I. Realizing the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet
1. Tibet has been an inseparable part of China since ancient times.
China is a unified, multi-ethnic country, and the Tibetan people are important members of the family of the Chinese nation. China's territory and history were created by the Chinese nation; the Tibetan group, as one of the centuries-old ethnic groups in China, has made important contributions to the creation and development of this unified, multi-ethnic country and to the formation and evolvement of the Chinese nation. Archaeological and academic research findings show that since ancient times the Tibetan people have been closely connected with the Han and other ethnic groups in blood relationship, language, culture and other aspects, and economic, political and cultural exchanges between Tibet and inland China have never been broken off. In the 13th century the central government of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) formally incorporated Tibet into the central administration by setting up the Supreme Control Commission and Commission for Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs to directly administer the military and political affairs of the Tibet region. Following this, the Yuan central government gradually standardized and institutionalized the administration of Tibet, including directly controlling the local administrative organs of Tibet and exercising the power of appointing local officials in Tibet, stationing troops there and conducting censuses. Following the Yuan system, the Ming (1368-1644) government implemented such policies as multiple enfeoffment, tributary trade and establishment of subordinated administrative divisions. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) strengthened the central government's administration of Tibet. In 1653 and 1713 the Qing emperors granted honorific titles to the 5th Dalai Lama and the 5th Panchen Lama, officially establishing the titles of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni, and their political and religious status in Tibet. From 1727 the Qing court established the post of grand minister resident in Tibet to supervise local administration on behalf of the central authorities.In 1751 the Qing government abolished the system under which the various commandery princes held power, and formally appointed the 7th Dalai Lama to administer the local government of Tibet, and set up the Kashag (cabinet) composed of four Kalons (ministers). In 1793, after dispelling Gurkha invaders, the Qing government promulgated the Ordinance by the Imperial House Concerning Better Governance in Tibet (29 Articles), improving several systems by which the central government administered Tibet. The Ordinance stipulated that the reincarnation of Dalai Lama and other Living Buddhas had to follow the procedure of "drawing lots from the golden urn," and the selected candidate would be subject to the approval by the central authorities of China. In the Qing Dynasty five Dalai Lamas were selected in this way, but two did not go through the lot-drawing procedure as approved by the Qing emperors. The Qing emperors deposed the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, in 1706 and the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, in 1904, and again in 1910.
The Revolution of 1911 toppled the Qing empire, and the Republic of China (1912-1949) was founded. On March 11, 1912 the Republic of China issued its first constitution - the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China, which clarified the central government's sovereignty over Tibet. It clearly stipulated that Tibet was a part of the territory of the Republic of China, and stated that "the Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui and Tibetan peoples are of one, and the five ethnic groups will be of one republic." On July 17 the government set up the Bureau of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs under the State Council. After the Provisional Government of the Republic of China was set up in Nanjing, a Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs was established in 1929 to exercise administrative jurisdiction over Tibet. In 1940 the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs opened an office in Lhasa as the permanent mission of the central government in Tibet. The central government of the Republic of China safeguarded the nation's sovereignty over Tibet in spite of frequent civil wars among warlords in the interior. The 14th Dalai Lama, Dainzin Gyatso, succeeded to the title with the approval of the national government, which waived the lot-drawing convention. No country or government in the world has ever acknowledged the independence of Tibet.
2. So-called "Tibet independence" was part of imperialist aggressors' attempt to carve up China.
Since the Opium War Britain started in 1840 , China had been gradually reduced to a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country. At the end of the 19th century imperialist forces set off mad spree to carve up China, and the British aggressors took the opportunity to invade Tibet. British troops intruded into Tibet twice - in 1888 and 1903 - but failed due to the resistance of the Tibetan army and civilians. After their failure to turn Tibet into a colony through armed aggression, the imperialists started to foster pro-imperialist separatists in Tibet, plotted activities to separate Tibet from China and trumpeted "Tibet's independence." On August 31, 1907 Britain and Russia signed the Convention between Great Britain and Russia on Tibet, changing, for the first time, China's sovereignty over Tibet into "suzerainty" in an international document. In 1913 the British government engineered the Simla Conference to instigate the Tibetan representative to raise the slogan of "Tibet's independence" for the first time, which was immediately rejected by the representative of the Chinese government. The British representative then introduced the so-called "compromise" scheme, attempting to change China's sovereignty over Tibet into "suzerainty" and separate Tibet from the authority of the Chinese government under the pretext of "autonomy." These ill-intentioned attempts met with resolute opposition from the Chinese people and government. In July 1914, upon instruction, the representative of the Chinese government refused to sign the Simla Convention, and made a statement saying that the government of China refuse to recognize any such agreement or document. The Chinese government also sent a note to the British government, reiterating its position. Thereupon, the conference collapsed. In 1942 the local government of Tibet, with the support of the British representative, suddenly announced the establishment of a "foreign affairs bureau," and openly carried out "Tibetan independence" activities. With opposition from the Chinese people and the national government, the local government of Tibet had no choice but to withdraw its decision.
In 1947 the British imperialists plotted behind the scenes to invite Tibetan representatives to attend the "Asian Relations Conference," and even identified Tibet as an independent country on the map of Asia hung in the conference hall and in the array of national flags. The organizers were forced to rectify this after the Chinese delegation made a stern protest. On July 8, 1949 the local government of Tibet issued an order to expel officials of the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs on the excuse of "prohibiting Communists from staying in Tibet." In November 1949 the local government of Tibet decided to dispatch a so-called "goodwill mission" to the United States, Britain, India, Nepal and some other countries to seek political and military support for "Tibet's independence," making it obvious that it was intensifying separatist activities. Around the end of 1949 the American Lowell Thomas roamed Tibet in the guise of a "radio commentator" to explore the "possibility of aid that Washington could give Tibet." He wrote in a US newspaper: "The United States is ready to recognize Tibet as an independent and free country." In the first half of 1950 American weaponry was shipped into Tibet through Calcutta in order to help resist the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in its entry into Tibet.
Historical facts clearly demonstrate that the so-called "Tibetan independence" was in fact cooked up by old and new imperialists, and was part of Western aggressors' scheme to carve up the territory of China.
3. The Liberation of Tibet was an important part of the cause of the Chinese people's liberation.
In face of aggression and oppression from imperialists, all ethnic groups of China, including the Tibetans, had waved unyielding struggles for more than a century and at the cost of many lives to safeguard the independence, unity and territorial integrity of China, and to realize the liberation of the Chinese nation. It was under the leadership of the CPC that the Chinese people achieved final victory in the Liberation War after extremely hard struggle. In 1949 the Chinese people won decisive victory in the people's Liberation War, and the People's Republic of China was founded. Then, it came on the agenda that the PLA would march into Tibet, liberate it and expel imperialists from it.
In response to "Tibetan independence" activities plotted by imperialists and reactionary forces from the upper strata of Tibet, on September 2, 1949 Xinhua News Agency, with authorization from the CPC, published an editorial under the headline, "Foreign Aggressors Are Resolutely Not Allowed to Annex China's Territory - Tibet." The editorial summarized how some big powers had invaded Tibet over the previous century, and then pointed out, "Tibet is part of Chinese territory; all foreign aggression is not allowed. The Tibetan people are an inseparable part of the Chinese nation, and any attempt to divide them from China will be doomed. This is a consistent policy of the Communist Party of China and the People's Liberation Army." All sectors of society of Tibet quickly responded and expressed support for the editorial and the hope that the PLA would enter Tibet as soon as possible. On October 1, 1949 the 10th Panchen Lama sent a telegram to the Central People's Government: Dispatching troops to liberate Tibet and expelling the imperialists as soon as possible." On November 23 Mao Zedong and Zhu De telegraphed the 10th Panchen Lama: "The Central People's Government and the Chinese People's Liberation Army will certainly comply with this wish of the Tibetan people." On December 2 Reting Yeshe Tsultrim, an aide of the 5th Regent Reting Rinpoche, arrived in Xining, Qinghai Province, to make complaints to the PLA about the imperialists' atrocities of destroying the internal unity of Tibet, urging the PLA to liberate Tibet as soon as possible. In early 1950 over 100 Tibetan people, including farmers and herdsmen, young people, women and democratic representatives, assembled in Lanzhou, which had been liberated not long before, and urged the PLA to liberate Tibet. The 5th Gedar Tulku of Beri Monastery in Garze, Xikang (Kham) Province, headman Shaka Tobden of Yilung in northern Xikang, and the business tycoon Pangda Dorje in southern Xikang sent representatives to Beijing to pay tribute to Chairman Mao Zedong of the Central People's Government and they expressed the Tibetan people's urgent and earnest wish for the liberation of Tibet.
To address the complicated changes in the international situation and the grave situation in Tibet, and to satisfy the Tibetan people's wish for liberation as soon as possible, in December 1949 Mao Zedong wrote a letter to the CPC Central Committee in Manzhouli on his way to the Soviet Union for a visit. In the letter, Mao made the strategic decision that "it is better for the PLA to enter Tibet sooner rather than later."
When planning the liberation of Tibet and exploring the way of liberation, the CPC decided on the way of peaceful liberation in view of the fact that Tibet was a special region inhabited by the ethnic minorities, in order to enable the PLA to enter Tibet smoothly, safeguard the interests of the Tibetan people and strengthen national unity. In March 1949 when the people's Liberation War was about to end with people's victory, Chairman Mao pointed out that the possibilities of peaceful liberation, like that of Beiping, for other areas were growing. Then Hunan and Ningxia, as well as Xinjiang, Yunnan and Xikang, which all bordered Tibet, were liberated peacefully in succession, affording useful experience for the peaceful liberation of Tibet. On January 20, 1950, in response to the local government of Tibet's dispatching of a so-called "goodwill mission," a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered a speech with authorization from Chairman Mao, saying that the Tibetan people demanded the exercise of appropriate regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Central People's Government, and that "if the Lhasa authorities send delegates to Beijing to negotiate the peaceful liberation of Tibet, they will be well received."
4. The 17-Article Agreement was signed, and Tibet was liberated peacefully.
The Central People's Government and Chairman Mao Zedong had never given up their efforts for the peaceful liberation of Tibet. Even during the Qamdo Battle, Mao Zedong urged that the Tibetan "delegation should come to Beijing as soon as possible." The Qamdo Battle led to a division within the local government of Tibet, when patriotic and advanced forces got the upper hand, while the pro-imperialist separatist Regent Taktra Ngawang Sungrab was forced to resign. On November 17 the 14th Dalai Lama assumed power, and the political situation in Tibet started to develop in the direction of peaceful liberation.
On January 2, 1951 the 14th Dalai Lama moved to the Tibetan city of Yadong, on the one hand taking a wait-and-see attitude, and on the other seeking support from Britain, the US, India and Nepal while awaiting an opportunity to flee abroad. But no country wished to publicly support "Tibet's independence." Correspondently, the local government of Tibet was divided into a Kashag who remained in Lhasa and a temporary Kashag in Yadong. Following this, an "officials' meeting" of the local government of Tibet decided to formally send delegates to Beijing for peace negotiations with the Central People's Government. In his letter to the Central People's Government to express his wish for peace talks, the 14th Dalai Lama said, "In the past when I was young and had not taken power, the Tibetan-Han relationship was repeatedly disrupted. Recently I have notified Ngapoi (Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme) and his entourage to set out for Beijing as soon as possible. Racing against time, we will add another two assistants to Ngapoi, who will go to Beijing via India." Inspired by the Central People's Government's policy of equality of all ethnic groups and peaceful liberation of Tibet, the local government of Tibet sent a delegation for peace talks with the Central People's Government. The plenipotentiary representatives included the Chief Representative Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, and Representatives Kemai Soinam Wangdui, Tubdain Daindar, Tubdain Legmoin and Sampo Dainzin Toinzhub. The representatives set out in two groups, and assembled in Beijing on April 27, 1951. They received a warm welcome from the Central People's Government, which also organized a delegation, including Chief Representative Li Weihan and representatives Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua and Sun Zhiyuan. After friendly talks, the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet signed the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in Beijing on May 23, 1951.
Regarding the peace talks and the signing of the 17-Article Agreement, we need to stress some basic historical facts as follows:
First, the peace talks were held on the premise that the local government of Tibet admitted that Tibet is an inseparable part of China. When the 14th Dalai Lama and the local government of Tibet dispatched the delegation, every representative got a sealed plenipotentiary certificate, which stated the name and identity of the holder on the envelope, and inside the statement that Tibet is a part of China and some other sentences. The essential problem to be solved during the talks was to enhance ethnic solidarity and safeguard national unity. As Ngapoi recalled, on this problem, "the basic standpoints of the representatives of the two sides were the same."
Second, the Central People's Government's "ten policies" for the peaceful liberation of Tibet were the basis for the talks. The main contents were: British and US imperialist aggressive forces shall be driven out of Tibet; regional ethnic autonomy shall be exercised in Tibet; the present political system in Tibet shall remain unchanged; freedom of religious belief shall be guaranteed; economy, culture and education in Tibet shall be developed; matters of reform in Tibet shall be settled by the Tibetan people and Tibetan leaders through consultation; and the PLA troops shall enter Tibet. At first, the Tibetan representatives stressed that they could not accept the PLA's entry into Tibet. At that time, the Central People's Government representatives did not force them to accept this term; instead, they suggested a two-day adjournment, during which they arranged Tibetan representatives to visit some places, while patiently persuaded them, saying that now that the local government of Tibet admitted Tibet as an inseparable part of China, it had no reason to obstruct the PLA from entering Tibet. In the meantime, the central government took into full consideration the problem raised by the Tibetan representatives that it would be difficult for economically backward and resource-poor Tibet to supply the PLA, and promised that the PLA troops would "be supplied by the central government after entering Tibet, all their expenses will be borne by the central government." After negotiations, the two sides finally agreed that the local government of Tibet would make positive efforts to assist the PLA's entry into Tibet for national defence.
Third, the conflict between the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni was an important problem that had to be resolved in the talks. Due to instigation by imperialist aggressors, the 9th Panchen Lama did not get along with the 13th Dalai Lama in the early 1920s, and thus was forced to leave Tibet for inland China. He died in Yushu, Qinghai Province, in December 1937 on his way back to Tibet. On August 10, 1949, the 10th Panchen Lama was enthroned at the Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, with the approval of the national government. At first, the Tibetan delegation did not acknowledge the legal status of the 10th Panchen Lama. The central government delegation showed to the Tibetan delegation all the official documents by which the Kuomintang's national government had approved and confirmed the 10th Panchen Lama as the reincarnated soul boy of the 9th Panchen Lama, and the photos of the enthronement ceremony at the Kumbum Monastery, which representatives of the Dalai Lama attended. Faced with this irrefutable evidence, the Tibetan delegation finally acknowledged the legal status of the 10th Panchen Lama. The May Day holiday arrived during the peace talks, and the Central People's Government invited all the representatives of the local government of Tibet and the 10th Panchen Lama to attend the celebration on the Tian'anmen Rostrum, during which Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme and the 10th Panchen Lama had a friendly meeting and were received by Mao Zedong.
Fourth, the Agreement was reached on the basis of mutual respect and friendly negotiations. Most terms of the Agreement were about how to handle internal relations and affairs of Tibet. For these issues, the plenipotentiary representatives of the Central People's Government took initials to offer some proposals in line with the ethnic policy of the central government and the reality in Tibet. The Tibetan representatives also raised their suggestions. The Central People's Government studied and adopted some, while patiently explaining the reasons for not accepting others. Representative Tubdain Daindar talked about his experience of the talks: "As an ecclesiastic official from the Yitsang (Secretariat), I offered many suggestions about religious beliefs, monastery income and some other related issues, most of which were adopted by the central government." A Han-language version and a Tibetan-language one of the Agreement were prepared from the very beginning of the talks. And every revision made in both versions was only with consent from the Tibetan delegation. After the talks, both versions were signed and issued together.
As plenipotentiary representatives from the local government of Tibet, they discussed and established the following principles before formal talks: "Plenipotentiary representatives shall quickly decide on terms that they can decide on, and report to the Kashag in Yadong those that they cannot settle;" and when there was not enough time, "the plenipotentiary representatives can decide first and then report to the Dalai Lama." The channel for the Tibetan delegation to ask for instructions from the Dalai Lama and the Kashag was always unimpeded, and the representatives discussed among themselves for which items they would request instructions. Soon after the talks started, the issue of the PLA's entry into Tibet arose. The Tibetan representatives telegraphed the Dalai Lama and the Kashag in Yadong via cryptograph brought by Kemai Soinam Wangdui and Tubdain Daindar, saying that there would not be a big problem regarding most of the items, but if the local government of Tibet did not permit the PLA to enter Tibet, the talks could fail. During the talks, they contacted the Kashag in Yadong twice regarding its relationship with the Panchen Lama. During the 20-odd-day talks, although representatives from the two sides disagreed on some items, the talks went on in a friendly and sincere atmosphere and with full consultation. At the signing ceremony, the representatives of the two sides signed and sealed both versions of the Agreement.
To ensure that the Agreement was earnestly implemented, the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet signed two appendices to the Agreement, and one was the Regulations on Matters Concerning the Entry and Stationing of the People's Liberation Army in Tibet. Regarding the PLA's entry into and stationing in Tibet, the plenipotentiary representatives of the local government of Tibet questioned the number and deployment of and supplies for the troops. Since these details were military secrets, they could not be written in the Agreement, which was to be announced. Thus it was necessary to put them in Appendix I. Appendix II was the Declaration on the Local Government of Tibet Being Responsible for Carrying out the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. If the Dalai Lama acknowledged the Agreement and returned to Lhasa, then the peaceful liberation of Tibet would be a natural result. But if he did not return to Lhasa for some time for whatever reason, the Tibetan delegation hoped that the Central People's Government would allow the Dalai Lama to choose his own place of residence during the first year of the implementation of the Agreement, and to retain his status and power unchanged if he returned to his original post during this year. The Central People's Government consented. But if this clause was written into the Agreement, it would provoke controversy. So the two sides agreed on preventive stipulations for future possibilities and wrote them into this appendix. These two appendices were detailed rules for the implementation of the Agreement and complements to the Agreement on matters that had not been covered in the Agreement.
Fifth, the Agreement gained support from the Dalai Lama and both ecclesiastical and secular people in Tibet. After Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme returned to Lhasa from Beijing, the local government of Tibet held between September 26 and 29, 1951 an "officials' meeting" attended by more than 300 people, including all ecclesiastical and secular officials, Khenpo (abbot) representatives of the three most prominent monasteries, and Tibetan army officers above the regimental-commander rank. At the conference, a report to the Dalai Lama was approved. It stated, "The 17-Article Agreement that has been signed is of incomparable benefit to the grand cause of the Dalai Lama and to Buddhism as a whole, and to the politics, economy and other aspects of life in Tibet. Naturally it should be carried out." The Dalai Lama sent a telegram to Chairman Mao Zedong on October 24 to express his support for the Agreement. The telegram read, "This year the local government of Tibet sent five delegates with full authority, headed by Kalon Ngapoi, to Beijing in late April 1951 to conduct peace talks with delegates with full authority appointed by the Central People's Government. On the basis of friendship, the delegates of the two sides signed on May 23, 1951 the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. The local government of Tibet as well as the ecclesiastical and secular people unanimously support this Agreement, and, under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government, will actively assist the PLA troops entering Tibet to consolidate national defense, ousting imperialist influences from Tibet and safeguarding the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the motherland. I hereby send this cable to inform you of this." On October 26, Chairman Mao Zedong telegraphed the Dalai Lama in reply, expressing thanks for his efforts in carrying out the Agreement.
The signing of the 17-Article Agreement symbolized the peaceful liberation of Tibet, thus opening a new page in the history of social progress in Tibet. The peaceful liberation enabled Tibet to shake off imperialist aggression and imperialist political and economic fetters, safeguarded the national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of China, enhanced the solidarity among all ethnic groups of China and within Tibet, and created the basic preconditions for Tibet to advance and develop together with other parts of the country.