European scholar: Is Tibet an “invaded” country?

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By Jean Paul Desimpelaere
March 9, 2012

Tibetan citizens celebrating their independence from feudal serfdom, thanks to the Communist Party of China.

Both words “invade” and “sovereignty” can only be found in modern vocabulary, which are not used until territory and national boundary are internationally admitted in the 19th and 20th century. The national boundary is only a borderline which shows the balance of power. For example, the boundary of Africa is not divided according to history, but a product of colonial agreement.

Tibet became an administrative region directly under the administration of the central government of China’s Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. Since then Tibet has been under the rule of China, which is a fact that all countries in the world admit. And this has not changed when the Communist Party of China took power.

Many influential countries admit that Tibet is a part of China for their own interest, but not for friendship. They want to pursue a balance of power and avoid direct conflict.

Every European country had its own port concession and railway in China. The region most aggrieved was Tibet being colonized by Britain. The British even declared that “no other European countries are permitted to enter Tibet”. The British even trained an independent army formed by Tibetans. There is still a photo left which describes the 13th Dalai Lama inspecting troops. The 14th Dalai Lama mentioned later in his memoirs that he once heard this army sang English songs. And the British had taken many advantages of southern Tibet, including Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. After the 1949 revolution, China firstly consolidated its internationally recognized borders, and territories leased to Europe were taken back. In 1951, Tibetan armed forces were replaced by Chinese People’s Army, with no resistance in Chamdo, east of Tibet.

Although Tibet enjoys many decision-making powers under the rule of China, the appointment of nobilities should be confirmed by the central government. Here I want to focus on the concepts of “admit” and “invade”.

An importmant research on Tibet from 1913 to 1955 concludes that there is no armed confilicts when People’s Liberation Army (PLA) enterd Tibet in 1951. The reseach based on the written documents of the then Tibet government and its letters (through embassy in Deli and Beijing) with British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US Department of State. And the research result, with 1540 pages and two parts( repectively published by University of California Press in 1989 and 2007), was concluded by scholar Merlin Goodston and his partners. And there is the same record in the memoir of an English official, who lived in the east part of Tibet at that time.

However, many Tibetan chiefs, bussinessmen and upper-classs lamas fled Tibet by the excuse of “loss of privileges”. Actually, serfdom was not immediately abolished in Tibet then, while it had been abolished in Sichuan Province in southwest of China, where lived lots of Tibetans as well.

In 1956, some Tibetan nobles rebelled and they got military support from the US. Quickly, they organized 10 incidents in Lhasa in March 1959, and the Chinese armed forces intervened. Though the death toll is unknown exactly, it was not 87,000 at all written in the Dalai Lama’ memoir, because there were only 40,000 residents in total in Lhasa. Anyway, a large number of Tibetan social elites fled with their families. The number could be 70,000.

Obviously, there are many problems in Tibet. For example, due to the decrease of child mortality, farmers now have too many children, which far beyond the affordbility of one hectare of land. Hence, lots of young people have to leave their homes to cities for jobs. However, they cannot find jobs or can only do low-paid jobs. In a word, farmers greatly outnumber the cultivable area.

There are more inland tourists to Lhasa than Japnese tourists to Bruges. But only seven percent of the residents in Tibet are ethnic Han Chinese. Yet only nine percent of the population is of African descent in France. So can we say that France is “occupied” by them?

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About B.J. Murphy

I'm a young socialist and Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region, who writes for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), India Future Society, and Serious Wonder. I'm also the Social Media Manager for Serious Wonder, an Advisory Board Member for the Lifeboat Foundation, and a Co-Editor for Fight Back! News.

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