhasa for orders. I have now received orders from Lhasa, and I accordingly agree to the boundary as marked in red in the two copies of the maps signed by you subject to the condition mentioned in your letter, dated 14th March, sent to me through Mr. Bell.
  • The Simla Convention, 1914
    the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, Secretary to the Government of India, Foreign and Political Department;
    His Excellency the President of the Republic of China, Monsieur Ivan Chen,Officer of the Order of the Chia Ho;
    His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Lonchen Ga-den Shatra Pal-jor Dorje; who having communicated to each other their respective full powers and finding them to he in good and due forms have agreed upon and concluded the following Convention in eleven articles
  • Treaty between Tibet and Mongolia in 1913
    Whereas Mongolia and Tibet, having freed themselves from the Manchu dynasty and separated themselves from China, have become independent States, and whereas the two States have always professed one and the same religion, and to the end that their ancient mutual friendships may be strengthened: on the part of the Government of the Sovereign of the Mongolian people Nikta Biliktu Da Lama Rabdan, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Assistant Minister-General and Manlai Caatyr Bei Tzu Damdinsurun; on the part of the Dalai Lama, Ruler of Tibet – Gujir Tsanshib Kanchen Lubsan Agwan, Donir, Agwan Choinzin Tschichamtso, manager of the bank, and Gendun-Galsan, secretary, have agreed on the following…
  • The Dalai Lama’s Proclamation of 1913
    Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious, and independent nation. To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties, which they must disregard. To safeguard and maintain the independence of our country, one and all should voluntarily work hard. Our subject citizens residing near the borders should be alert and keep the government informed by special messenger of any suspicious developments. Our subjects must not create major clashes between two nations because of minor incidents.





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The North-East Frontier Agency
A collection of selected documents of the North-East Frontier Agency mainly between 1947 and 1962 Basic Problems of NEFA...