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Learning China (a Blog)

CHINA & TIBET

 

If you are interested in the facts, don't forget to read the primary, supporting evidence from Robert Hart's letters and the evidence from the October 1912 issue of National Geogrpahic that refutes many claims made by Tibetan seperatists and the Dalai Lama. There is an old axiom that people will believe what they want to believe no matter the truth. The Dalai Lama is an incredible, charismatic individual, someone we want to believe and love. Because of that, it may be difficult to accept what you read here.

 

 Robert Hart's Tibet Letters

 

 National Geographic, October 1912

 

Setting the Record Straight

In the May/June 2008 Issue of "Good" magazine, the cover says, "Don't Be Scared of China". There was an interview with Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime-minister-in-exile. Rinpoche said, "First is the perception of history. The PRC asks us to accept that Tibet has historically been a part of China, since before 1951. That is not true. History is history; what happened, happened. ..."

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.


In no way am I condoning the violence from either side, but the current government of China is not the only bad guy here. It did not start with them. China's current government inherited a mess that started in the thirteenth century, eight hundred years ago. It did not start with
Mao's brutal invasion and reoccupation of Tibet in 1951.

 


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.


Robert Hart would have understood why China is in Tibet. He would have also understood why the Dalai Lama is willing to accept Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but is asking for autonomy, since Tibet has been allowed autonomy in the past under some of the Emperors that ruled China.


If Robert Hart were alive today, I'm confident he would solve this mess. He knew how to talk to the Chinese and explain to the West so people understood. There is a reason why Queen Victoria knighted Hart. Even the Vatican made him a Commandeur of the Order of Pius IX. Hart was honored by more than a dozen countries for being a bridge of understanding between China and the rest of the world.

 

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.


Soon after the Communists came to power, after World War II, Mao invaded and reoccupied Tibet in 1951 during the
Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Many of the claims of violence that took place in Tibet also took place in the rest of China during the Cultural Revolution. It is estimated that thirty million poeple died during this time in China, including Tibet.


Mao's motive, misunderstood in most of the world, was to reclaim territory lost to foreign powers like Japan, England, France, Germany and Russia during the nineteenth century starting with the
Opium Wars (wars started by England and France to force China to allow opium to be imported to China and sold to the Chinese). If you understand Chinese culture and examine China's continued claim to Taiwan, you will understand the reasoning behind Mao's move back into Tibet.

 

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.

 

 

 

 Robert Hart's Tibet Letters

 

 National Geographic, October 1912

 

 

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