International

Annexation Of Tibet: 72 Years Of Tyranny & Treachery

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”.

– George Santayana

Today, May 23, 2023, commemorates the 72nd anniversary of the annexation of Tibet by communist China. On May 23, 1951, China coerced the then-Tibetan government to sign the 17-Point Agreement, marking it as a black day in our history textbooks. The 17-point agreement is nothing but a facade veiling the illegal occupation of Tibet by China. The annexation of Tibet is a blot on our impotent rule-based world order, where might is always right. Since its occupation, China has used every trick in its book to completely whitewash the history, culture, and memories of an independent Tibet. Amidst such atrocious acts, the world remained a mute spectator, further exposing the futility of our global framework. Today, while observing the 72nd anniversary of occupation, we’re witnessing an ongoing campaign by China to stifle the spirit of Tibet. Here, we’ll dig into the occupation of Tibet and its lessons for the world.

Also Read, Tibet: A Lost Cause?

EXPLAINED: 17-POINTS AGREEMENT

The “17-Point Agreement” is an agreement signed between China and representatives of the Tibetan government in Lhasa in 1951. The agreement is also known as the “Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.”

The Tibetan signatures on the 17-point agreement, including seals provided to the delegation by Beijing.

17 point agreement.

Here are the key points of the 17-Point Agreement:

  1. The agreement recognised the sovereignty of the PRC over Tibet.
  2. The Tibetan government agreed to assist the PRC in consolidating its administration in Tibet.
  3. The PRC pledged to respect the existing political system and the authority of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government.
  4. The agreement stated that social and religious reforms would be undertaken with the consent and participation of the Tibetan people.
  5. The PRC agreed to safeguard the religious beliefs, customs, and habits of the Tibetan people.
  6. The agreement affirmed the abolishment of the privileges and powers of officials serving the former Tibetan government.
  7. The PRC agreed to protect the monasteries and respect the religious institutions of Tibet.
  8. The PRC pledged to allow Tibetan officials to hold positions in the PRC’s local government.
  9. The agreement recognised the Tibetan people’s right to regional autonomy.
  10. The PRC promised to assist in the economic development of Tibet.
  11. The agreement established a military headquarters to manage military affairs in Tibet.
  12. The PRC agreed to withdraw its forces from Tibet once the local government and the Tibetan people requested it.
  13. The agreement stated that the Tibetan people would not engage in activities that would harm the national security of the PRC.
  14. The PRC would not interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet.
  15. The agreement allowed for the establishment of joint working committees to handle specific issues.
  16. The PRC agreed to provide funds and supplies to support the Tibetan government.
  17. The agreement specified that it would be implemented in accordance with the PRC’s constitution.

17-POINT AGREEMENT: TIBET INKING BUNDLE OF LIES

It is crucial to note that the 17-Point Agreement was signed after China had invaded Tibet, defeated its army, and established control over large parts of Tibetan territories. It’s fair to say that this agreement was more of a surrender document, as China had already captured Tibet. It was a subterfuge to fool the world and pretend as if it were a consensual annexation by China. In reality, the agreement was signed under duress. The Tibetan government and Dalai Lama tried their best to accommodate the Chinese demand. Soon, after completely subduing Tibet under the control of its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China began to violate the agreement. This highlighted how, from day one, China never intended to honour its words in this agreement.

Missing people abducted by Chinese authorities to curb national struggle for Tibet.

tibet freedom struggle.

Key violations of the agreement are as follows:

  • Political control: The third point of the agreement stated, “The Tibetan people have the rights to exercise national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Central People’s Government.” In violation of this term, China exerted tight political control over Tibet. It limited the autonomy of the Tibetan government and interfered in the political system of Tibet.
  • Suppression of Tibetan culture and religion: The 7th point of the agreement clearly stated, “The religious beliefs, customs, and habits of the Tibetan people shall be respected, and lama monasteries shall be protected.” Instead of complying, China imposed restrictions on Tibetan Buddhism. It included the control and appointment of Tibetan Buddhist leaders and the destruction of monasteries during the Cultural Revolution.
  • Population transfer: Soon after gaining complete control over Tibet, China started altering its demographics. China encouraged the migration of Han Chinese into Tibetan areas, altering the demographic composition and diluting Tibetan identity. This included giving perks to the Han Chinese for settling in Tibet. This was part of a broader strategy of overcasting Tibetan culture and imposing communist identity on them.

Chinese authorities destroyed the prominent 99-foot-tall Buddha statue in Drago County, Tibet.

Tibet buddhist statue gazed.

To protect their land and culture, the Tibetans retaliated with an armed struggle against the Chinese. Thousands of Tibetans lost their lives in skirmishes; more were imprisoned and disappeared. The resistance progressively expanded to central Tibet, culminating in the national uprising in Lhasa on March 10, 1959. This was regarded as the national struggle of Tibet against Chinese occupation forces. China eventually quelled this insurrection due to its stark size and power disparity, resulting in the escape of the Dalai Lama to India. On April 29, 1959, the Dalai Lama established the independent Tibetan government in exile in the north Indian hill station of Mussoorie. Later, in May 1960, it was relocated to Dharamshala, where he currently resides.

PANCHEN LAMA: ABDUCTION OF THE CHOSEN ONE

The title “Panchen Lama” translates to “great scholar” or “great teacher.” The Panchen Lama is an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, second only to the Dalai Lama in terms of spiritual authority. The Panchen Lama holds a prominent position in the Gelug school, which is one of the major branches of Tibetan Buddhism. Panchen Lama is considered to be the incarnation of Amitbha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. The Panchen Lama is also responsible for recognising the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama is also responsible for the spiritual and administrative affairs of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, one of the major monastic institutions in Tibet.

11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.

Panchen lama.

The traditional method for choosing the Panchen Lama entails looking for the deceased Panchen Lama’s reincarnation. The procedure entails picking out a small child who is thought to be the reincarnation based on many prophecies, tests, and indicators. High-ranking Tibetan lamas, including Dalai Lama representatives, make the final decision. But there has been conflict and hostility over the Panchen Lama issue between the Chinese authorities and Tibetan Buddhists. The Dalai Lama accepted Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, then six years old, as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995. The Chinese authorities, however, disapproved of this selection and chose Gyaincain Norbu, a different youngster, to serve as their own Panchen Lama.

Shortly after his acknowledgment, the Chinese government kidnapped Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family; their whereabouts have been a mystery ever since. Tibetans and human rights organisations consider Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the true Panchen Lama and believe that the Chinese government’s interference in the selection process was a violation of religious freedom. China went so far as to kidnap a young child, in addition to violating the stipulations of the 17-Point Agreement. China is aware of the Panchen Lama’s significance in Tibetan culture and its role in selecting the next Dalai Lama. A pro-China Dalai Lama would then enable China to exert total dominance over Tibet’s social and religious structures.

ANNEXATION OF TIBET: LESSONS FOR THE WORLD

The annexation of Tibet serves as a case study for the rest of the world to comprehend China’s imperialistic expansionist ideology. Two main ideas to remember from what you’ve read thus far are: 1) Have no faith in communist China. 2) Always remember the first principle. China has a long history of putting forth agreements that it has no intention of upholding. When the circumstances are in its favour, it first proposes and then imposes its will. The world must resist communist China’s seductive lies and instead evaluate it based on its prior performance.

Initially, China signed the 17-point agreement to establish the “one country, two systems” formula in Tibet. However, it later went against the terms of the accord and forced its hegemony on the Tibetan populace. This is how China operates under the communist system. Hong Kong and Taiwan should take note of this Tibetan experience and be wary of Chinese overtures. During the Galwan conflict, when China unilaterally flouted all previous agreements, even India learned a lesson about Chinese snobbery. It is past time for the world to recognise the oppression and betrayal of Communist China and act as a whole to rein in its expansionist policies.

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Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (3rd year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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