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Debate: Tibet independence

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Should Tibet seek and gain independence?

Contents

Background and Context of the Debate:

Tibet is a historical plateau region that is currently provincial-level autonomous region of People's Republic of China, known as the The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). In 1950, following the rise to power of the Communist Party of China under General Mao Zedong, Chinese troops invaded Tibet. China has controlled Tibet ever since. While disputed, Tibet was effectively independent between 1912 and 1950 and for much its long history. China also claims periods in the last thousand years where Tibet was part of its region.

Ever since 1950, an international debate has existed over Tibet's status as a region within the People's Republic of China and over the legitimacy of movements for Tibetan independence. After the end of the Cold War, international public became increasingly interested in this debate. In 2008, the debate became particularly heated on the international stage. With the 2008 summer Olympics set to occur in China, human rights advocates began shinning light on China's poor human rights record, with some proposing a boycott of the Olympics in protest. Human rights abuses in Tibet were seen simply as a part of this larger story of Chinese government abuses. In early 2008, pro-independence Tibetans staged a large protest against Chinese rule and for independence. The protests were brutally suppressed by the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama's government in exile counted the death toll at around 80 Tibetans. This caused an uproar internationally, and was a main focus of massive protests as the Olympic torch began making its way around the world in March and April of 2008. In response, pro-China, anti-Tibetan-independence protests occurred around the world, composed mainly of Chinese people, who are mostly opposed to an independent Tibet. Both camps bring to bear an impressive array of arguments to support their positions.

These arguments can be framed by a series of questions. Does Tibet have a right to self-determination? Does this extend to full independence, or simply to a degree of autonomy? Do Tibetans overwhelmingly support independence and would they pass a plebiscite in favor of independence? Would a right to self-determination override any Chinese right to maintain unity? Does Tibet have a historical claim to independence or does China's history suggest that it has sovereign rights to Tibet? With it appearing that Tibet has both been independent and controlled by China in its history, which historical claim carries greater weight? Has Tibet been independent for a greater period of time in its long history? If so, does this imply a greater historical claim in favor of Tibetan independence? What about China's claims? Are these claims invalidated by the allegation that China has only controlled Tibet by force and never by the consent of its people? What does the history show in this regard? Also, what is the history of Tibet's national identity? Does it have a distinct national identity ethnically, geographically, culturally, religiously and on other grounds? Does this provide additional warrants for its independence?

The Tibetan question cannot be resolved solely by historical inquiries. Party of the sovereignty question relate to whether China has governed Tibet legitimately in contemporary times, since 1950. Has China failed to govern Tibet in an appropriate manner, or has it done a pretty good job? Has it violated human rights in Tibet? Was its exiling of the Dalai Lama inappropriate? Is it illegitimate for China to govern Tibet while depriving it of its spiritual and historical leader? Does this constitute a suppression of its religious freedoms? How bad are China's human rights violations in Tibet relative to human rights violations elsewhere in the world where separatist movements exist? Is it really all that bad or are we just being hyper-sensitive to Tibet due to the public exposure of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan case? Has China stonewalled Tibet on negotiations, or has it been politically reconciliatory? Has China economically exploited Tibet or helped invest in and modernize it economy? Conversely, have Tibetans followed ethical and human rights norms in Tibet, or have they engaged in the same kind of abuses as the Chinese government?
Have Tibetans killed and/or abused Chinese settlers in Tibet? Have Tibetan protests been peaceful and respectful, or have they been unethical and/or violent? Has the behavior of Tibetan exiles been appropriate, or have they been violent and revolutionary? Should a Tibetan right to self-determination survive any alleged Tibetan human rights abuses? Does Tibet have a history of human right abuses? What effect does this have on Tibet's bid for independence?

On a more practical levels, would Tibet be a viable state? Does it fit the conditions for statehood set forth by such bodies as the International Commission of Jurists? Would it be viable economically, politically, diplomatically or would it fail and burden its neighbors and the world? Would Tibet's best economic course be independence or is it best off modernizing within China? Does China have a stronger interest in seeing Tibet gain independence or staying part of the country? Is Tibetan independence feasible? Would China allow it or put up a violent fight? Would the world support Tibetan independence? Would the US and India? How would Tibetan independence effect international stability? Would it promote it? Would it encourage other separatist movements, and is this a good or a bad thing? Finally, is Tibetan independence a better objective than the Dalai Lama's stated policy of the "Middle Path", which explicitly rejects independence and pursues simply greater autonomy within China?








Chinese governance: Has China failed to govern in Tibet's interests (minus human rights)?

Yes

  • China's illegal invasion of Tibet invalidates its ability to govern the country. Daniel Smith. "Self-Determination in Tibet. The Politics of Remedies". 1997 - "whenever it is determined that genocide has been perpetrated against a people, there should be a concomitant right to secession exercisable at its option. The reasoning is simple: no aggressor committing genocide against a people can be entrusted with that people's welfare into the future. Such an aggressor ceases to possess any credibility in dealing with an oppressed people. If a people oppressed by genocide were not guaranteed the right to secede, this would be tantamount to rewarding the oppressor to the very extent it had succeeded in committing genocide--a morally perverse and illogical result. [88] Genocide, the worst of transgressions in international law, must be accorded a remedy, and that remedy should be the fullest expression of self-determination--complete autonomy as manifested in independence. Invoking such a right in the case of the Tibetans, who have been documented as being the victims of genocide and other human rights violations, would make their claim to independence absolutely compelling, legally as well as morally."
  • China is simply exploiting Tibet's natural resources.
  • China is simply exploiting the strategic value of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama and his Government have repeatedly made efforts to find a negotiated solution to the grave situation in Tibet. In 1979, China's supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, stated that anything except total independence of Tibet could be discussed and resolved. Although this has remained the stated position of the Chinese government, China has consistently behaved contrary to that position."


No

  • Chinese policies have been ethnically reconciliatory There have been instances where Chinese authorities have pursued engagement policies with Tibet on a political and economic level.This disproves the common belief that China has had a history of abuses towards Tibet.
  • China has not swamped Tibetans with Han Chinese immigrants Pro-Tibetans often cite the rise in Tibet's population after 1950 as a result of a Chinese policy to swamp Tibetans with Han Chinese immigrants. But, there is a different explanation for these numbers. The population of Tibet in 1737 was about 8 million, and that due to the backward rule of the local theocracy, there was rapid decrease in the next two hundred years and the population in 1959 was only about 1.19 million. Today, the population of Greater Tibet is 7.3 million, of which 5 million is ethnic Tibetan, according to the 2000 census. The increase is viewed as the result of the abolishment of the theocracy and introduction of a modern, higher standard of living. In addition, the PRC says that the border for Greater Tibet drawn by the government of Tibet in Exile is so large that it incorporates regions such as Xining that are not traditionally Tibetan in the first place, hence exaggerating the number of non-Tibetans.
The Government provides free medical care for all Tibetans. This, plus considerable improvements in medical and health conditions, has greatly raised the average life span and health level of the Tibetan people. Average life expectancy has risen from 36 years before liberation to 65 years at present.


Military presence: Has China abusively militarized Tibet?

Yes

  • The militarization of Tibet oppresses and terrorizes Tibetans "Proving Truth from Facts". Released by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile on 7 July 1993 partly in response to China's white paper. - "Chinese control in Tibet has been and continues to be maintained by a large military force. The number of PLA troopsand other security forces varies, but in the entire area of Tibet there are, at any rate, several hundred thousand well-armed and -equipped men. Lhasa is virtually surrounded by military camps and the inner city has a heavy presence of special armed police and undercover security personnel. In the north of Tibet, China has nuclear installations and testing grounds. China's Ninth Academy, located in Dhashu (Haiyan) in the northeastern Tibetan province of Amdo, remains today an important and high security military weapons plant. The militarisation of Tibet not only represents an oppressive burden on Tibetans and a source of fear and terror, it is also a source of instability and potential conflict in the region."


No

  • China's military is in Tibet due to the separatist threat there. China's military presence in Tibet is a justified response to a serious separatist threat both inside of Tibet and from the Tibetan Government in Exile in India. This is a serious threat to the integrity and unity of China, and the government has the right to take heavy-handed action against it. If Tibetans renounced their rebellious separatism, the military presence would be unnecessary. Maybe this should be the focus for change in Tibet, instead of independence. If Tibetans became less inclined to seek independence, much of the conditions that cause them to seek independence - like a military presence - would be ended.


Political rights: Have Tibetans received insufficient political rights under China?

Yes

  • China is a communist nation, so inherently suppresses Tibetan rights. It should not be ignored that China is a communist nation. It is mostly un-democratic, deprives individuals of individuals rights (inherently), suppressing dissent, and generally acts to maintain central control. There are few democratic or other means to express grievances. For the Tibetans, a minority at the fringe of China's attention, this is a dangerous situation. Independence would lead to a much more representative and secure Tibetan government who would secure the individual rights and interests of Tibetans.
  • China is engaging in torture in Tibet International Campaign for Tibet. "End Torture in Tibet". Retrieved April 20th, 2008 - "In November 2005 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Manfred Nowak, visited China and Tibet. This is the first time the SR on Torture has been able to visit China and Tibet, after successive efforts failed due to Chinese opposition[...]The People's Republic of China ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) in October 1988 and outlawed certain forms of torture in 1997. Nonetheless, today torture continues to be used extensively in Tibet's network of prisons and labor camps with the full knowledge of the PRC's leadership."
  • The Chinese government has restricted media access in Tibet. During the 2008 unrest in Tibet, Chinese authorities restricted the ability of foreign and Hong Kong media to enter and freely report on the region, with the exception of James Miles, a correspondent from The Economist, who gained approval for a week-long trip which happened to coincide with the increase in tensions. On March 27, following a promise by premier Wen Jiabao to allow the media back in as soon as practicable, the Chinese authorities organised a controlled tour of Lhasa by foreign media. Chinese authorities have also reportedly attempted to block access to several major internet media outlets by Chinese citizens during the turmoil. All of this indicates a serious flaw in Chinese governance of Tibet, and delegitimizes its control of the region.
  • China suppresses all political protest in Tibet China brutally suppresses Tibetan protests on the grounds that they are crimes of counter-revolution. China applies its definition of crimes of counter-revolution very loosely so as to suppress any Tibetan political protest it wishes.


No

[...]the basic fact is that in the nearly 40 years since Tibet adopted regional ethnic autonomy, it has turned from an extremely backward feudal serfdom into a modern socialist people's democracy, and during this process it has recorded rapid economic growth and all-round social progress and steadily narrowed the gap between it and other regions of China. As a member of the big family of the Chinese nation, Tibetans have won the right to jointly manage state affairs on an equal footing with other ethnic groups, and the right to autonomy as arbiters of their own destiny and masters of their own affairs. They have become the creators and beneficiaries of the material and cultural wealth of Tibetan society[...]
After the quelling of the armed rebellion in 1959, the Central People's Government, in compliance with the wishes of the Tibetan people, conducted the Democratic Reform in Tibet and abolished the extremely decadent and dark feudal serfdom. The million serfs and slaves were emancipated.
The People Enjoy Political Rights
The Democratic Reform in 1959 put an end to the political system of combining religious with political rule and introduced the new political system of people's democracy. Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Tibetan people, like the people of various nationalities throughout the country, have become masters of the country and enjoy full political rights provided for by the law.
Tibet practises regional national autonomy in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. In March 1955, the Central Government decided to set up the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region. In September 1965, the First Session of the First People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region was held in Lhasa and the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region was officially announced."



Religious freedoms: Would Tibetan independence improve the religious freedoms?

Yes

  • China has no right to keep Tibet while depriving it of its natural leader, the Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama is the spiritual figure-head and historical leader of the Tibetan people. And, yet, he is forbidden by the Chinese government from returning to Tibet. China has no right to deprive Tibet of its leader. This is, in fact, a supression of Tibetan spiritual freedom, as well as its freedom to democratically elect its leader in the currently "autonomous" Tibetan region. If China is unwilling to allow the Dali Lama to lead in the country, than it must allow Tibet to gain independence.


No

Respect for and protection of religious belief is a basic policy of the Chinese Government. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, organisations at all levels in Tibet earnestly carried out the policy, gaining the appreciation of both monks and lay people. Protected by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and state laws, the Tibetan people now enjoy full freedom to participate in normal religious activities.
During the period of the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76), however, in Tibet as in other parts of China, the policy on freedom of religious belief was disrupted, and sites and facilities for religious activities were seriously damaged. After the "Cultural Revolution" ended, the policy on freedom of religious belief began to be implemented again in Tibet. Since 1980, religious institutions have been reinstated or established, and a great deal of work has been done to ensure freedom of religious belief for all citizens.
Those who carry out law-breaking and conduct criminal activities under the guise of religion will be prosecuted according to the law. In recent years, some monks and nuns in Tibet received legal retribution because they infringed on the law. They were involved in riots that endangered social security and disrupted public order, engaged in beating, smashing, looting, burning and killing and carried out other criminal activities. None was arrested and declared guilty because of religious belief."


Education: Has China failed to uphold Tibetan education?

Yes

Chinese leaders tend to boast about the great social and economic benefits China has brought to the 'backward' Tibetans. Under Chinese rule, roads, airfields, power stations and bridges have been built in Tibet and in recent months the country has been opened to foreign investment for faster economic development. Yet this limited development primarily benefits the Chinese colonialists, Government and military rather than the Tibetan people.
The Tibetan population is still among the poorest in the world, the literacy rate of Tibetans in Tibet (as opposed to those in exile) is shockingly low, unemployment among Tibetans (as opposed to Chinese settlers) in Tibet is growing fast, and in all walks of life, Tibetans are subjected to discrimination."


No

  • China substantially improved Tibet's educational system. A secular education in the region was created after integration into the PRC; there are 25 scientific research institutes, all built by the PRC.
Education in old Tibet was very backward. There were no schools in the modern sense. Before Tibet's peaceful liberation, only some 2,000 monks and children of the nobility studied in government and private schools. The masses of serfs and slaves had no right to receive education.
The development of education in Tibet has enhanced the cultural level of citizens, creating conditions for the Tibetan people to better exercise their right of regional autonomy as an ethnic minority and attain overall development. However, since the foundations of education in Tibet were very weak and the population sparsely scattered, illiterates and semi-illiterates still make up a considerable proportion in Tibet's population, although they are now in the minority rather than in the majority, as they were in the past. Further development of education remains a strenuous and pressing task in Tibet."


Culture: Has China failed to uphold Tibetan education?

Yes

  • Money funneled into cultural restoration projects is aimed only at attracting foreign tourists.
  • Tibetan students are forced to use Chinese as the official language February 2008 Norman Baker UK MP, released a statement to mark International Mother Language Day saying - "The Chinese government are following a deliberate policy of extinguishing all that is Tibetan, including their own language in their own country. It may be obvious, but Tibetan should be the official language of Tibet. The world must act. Time is running out for Tibet." The rights of Tibetans, under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity are to "express themselves and to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, and particularly in their mother tongue", as well as being "entitled to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity". Whilst playing lip service to protecting the Tibetan language, the Chinese government seems intent on subverting and eventually eliminating the use of the Tibetan mother tongue. The Chinese authorities occupying Tibet are making life impossible for Tibetans who are not fluent in Mandarin Chinese by passing laws to minimise teaching of Tibetan in schools and by replacing Tibetan language with Chinese language in many spheres of public life.[2]
  • Tibetan students are being taught false history The culture of a people is preserved in large part through the transmission of its history through each successive generation. But, if that culture is muffled, altered, and even completely false, what do you do? This is what is happening in Tibet.


No

  • The Cultural Revolution's cultural damage has been condemned by China in Tibet as in the rest of China. The damage it wrought upon the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe, whose main instigators (in the PRC's view, the Gang of Four) have been brought to justice and whose reoccurrence is unthinkable in an increasingly modernized China.
Speakers of different languages are treated equally in the recruitment of workers, cadres and students, with priority always given to Tibetan speakers. Tibetan is used in large meetings attended by the masses. All work units, streets, roads and public facilities are marked in both Tibetan and Chinese script. The Tibetan language is the main subject of all schools at different levels."


Economics: Has China failed to adequately govern Tibet's economic development?

Yes

  • Han Chinese are given preferential treatment in Tibet's labor market.
  • China's development aid to Tibet only consolidates its control Economic development projects, such as the China Western Development economic plan, or the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, are politically-motivated actions to consolidate central control over Tibet by facilitating militarization and Han Chinese migration while benefiting few Tibetans. Even the programs that are ostensibly beneficial to Tibetan development have the effect of increasing Tibetan dependence on China and China's grip on the future of Tibet.


No

  • China cannot be expected to have already fixed Tibet China has done the best it could with Tibet's backwards economic, political system. While Tibet continues to have economic problems, this is not surprising. In 1950, Tibet was a backward, Third World country. China has modernized Tibet substantially from this terribly primitive starting point. That problems persist in Tibet is no surprise. These problems are largely a result of Tibet's primitive beginnings when China took over the country in 1950. Tibet still has a long way to go, and China will continue to push it in the right direction. But, China should not be blamed for having not quite yet completing the project.
  • China continues to improve on its failures. China has failed in some ways for sure. Every government fails on some level. But, China is actively improving its approach to the modernization of Tibet's economy. It will continue to improve and so will Tibet's economic prospects.
  • China's economic modernization of Tibet has improved living standards The lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to the Dalai Lama's rule before 1950. Benefits that are commonly quoted include: the GDP of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) today is 30 times that before 1950; it has 22,500 km of highways, all built since 1950; infant mortality has dropped from 43% in 1950 to 0.661% in 2000; life expectancy has risen from 35.5 years in 1950 to 67 in 2000; the collection and publishing of the traditional Epic of King Gesar, which is the longest epic poem in the world and had only been handed down orally before; The China Western Development plan is viewed by the PRC as a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards.


Environment: Has the Chinese government failed to uphold Tibet's environment?

Yes

The Chinese occupation and militarisation of Tibet, the large influx of Chinese settlers and the colonial exploitation of Tibet's natural resources is having devastating effects on the environment. Deforestation and the degradation of grasslands or their conversion into farmland for Chinese settlers has lead to serious soil degradation and erosion. Nuclear testing and weapons production, uranium mining and dumping of hazardous waste is having predictably dangerous effects on human and animal life in some parts of Tibet."


No

While vigorously developing [the] Tibetan economy, the People's Government attaches great importance to environmental protection in Tibet. Conscientiously carrying out the state's basic policy on environmental protection, the Tibet Autonomous Region perseveres in its strategy of synchronised planning and undertaking of economic, urban, rural and environmental construction."

Demographics: Has China failed to uphold Tibet's demographic interests?

Yes

  • Chinese expansion in Tibet is a real threat to the Tibetans China has adopted an aggressive demographic policy in Tibet, moving Chinese into the region, with the implicit objective of making it more difficult for Tibet to declare and achieve independence. This settlement is invasive to Tibetan culture and livelihood and demonstrates that China is acting oppressively in its sovereign governance of Tibet. This helps warrant independence.


No

Tibetan governance: Do Tibetans have a history of good self-governance?

Yes

China has always tried to justify its policy in Tibet by painting the darkest picture of traditional Tibetan society. Tibetan society, before the Chinese invasion, was by no means perfect, which is why far-reaching reforms were initiated by the Dalai Lama in the early fifties. Whatever the case, no country can invade, occupy, annex and colonise another country just because its social structure does not please it.
In terms of social mobility and wealth distribution, traditional Tibet compared favourably with most Asian countries. The Dalai Lama attempted to introduce land reforms as well as creating a special reform committee which was authorised to hear and redress complaints by individuals against the state authorities. Famine and starvation were unheard of in independent Tibet.
  • The Tibetan Government in Exile has strong democratic designs for Tibet "Proving Truth from Facts". Released by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile on 7 July 1993 partly in response to China's white paper. - "Soon after his arrival in India, the Dalai Lama set up the Government-in-Exile and a series of democratic changes was initiated. A popularly elected body of people's representatives, known as the Assembly of Tibetan People¹s Deputies,was constituted and a draft constitution for the future Tibet promulgated. The constitution contained a clause whereby the executive powers of the Dalai Lama could be curtailed by a majority of two-thirds of the total members of the National Assembly.
In 1992 the Dalai Lama announced a Guideline for Tibet's future policy which provided that the future government of Tibet would be elected by the people on the basis of adult franchise. The Dalai Lama said he would not 'play any role in the future government of Tibet, let alone seek the Dalai Lama's traditional political position.' The Tibetan struggle is, thus, not for the resurrection of the traditional system as the Chinese claim."


No

  • The Central Tibetan Administration has no moral legitimacy to govern Tibet.
  • The Central Tibetan Administration renounced Arunachal Pradesh, damaging its moral legitimacy to govern. The Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by China as a part of Tibet occupied by India.
  • The CTA's association with India undermines its legitimacy as the government of Tibet.

Feudal Serfdom in Old Tibet

  • Before the Democratic Reform of 1959, Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under the despotic religio-political rule of lamas and nobles; a society which was darker and more cruel than the European serfdom of the Middle Ages.
  • Under the centuries-long feudal serfdom, the Tibetan serfs were politically oppressed, economically exploited and frequently persecuted. Old Tibet can be said to have been one of the world's regions witnessing the most serious violations of human rights.



2008 unrest: Does the 2008 unrest in Tibet strengthen the case for independence?

Yes

No

  • 2008 Tibetan rioters attacked Han Chinese individuals and their property Han Chinese are the predominant ethnic group in China, and Hui, who are a Muslim minority. According to the BBC and the Wall Street Journal, rioters focused on setting fire to and looting businesses owned by them. James Miles, in an interview with CNN, made the following assessment, "What I saw was calculated targeted violence against an ethnic group, or I should say two ethnic groups, primarily ethnic Han Chinese living in Lhasa, but also members of the Muslim Hui minority in Lhasa." According to The Economist, "The mobs, ranging from small groups of youths (some armed with traditional Tibetan swords) to crowds of many dozens, including women and children, rampaged through the narrow alleys of the Tibetan quarter. They battered the shutters of shops, broke in and seized whatever they could, from hunks of meat to gas canisters and clothing. Some goods they carried away, while other goods were thrown into large fires lit on the street." First, this demonstrates that the Tibetans are culpable for human rights abuses, which delegitimizes claims they make against China in this regard. While China may be violating certain human rights standards, it is not clear that Tibetans would do any better if they had their own independent nation.


Human rights: Has China abused Tibet on human rights fronts? What about Tibet's abuses?

Yes

  • The Chinese government has been abusive in policing Tibet Amanda Bower. "Dalai Lama: Tibet Wants Autonomy, Not Independence". Time. April 16th, 2006 - "the present situation, in reality, I think that 99% of the Tibetan population is very, very unhappy. Every year, I think more than 10,000 Tibetans come to India. Some escape, some with permission. Every single Tibetan, when you meet them, is crying, complaining, including some Tibetans who have high level positions and are party members. I think many foreigners who visit Tibet and who have some close contact with local Tibetans also get the same impression. There are a large number of police forces there. Why? Too much suspicion, too much fear. If what the Chinese government claims is true, there's no need for security like that. This is very bad, not only bad for Tibetans, but also for the People's Republic of China as a whole."
  • China unjustly and brutally expelled Tibetan officials when it invaded China has performed many human rights abuses against Tibet and does not deserve to be in control of the country. Chinese rule is effecting Tibetans negatively and human rights abuses are a main reason why Tibet should be free and not under China's rule.

No

  • Tibet has violated human rights, so may abuses by China shouldn't be held to a double standard. Tibetan authority under successive Dalai Lamas was itself a human rights violator while the old society was basically a serfdom and, according to foreigners who witnessed it, slaves even existed [28][20].PRC argues that the Tibetan authority under successive Dalai Lamas was itself a human rights violator while the old society was basically a serfdom and, according to foreigners who witnessed it, slaves even existed [28][20].
Before peaceful liberation in 1951, Tibet was under a feudal serfdom characterised by the dictatorship of upper-class monks and nobles. The broad masses of serfs in Tibet eagerly wanted to break the shackles of serfdom. After the peaceful liberation, many enlightened people of the upper and middle classes also realised that if the old system was not reformed, the Tibetan people would never attain prosperity.
However, some members of the Tibetan ruling class were hostile to reform and wanted to preserve serfdom so as to maintain their vested interests. They deliberately violated and sabotaged the Seventeen-Point Agreement and intensified their efforts to split the motherland.
Following rumours that Chinese troops were planning to kidnap or murder the Dalai Lama, a large crowd gathered outside the Norbu Lingka (the official residence of the Dalai Lama), shouting pro-independence slogans. On 17 March 1959, Tibetan "rebels" carried the Dalai Lama away to their base in Shannan "under duress."
After the Dalai Lama left Lhasa, about 7,000 rebels gathered to wage a full-scale attack on the [Communist] Party [and] government and army institutions on 20 March. The PLA, driven beyond its forbearance, launched under orders a counter-attack at 10am the same day. With the support of patriotic Tibetan monks and lay people, the PLA completely put down the armed rebellion in Lhasa within two days. Before long, the PLA suppressed the armed rebellion in Shannan, where the rebels had been entrenched for a long time. Armed rebel forces who fled to other places were dissolved.

Statehood: Has Tibet demonstrated a capacity to govern itself successfully as a state?

Yes

  • Tibet has operated largely autonomously under Chinese rule.
  • The International Commission of Jurists concluded that Tibet in 1913-50 demonstrated the conditions of statehood as generally accepted under international law. In the opinion of the commission, the government of Tibet conducted its own domestic and foreign affairs free from any outside authority, and countries with whom Tibet had foreign relations are shown by official documents to have treated Tibet in practice as an independent State.
  • Foreign powers have diplomatically treated Tibet as an independent state. Foreign diplomatic recognition is an important sign that Tibet has had a contiguous form of diplomacy and goverance in place for a long


No

  • Tibet will modernize only if it remains part of China The Dalai Lama, in an interview with Time Magazine. April 16th, 2006 - "As far as the future is concerned, look at the European Union. In the past centuries, those nations talked most about their sovereignty. Now, today, the common interest is more important than each individual nation's sovereignty. Tibet is a landlocked country, a large area, small population, very, very backward. We Tibetans want modernization. Therefore, in order to develop Tibet materially as a modern nation, Tibet must remain within the People's Republic of China. Provided Chinese give us a full guarantee of preservation of Tibetan culture, Tibetan environment, Tibetan spirituality, then it is of mutual benefit. [Besides] foreign affairs [and] defense [are] all the things which Tibetans can manage by themselves. Tibetans should have the full autonomy."
  • An independent Tibet would bring to power a repressive Buddhist theocracy The Tibetologist Robert Barnett wrote about the violent tendencies of powerful monks against the introduction of anything un-Buddhist that might diminish their hold to power: "The clergy who destroyed the attempts of the Tibetan government and the previous Dalai Lama to enlarge and modernize the Tibetan army in the 1920s...were not motivated in the slightest by objections to violence, but by the fear that modernization might, by increasing links with the un-Buddhist British, lead to the diminution of the monasteries' power; indeed there were several insurgencies against the previous Dalai Lama or his regents this century led by monks in defense of that belief."
  • No country publicly recognizes Tibet as an independent state. For its part, the Government of the United States has borne in mind the fact that...the Chinese constitution lists Tibet among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China. This Government has at no time raised a question regarding either of these claims.
"No sovereign states, including India, have extended recognition to the Tibetan Government-in-exile. This lack of legal recognition of independence has forced even some strong supporters of the refugees to admit that:
...even today international legal experts sympathetic to the Dalai Lama's cause find it difficult to argue that Tibet ever technically established its independence of the Chinese Empire, imperial, or republican."
  • Tibetans lack a unified voice and leadership structure That the Dalai Lama calls for autonomy and rejects independence, while other Tibetans call for independence provides a glimpse of the problem. There is no clear leadership in Tibet that can be said to represent the Tibetan people.


Chinese interests: Should Tibet become independent?

Yes

  • Tibetan independence would relieve the strain it places on China.


No

  • Independence for Tibet would almost certain lead Taiwanese to press for independence.


Feasibility: Is Independence for Tibet feasible?

Yes

No

  • The Dalai Lama is not for independence. The Dalai Lama is a key figure and you could almost say is the most influencial person in Tibet. He is against Tibet becoming a free nation and says that if Tibet was independent, it wouldn't be able to look after itself. Tibet is currently dependent on China.
  • Independence would likely turn violent and contravene Buddhist non-violence.
  • India will not support Tibet Independence out of fear of encouraging separatists in India. "5 reasons why Tibet unlike Kosovo will not become independent". World Front Page. March 10th, 2008 - "Fearing separatist movements on its own territory India will block Tibet independence as it already happened in the past. In November 1950 Tibet appealed to the United Nations for international assistance to oppose Chinese annexation. The Indian delegate to the United Nations opposed the inclusion of the question on the agenda. The issue was dropped on India's insistence."


International stability: Is independence consistent with maintaining international order?

Yes

  • Tibet independence would reduce the risks of Tibetan refugee crises. In 2008, Tibetans, angry about their treatment under China's rule, spoke out in protest. China reacted by violently suppressing them. This in itself is a threat to international security, risking to spark a civil conflict that spills over into other countries, namely India. Refugees are a particularly relevant concern, and the Tibetan refugee-diaspora in India is notable in this regard.
  • Tibet independence would end international protests and diplomatic tensions. This caused international outrage, protests, and diplomatic strains. The international public reacted very angrily and loudly at China for its suppression of Tibetan protests in 2008. This has resulted in massive pro-China and pro-Tibet protests, which create strains and are threatening internationally.
  • It would be good for the world for other legitimate secessionist movements to succeed in achieving independence. In history, and especially in the 20th century, states have established independence for good reason and with positive effect on the international system. After India gained her independence, a whole succession of African and Asian nations also became free from their European colonial "masters". In the nineties, with the fall of the Berlin wall, another series of countries gained their freedom, this time from the Soviet yoke. Tibetan independence could well precipitate, or at least herald, a new era of freedom not only for neighbouring countries such as Burma, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia but even for the people of China itself. These are not developments to be feared, but are positive phenomena in the world.


No

Western imperialism: Is it wrong to simplify the conflict as between China and imperialists?

Yes

No

  • Foreign powers are simply meddling in China through Tibet. Finally, the PRC considers all pro-independence movements aimed at ending Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, including British attempts to establish control in the late 19th century and early 20th century [23], the CIA's backing of Tibetan insurgents during the 1950s and 1960s, [24][25] and the Government of Tibet in Exile today, [20] as one long campaign abetted by malicious Western imperialism aimed at destroying Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty, or destabilizing China, thereby weakening China's position in the world [26].
The New York Times commented on the American policy during the Cold War: "The decade-long covert program to support the Tibetan independence movement was part of the C.I.A.'s worldwide effort to undermine Communist governments, particularly in the Soviet Union and China.[24]"
The American Tibetologist Tom Grunfeld writes (that after The Cold War): "While officially recognizing Tibet as part of China, the U.S. Congress and White House unofficially encourage the campaign for independence."
  • There have been protests on nearly every leg of the Olympic torch relay. The Olympic torch relay has been to many major cities including Paris and San Fransisco and each leg of the relay, there have been protests against China taking over Tibet. In one city, the flame was put out by protesters 5 times. The Beijing Olympics in China is turning out to be extremely controversial and some countries are even considering pulling out because they are against Chinese policies and want Tibet freedom.

UN/International Law: Does Tibet have a right to independence under international law?

Yes

No

  • The United Nations does charter discourages disruptions of national unity such as a move to Tibetan Independence. The Chinese government insists that the United Nations documents, which codifies the principle of self-determination, provides that the principle shall not be abused in disrupting territorial integrity: "Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations...."[40]

Independence vs. autonomy: Is independence for Tibet a better goal than autonomy?

Yes

  • If Tibetans accept autonomy, they will close the door to independence in the future. Tsoltim N. Shakabpa. "The case againts autonomy for Tibet". January 14, 2008 - "Communist Chinese for an official agreement to have autonomous status for Tibet, we will be surrendering many of the rights we are now entitled to[...]"and locking ourselves into a constricted and precarious situation forever from which we cannot withdraw."


No

  • Greater autonomy for Tibet is more realistic than independence. Some point to China's claim that Tibet is already "autonomous" as some kind of a sign that greater autonomy is impossible and that independence is, therefore, more feasible. This is not the case. Tibet is, in fact, not very autonomous. China could provide it with much greater autonomy without risking too much. This is certainly something China would be more willing to concede than full independence.


Pro/con videos

Yes

"High-Altitude Free Tibet Protest on Mount Everest!" April 25, 2007[4]

No

Anti-Tibet Independence Protests. April 1, 2008.[5]

Melbourne and Sydney pro-china, anti-tibet-independence April 13th, 2008.[6]

[7]

Free Tibet! Tibet is Already Free! March 18th, 2008[8]

Pro/con resources

Yes


No



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