For Immediate Release
SECRET: CTC releases documents from Canada’s Tibet file
(Montreal, Tuesday, 27 January 2009) – The Canada Tibet Committee today released sixty-eight pages of declassified federal government documents, including a 1950 legal opinion from the Department of External Affairs that concluded from the point of view of international law, Tibet qualified for recognition as an independent state at the time Chinese forces invaded the country.
“No matter how zealously the Chinese government tries to rewrite history, fifty years after the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, history will not be erased,” said CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis. “It is the height of absurdity that the Chinese government has chosen to celebrate their military invasion as ‘Serf Emancipation Day’ when Canadian government reports and memoranda lay waste to any claim that China was liberating the Tibetan people when they invaded Tibet.”
In a November 1950 memorandum to Ottawa, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, Warwick Chipman, noted: “…if China owned Tibet…there would certainly be no point in sending an army to conquer it. The sending of an army is surely a confession that the matter is not domestic.”
Five days later, Canada’s External Affairs department was circulating a legal opinion on the international status of Tibet. The opinion contained in a 1950 memorandum stated:“The question is, should Canada consider Tibet to be an independent state, a vassal of China, or an integral portion of China. It is submitted that the Chinese claim to sovereignty over Tibet is not well founded. Chinese suzerainty, perhaps existent, though ill-defined, before 1911, appears since then, on the basis of facts available to us, to have been a mere fiction. In fact, it appears that during the past 40 years Tibet has controlled its own internal and external affairs. Viewing the situation thus, I am of the opinion that Tibet is, from the point of view of international law, qualified for recognition as an independent state.”
“Tibetan history will not be erased,” Travis said. “Despite the ‘Patriotic Education’ campaigns forced upon Tibetans by the Chinese government to this day, the Tibetan people will continue to resist any attempt to extinguish their history, their culture, and their spirit.”
As the Canadian Legation, Chungking, China advised Ottawa in 1944: “…there is no doubt that official China is determined to ‘swallow’ Sinkiang, Tibet, Outer Mongolia, Kansu and Sikang, no matter what the people living in those regions may feel about the matter.” The Legation added: “The Chinese do not see that the attempt to compel the Tibetans to allow themselves and their country to be incorporated as an integral part of China is most definitely an act of aggression.”
The documents prepared between 1944 and 1969, posted at the CTC website (www.tibet.ca), include memorandums updating the Canadian government on Chinese military aggression in the area, a 1950 National Defence document “The Strategic Importance of Tibet”, and a 1961 letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
The Canada Tibet Committee is an independent non-governmental organisation of Tibetans and non-Tibetans living in Canada, who are concerned about the continuing human rights violations and lack of democratic freedom in Tibet.
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For more information:
CTC Executive Director