What Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime-minister-in-exile, said in that interview was wrong. If he was wrong, than many claims made against China by other Tibetan seperatists may also be wrong, including the Dalai Lama's claims.
This page offers a "brief" summary of the history between China and Tibet. I have added links of a video taken in Tibet showing some of the violence prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There is also a link to an Editorial (opinion) piece in India's national newspaper, The Hindu, India's USA Today.
This issue is complicated, so I added this page to my Website as an educational service to those who want to know the truth instead of the misinformation being spread about the history between China & Tibet.
Since Sir Robert Hart, the main character in the novel, My Splendid Concubine, opened a customs post in Tibet for the Emperor of China, this is an appropriate topic to be discussed in this forum. The fact that Robert Hart, as Inspector General of China's Customs Service (for more than four decades), wrote about Tibet in his letters is evidence to support China's claims regarding Tibet.
Let's examine this history that Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime-minister-in-exile, is talking about. If Tibet was not part of China, why did Robert Hart write about the Burma-Tibet Convention that was signed at Peking in 1886 between Great Britain and China. "China agreed to let Britain rule in Burma as she saw fit. Britain further agreed not to press for the opening up of Tibet." Robert Hart mentions Tibet in a number of his letters over a period of years, and it is obvious from those letters that China ruled over Tibet. (The I.G. in Peking: Letters of Robert Hart, Chinese Maritime Customs, 1868-1907; The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975)
It is a fact that Tibet was a vassal state of the Ch'ing Empire. It is also a fact that Tibet dropped away from China after the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895. Of course, China lost more territory than Tibet. They also lost Taiwan and Manchuria to the Japanese in addition to other areas.
It is clear from the evidence that early in the eighteenth century, while America was still a colony of Great Britain, The Emperor of China was the overlord of Tibet. The Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) sent a Chinese governor to Lhasa in 1724. In 1726 Tibetan feudal princes acknowledged the Chinese Emperor as the paramount authority in Tibet. Due to this acknowledgment, these princes were allowed to rule their territory as an autonomous region.
In 1904 the British invaded Tibet by sending an Indian military force to occupy Lhasa. In response, the Chinese foreign minister for the Ch'ing Dynasty asserted that China was sovereign over Tibet--the first clear statement of such a claim. In 1913 Britain encouraged the Tibetans to declare their freedom from China at the same time the Ch'ing Dynasty was collapsing.
In addition, the history between China and Tibet goes back before the Ch'ing Dynasty to the seventh century (T'ang Dynasty, 618-906 AD) when 'peaceful' Tibetans were making raids into China. (After all, Tibet didn't convert to a peaceful form of Buddhism until after the thirteenth century.) In the ninth century, China entered into treaties with Tibet on a mutual basis to bring an end to these raids.
In 1246, The Yuan Dynasty of China (Genghis Khan, the Mongols, 1277-1367 AD) invaded Tibet and occupied it. The Tibetans eventually rebelled like they are doing today. As a matter of fact, it was a Mongol that set up the first Dalai Lama as the sort ruler of Tibet.
After the Yuan Dynasty was driven out of China, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1643 AD) liberated Tibet from the Mongol Tribes that continued to occupy the plateau. The Ming Dynasty troops were hailed as liberators by the Tibetans much like Americans were hailed as liberators in Iraq. However, the same problems America faces today in Iraq became a problem for the Chinese in Tibet during the thirteenth century.
To say that China has no claim over Tibet is the same as saying America has no claim over any of the lands taken from the American Indians after and before the American Civil War in the nineteenth century. Do you think America would agree to give that land back to the American Indians? The only difference is that China occupied and ruled over Tibet before Europeans discovered the Americas.
Yes, history is history; what happened, happened. I wonder what history text the Tibetan prime-minister-in-exile studied alongside the Dalai Lama when they were in school? It seems that people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the historical facts.
If you are open minded, you may want to read about what China is doing today to rebuild Tibet. Here is a link to one example: Rebuilding Tibet. There are many more examples than this one. After seeking more information on this topic, a good question might be, "Why haven't we in the West heard about what China is doing in Tibet to rebuild what Mao destroyed? Mao died in 1976, and China quickly turned to a thriving market economy, which doesn't fit the image of China that Tibetan seperatists keep showing us.
Oh, you might also want to check out the evidence concering the CIA supporting the Dalai Lama and Tibetan seperatists.