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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Beijing Review Archives> 1983
UPDATED: May 7, 2008 No. 26, 1983
Tibet: History and Anecdotes (II)
By Lobsang and Jin Yun

The first half of this article which appeared in our issue No. 24 gave a brief account of the major historical events in Tibet between the 6th and the 18th centuries. The second half presents some of the important highlights of Tibetan history since the 19th century.--Ed.

AFTER the mid-19th century, China was repeatedly invaded by imperialists. Tibet, China's southwest gate, was not spared. Britain twice launched armed invasions against Tibet and successively used the rationale of "China being a suzerain state of Tibet" and aiding "Tibet's independence" in attempts to detach Tibet from China and degrade it into a British colony. These ambitions were opposed by all the nationalities of China and were not realized.

After World War II, the US imperialists joined the British imperialists in a conspiracy for so-called "Tibet's independence," attempting to impede the peaceful liberation of Tibet. This also was thwarted. Today the people of Tibet have embarked on the socialist road of national equality, unity, mutual assistance and common prosperity with all the other nationalities in China.

British Imperialist Invasion

After the Sino-British Opium War in 1840.the imperialist countries launched full-scale military, political, economic and cultural aggression against China and gradually reduced China to a semi-colony.

The British imperialists, who controlled India at the time, carried out their colonialist policy and frequently tried to force their way into the neighbouring Tibet, in order to plunder Tibet's natural resources, dump their own commodities and seize China's markets. In the mid-19th century, the British imperialists entered Tibet disguised as "missionaries" and "explorers" to gather information about Tibet's material resources as well as its military and political situation -- a preparatory move towards an armed invasion of Tibet.

In 1885, Britain sent Colman Macaulay, a secretary of the Government of Bengal (India)to lead a "commercial mission" to southern Tibet's Gamba County from the Indian border on the pretext of investigating Tibet's mineral resources. The group's advance was prevented by the local Tibetans led by the county head. Macaulay threatened that if the Tibetans did not let them go forward, he would lead an army to suppress them. But the Gamba people stood their ground and turned back the invaders.

Two Armed Invasions. In March 1888, the British army attacked Tibet's Longtu fort. The Tibetan army and people fought back, but the corrupt Qing government, panicked by the imperialists, refused to dispatch reinforcements and, instead, ordered its high commissioners in Tibet to obstruct the Tibetan army's resistance. This. added to the poor equipment of the Tibetan army and the disparity of strength of forces, led to a defeat of the Chinese side.

After the war, the Qing government signed the Treaty of 1890 with Britain. Later, under pressure from Britain, the Qing court signed another treaty concerning Tibet in 1893. These two unequal treaties enabled Britain to occupy some border areas in southern Tibet, to open a trade mart in Yadong and to establish a permanent commercial mission in Tibet.

Britain launched its second armed invasion against Tibet in March 1904. The Tibetan army and people as well as many Buddhist monks fought back. In a fierce battle to defend Gyangze, the Tibetans inflicted heavy losses upon the British. But later, the local Tibetan government issued an order to stop the resistance because the Qing government refused to support the Tibetans. The humiliating foreign policy of the Qing court added to capitulationist forces of the local Tibetan government and the military superiority of the enemy forces led to another defeat.

On August 3, the British invading troops entered Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and forced the local government officials and the representatives of the three key monasteries to sign the so-called Lhasa Convention which gave Britain many additional privileges in Tibet.

"Suzerain State" Fallacy. At the end of 1904.China and Britain entered into negotiations in India. To deny China's sovereignty over Tibet the British representative put forward the fallacy that China only had "suzerainty" over Tibet, a position which was strongly opposed by the Chinese representative who described China's sovereignty over Tibet as inviolable. The negotiation thus came to a deadlock.

In 1906, Sino-British negotiations began anew in Beijing concluding with the Anglo Chinese Convention of 1906.Article two of the new treaty stated that Britain would not undertake to annex Tibet or interfere with Tibet's political affairs, while China would not permit any other foreign country to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet. Thus the British government finally recognized, de facto, China's sovereignty over Tibet.

In fact, no treaty concerning Tibet after the two wars had gone into effect without negotiations with the central government of China. This was sufficient to prove that China had total sovereignty over Tibet. The fallacy that China only had "suzerainty" over Tibet was nothing but a fabrication of the imperialists.

Origin of "Tibet's Independence." As Tibet has been China's territory throughout most of recorded history, how did the question of "Tibet's independence" arise in this century?

Britain gained many advantages in Tibet after its two armed invasions. But the Tibetan people's hostility towards its aggression and slaughter and the opposition of the Chinese people as a whole foiled its attempt to control Tibet. As a result, the imperialists resorted to another trick -- fostering pro-British forces among Tibet's local ruling clique and instigating their divisive activities in the name of opposing the national oppression of the Qing government. They wanted to set Tibet against the motherland and redirect the Tibetan people's spearhead of struggle.

A handful of pro-British elements emerged within Tibet's ruling clique in the early years of this century. Backed by the British imperialists, they carried out numerous traitorous and divisive activities.

In 1911, after the bourgeois democratic revolution overthrew the decadent feudal Qing Dynasty, the pro-British forces in Tibet took advantage of the central government's inability to deal with its affairs from afar and initiated rebellious activities. They expelled the high commissioners in Tibet, slaughtered many noted Tibetan personages who adhered to the unification of the motherland, and forced the patriotic Ninth Bainquen to flee Tibet.

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