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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

UK recognises China's direct rule over Tibet

November 6, 2008

The British Government has been accused of undermining the Dalai Lama 
in negotiations with China by recognising Beijing's direct rule over 
Tibet for the first time.

The Telegraph
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
Last Updated: 8:27PM GMT 05 Nov 2008
David Miliband - UK recognises China's direct rule over Tibet

A historic change of position to recognise Chinese sovereignty was 
announced in a little-noticed parliamentary statement by the Foreign 
Secretary David Miliband.

It will be regarded as a major triumph by Beijing, especially in the 
wake of worldwide condemnation of its suppression of anti-China 
protests and violence in Tibet this spring.

Critics are already asking what Beijing offered - or was asked for - 
in return.

Mr Miliband gave his strong backing to talks between the Chinese 
Communist Party and envoys of the Dalai Lama, the latest round of 
which has finished in Beijing.

He also backed the Dalai Lama's call for autonomy, rather than 
independence, for his homeland as a basis for agreement.

But in the last two paragraphs of his statement he referred to a 
historic agreement dating back almost a century which acknowledged 
Chinese interest in Tibet but asserted that Tibet had never been fully 
part of the country.

He described it as an "anachronism" and added: "Like every other EU 
member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the 
People's Republic of China."

The change in position is being attacked by a growing coalition of 
academics, Tibet support groups and the Tibet government-in-exile 

Thubten Samphel, the government-in-exile's spokesman, said it was 
"greatly disappointed". "For the British Government to change its 
position at this stage to us seems counter-productive," he said.

Britain's position derives from its colonial history - a reason why 
ministers and the Tibetan movement itself have rarely emphasised it.

The Simla accords of 1913 set the boundary between Tibet and British-
ruled India.

They reflected the fact that Tibet had fallen within first the 
Mongolian and then the Chinese military orbit in previous centuries 
but had mostly governed itself. Britain was said to recognise Chinese 
"suzerainty" but not "sovereignty" over the region.

While the distinction might be obscure, it meant there was a basis in 
international law, backed by a permanent UN Security Council member, 
for Tibet to be recognised as distinct from other "provinces" of China.

Mr Miliband said this distinction, and the whole idea of "suzerainty" 
was outdated.

"Some have used this to cast doubt on the aims we are pursuing and to 
claim that we are denying Chinese sovereignty over a large part of its 
own territory," he said.

He was supported by Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong 
Kong. He told the Foreign Correspondents Club of China at the weekend 
that the position was a "quaint eccentricity".

But the Free Tibet Campaign and the International Campaign for Tibet 
fear the change has cut the ground from under the Dalai Lama's feet.

The ICT called the sudden change "baffling and unfortunate". The Free 
Tibet Campaign said the Government was "rewriting history".

The timing could not be more sensitive. Many of the issues being 
discussed between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives, such 
as the boundaries of Tibet and the extent to which it is allowed to 
handle its own affairs, are exactly the same as those addressed by the 
Simla accords.

Most strikingly, Britain's position in the accords, repeated since, 
was that its recognition of Chinese "suzerainty" was dependent on 
China granting Tibet political autonomy.

Robbie Barnett, a British historian of Tibet at Columbia University in 
New York, said that Mr Miliband's statement stressed Britain's concern 
for human rights in Tibet but gave away the only leverage the outside 
world had to influence events there.

"This is more than a bargaining chip," he said. "This is the entire 
legal and political foundation for these talks."

The Foreign Office insists that there has been no change in policy, 
and that Mr Miliband was merely "clarifying" its current position.

A spokesman refused to be drawn on whether Britain had been offered or 
asked for anything in return for its concession to Beijing.

She confirmed that the Chinese were "glad" when informed by the 
British Ambassador to China, Sir William Ehrman, but added: "We did 
not give in to Chinese pressure. China was not pushing us on this."

Stephanie Brigden, director of the Free Tibet Campaign, said Britain 
had given away a bargaining chip in return for absolutely nothing.

"It's extraordinary that Britain has rewarded China in such a way in 
the very year that China has committed some of the worst human rights 
abuses in Tibet in decades, including torture and killings," she said.
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