Archived telegrams show foreign attitudes over Tibet in WWII

Updated: 2008-03-30 21:06

SHANGHAI - Telegrams sent by Soong Tes-ven, foreign minister of the Republic of China (ROC) during World War II, published over the weekend, showed that Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt reached a consensus that Tibet was part of China's territory.

The collection, compiled by professor Wu Jingping from the Shanghai-based Fudan University and Kuo Tai-chun, research fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, included telegrams sent in 1943, when Soong reported to Chiang the results of his discussion with British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill over the Tibet issue at a Pacific Council meeting in Washington DC.

In one of the telegrams, written in Chinese, Soong reported a dialogue between Roosevelt and Churchill.

"Roosevelt said, 'I asked Churchill why did he mention Tibet at all, and he replied that Britain had no intention to occupy the region. I then said that Tibet had been part of China since imperial times and it is now part of the Republic of China, which had nothing to do with Britain.'"

This exchange took place after the British India government attempted to intervene in a plan by the Chinese government in Tibet, said Chen Qianping, history professor at Nanjing University.

According to Chen, Japanese troops invaded Myanmar (then known as Burma) in 1942, not long after the Pearl Harbor attack, cutting China's international supply route.

"The government of Chiang Kai-shek planned to build a road from the then Xikang Province, or Kham, which encompassed the current western Sichuan Province and eastern Tibet Autonomous Region, to India via Yunnan and Tibet so as to transport international relief materials, " he said.

But Britain, which had invaded Tibet in 1904 during its rule by the Qing government, expressed objections.

A telegram by Soong to Chiang on May 21, 1943 said that the dissatisfied foreign minister had told Churchill: "In all the treaties China inked with Britain, the British government acknowledged Tibet as part of China. You should have known this."

On the next day, he received a reply from Chiang, who strongly opposed Churchill's intervention in China's domestic affairs as well, and told Soong to ask the opinion of Roosevelt.

On May 25, Soong sent another telegram to Chiang, which said: "I asserted that Tibet is under the sovereignty of China. Lord Halifax (who was the British ambassador to the United States) agreed. On the next day, President (Roosevelt) also noted Churchill was wrong ..."

Chen said: "From the telegrams, we can see clearly that President Roosevelt supported China's territorial integrity and was against arbitrary accusations over the Tibet issue by the then British government."

Soong moved to the United States in 1949, where he lived as a Chinese national until his death in 1971.

His family decided on April 26, 2004 to fully open all of the papers they had donated to the Hoover Institution Archives. That meant apart from the 39 boxes of papers already available to researchers at the archives since the 1970s, another 19 boxes were also opened "in the interests of fostering a more accurate understanding of their homeland," according to a notice on the Hoover Institution website.

"It is our intention to maintain and restore the real history," said Kuo Tai-chun of the Hoover Institution.

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