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1911-1951 - Independent Tibet

Tibet Flag
Dalai Lama
I Gedun Drupa 13911474
II Gedum Gyatso 14761542
III Sonam Gyatso 15431588
IV Yonten Gyatso 15891616
V Lobsang Gyatso 16171682
VI Samyang Gyatso 16831706
VII Keisang Gyatso 17081757
VIII Jampei Gyatso 17581804
IX Longto Gyatso 18051805
X Tshutrim Gyatso 18161837
XI Khedru Gyatso 18381855
XII Chinlei Gyatso 18561875
XIII Thutan Gyatso 18761933
XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 ..
The government of Tibet was in a very uncertain state in the early 20th Century, because the country claimed independence of China, to which China didi not agree, and because of the great increase of British influence over Tibetan affairs since the Younghusband expedition of 1904, and the Simla Conference of 1913-14. Tibetans expelled Chinese officials and troops from their kingdom in 1911 after being dominated by China for hundreds of years. Tibet maintained its independence under the leadership of the Dalai Lama.

Access to Tibet and especially to Lhassa, the chief city, had been forbidden to foreigners. The scent of forbidden fruit is always so sweet. Tibet was an unknown country in spite of many attempts made by people to explore and describe it. Many European travellers did succeed in reaching Lhassa but almost all such successful attempts were made before the Lhassa Government acknowledged the suzerainty of China. Ever since, the greater number of persons were unsuccessful in their attempts, and if any succeeded, it was owing to the very strict disguise, under which they went; but they too were discovered by the wide awake officials who were always on the look-out for foreign intruders, and promptly deported just as they were beginning to know the city.

The policy of isolation which the authorities of Lhasa adopted had been formulated first in the early years of the eighteenth century. Chinese supremacy over Tibet nominally dates from the year 1720, and as about that time the policy of isolation was adopted, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Chinese pressed it upon the Tibetans with the idea of making a "buffer state" of the most impenetrable description between their western province and the unknown but growing power of the foreigners in India.

At one time the Chinese said that they were willing enough to allow strangers to travel freely in Tibet, but they deplored their inability to coerce the Lhasan Government; the Lhasan Government, on the other hand, stated that they would be glad to see foreigners within their borders, but unfortunately the orders of China were imperative. Latter, however, the Tibetans abandoned this pretense, and at a great meeting of the Tsong-du, which was attended by representatives from all parts of the country, they made a national vow that no stranger, under any circumstances whatever, should henceforth be permitted to enter the country.

One-sixth of the Tibetans were Lamas or priests; the greatest part of the country's wealth is in their hands. All power in the law is wielded by them and they rule^the people according to their own sweet will. They would have everything to lose if foreign ideas of government liberty and freedom were imported amongst the people. They try, therefore, to keep them out of the country especially from the town of Lhassa, and claim the authority of the Emperor of China to enforce their prohibitions. As a matter of fact they have very little respect for this great personage; in some places his rule was merely nominal aud in others he was not recognised as suzerain at all.

In 1872-1873 some attempt was made by Indian officials to open up trade with Tibet; further attempts followed in 1884, and in 1886 a mission was organized to proceed to Lhasa. The Chinese, however, although they had at first granted a passport to this mission, later objected to its advance, and it was abandoned. The Tibetans assumed this to show England's weakness; they invaded Sikkim, and in 1888 it was necessary to send a force under General Graham to expel them. In 1890 a treaty was concluded, and trade regulations under this treaty in 1893; but the negotiations were carried on with the Chinese authorities, and the lamas, considering themselves to have received insufficient recognition, repudiated them and offered further insults.

The latter years of the Manchu dynasty saw a steady decline in Chinese control over Tibet. The inability of the Peking government to establish order and security finally led to the sending of a mission with an escort (the Younghusband expedition) by the Indian government to Lhasa in 1904, in order to arrange matters directly with the Tibetan authorities. These direct negotiations between India and Tibet led to a protest from the Chinese government, who demanded recognition as the suzerain of Tibet. The lengthy negotiations which followed resulted in the Anglo-Chinese convention of 1006, supplemented by a trade agreement in 1908. China, as the recognized sovereign power in Tibet, paid to the British an indemnity of 2,500,000 rupees, and Great Britain began to evacuate the Chumbi valley in Februarv, 1908.

Great Britain next made a convention with Russia, Aug. 31, 1907, in which both high contracting parties agreed not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the Chinese government: nor was either power to send representatives to Lhasa. By the Anglo-Russian convention of August, 1907, the rights of China in Tibet have been recognized, and it was agreed to maintain Tibet's territorial integrity and to refrain from any intervention in its internal administration. On the approach of the British expedition on Lhasa (1904), the Dalai Lama fled, but returned to Tibet in January, 1910. But resenting the loss of his authority against the Chinese, who during his absence had strengthened their hold over the administration, he fled again in the following month, was pursued by Chinese troops to the frontiers of India, and finally the Chinese Emperor deposed the Dalai Lama, trying thereby to crush his authority and the power of the Lamas altogether. Their appeal to the British Government for intervention failed.

The Chinese retained their hold on Tibet until the revolution of 1911. When it broke out the Chinese garrison at Lhasa mutinied in sympathy, but their lawless excesses against the inhabitants led to a revolt. They were besieged in Lhasa until August, 1912, when they were forced to retire, minus arms and ammunition, from Tibet by way of India. An expedition was immediately organized in China for the purpose of reconquering Tibet, and it would have been successful hud not Great Britain protested that such exoedition was a violation of the Anglo-Chinese treaty of 1906. China claimed the right to send troops into Tibet to restore order and to pacify the borderland, also to police and administer the country according to her suzerain rights. She disclaimed all intention to convert Tibet into a Chinese province. Great Britain, however, prevented the sending of the expedition and the consequent subjugation of the country by the Chinese.

By 1911 all Chinese troops had been driven out of Tibet, and the Tibetans claimed independence. The Dalai Lama remained in Darjeeling until June, 1912, whence he returned to Lhasa. In October, 1913, a new convention was initiated between England, China, and Tibet, but China refused to ratify it, and thus the Tibetan problem remains unsolved, and with it the respective powers of the Dalai Lama. Consequently all the troubles, revolutions, riots and persecutions arise from this antagonism between the lay and religious elements, and consequently both Chinese and Tibetans displayed the rigorous exclusion against all foreigners to keep them out from the mysterious land of Tibet and its sacred capital, Lhasa.

An agreement on Tibetan independence was made, Jan. 11, 1913, with Mongolia. The Dalai Lama, as Sovereign of Tibet, approved of the formation of an independent state in Mongolia (Outer), which had also revolted from Chinese authority, while the Sovereign of Mongolia (the Ilutukhta of Urga) likewise approved of Tibet as an independent state. Buddhism was to be established on a firm footing, and mutual assistance and protection (against China) was promised by one new state to the other.

An attempt to end the anomalous situation in Tibet and to establish its status was made by the Simla Conference, which met in October, 1913, with representatives from China, the Indian government, and the Dalai Lama. The conference resulted, April 27, 1914, in a provisional agreement of 11 articles and a later exchange of notes of seven articles. The following provisions were adopted: (1) For administrative purposes Tibet was to be divided into Outer and Inner Tibet, Inner Tibet being the region adjacent to China. (2) Tibet was to form part of Chinese territory, under Chinese suzerainty. (3) Outer Til>et was to be autonomous. Great Britain and China were to abstain from all interference with its administration. China was to agree that Outer Tibet would not be represented in any future Chinese parliament, and was not to send troops into the country, or establish any Chinese colonies or civil or military officers in that region. (4) A Chinese official was to be maintained at Lhasa, with an escort of .300 men. (5) The British agent at Gyangtse might visit Lhasa with an escort. (6) The trade regulations of 1803 and 100H were to be cancelled. (7) Difficulties between the Chinese and Tibetan (Outer) governments arising out of this agreement were to be referred to Great Britain for adjudication.

The Chinese government at Peking repudiated the acts of its representative and refused to sign, although Great Britain and Tibet signed on July 3, 1914. China based her refusal on the fact that Chiamdo was included in Outer instead of Inner Tibet, and that Litang and Batang in Inner Tibet were in reality parts of Szechwan Province. Great Britain notified the Chinese government that, until the convention was signed, China would be deprived of all the rights and benefits accruing to her therefrom. Tibet maintained its independence under the leadership of the Dalai Lama - the Tibetan god-king who is regarded as the living incarnation of Buddha.

Communist troops invaded Tibet in 1949. The Buddhist government conceded to a treaty that gave domestic power to the Dalai Lama, but turned over foreign and military affairs to the Chinese government. The mountainous region of Tibet caused trouble for the People's Liberation Army after China invaded in 1950. The Chinese sent Tibetans to re-education camps and tried to suppress their national religion, but fierce tribesmen rallied behind the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader. The revolt was harshly put down by Chinese troops, who slaughtered as many as a million Tibetans and destroyed Buddhist shrines and monasteries.



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Page last modified: 08-02-2012 13:22:58 ZULU