'Lhasa Convention' proves nothing

By Lian Xiangmin (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-03 07:48

Some foreigners have wrongly taken the "Lhasa Convention" as proof that Tibet is a sovereign country. However the treaty only shows the history of British aggressions in China's Tibet.

The fact that Tibet is part of China's sovereign territory is not only the consensus of the international community nowadays, but also the shared view of countries before the 20th century.

Even in the late 19th century and the beginning of 20th century when China was suffering from incessant aggression by Western imperialists, all the countries in the world still dealt with affairs relating to Tibet via the central government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

However, the imperialist forces took advantage of a weak Qing government and began plotting to carve up China.

The "Great Game" between Britain and Russia continued beyond the turn of the century, which prompted the Governor-General and Viceroy of British India Goerge Curzon to make efforts to bring Tibet into Britain's sphere of influence.

Seeking to prevent the Russian Empire from interfering in Tibetan affairs and thus gaining a foothold in one of the buffer states surrounding British India, Curzon appointed F. E Younghusband, then a major, to serve as British commissioner to Tibet from 1902-04.

Under orders from Curzon, Younghusband, jointly with John Claude White, the Political Officer for Sikkim, led a British expedition to Tibet, whose putative aim was to settle disputes over the Sikkim-Tibet border but whose true aim was to establish British hegemony in Tibet.

In December 1903, the British army invaded Tibet. The Tibetan army and civilians rose to resist but were defeated.

After the invaders occupied Lhasa in August 1904, they found that the 13th Dalai Lama had fled out of the city.

On September 7, 1904, seven British representatives, including Younghusband, compelled the Tibet local government official Lo Sang Gyal-Tsen, the Ga-den Ti-Rimpoche, and the council of three monasteries, and some other local officials to sign the "Lhasa Convention".

But because the Ministry of External Affairs of then Qing government believed the "Lhasa Convention" would do damage to national sovereignty, the government's Resident Minister to Tibet Youtai refused to sign it, thereby making it ineffectual.

At that time, the resident minister to Tibet supervised the handling of Tibetan affairs on behalf of the central government of the Qing Dynasty, enjoying equal standing with the Dalai and the Panchen Lama.

In 1906, China and Britain signed "Beijing Treaty", attaching "Lhasa Convention" as its affiliated treaty, and stipulating that China will not allow any foreign country, including Britain, to occupy Tibet and interfere into Tibet's affairs.

It is unreasonable for some historians and politicians to try to prove "then Tibet was independent" with the "Lhasa Convention".

Without the central government's authorization, or the signature of the then resident minister to Tibet, or the 13th Dalai Lama's agreement, the "Lhasa Convention" was illegal.

Assuming that a foreign army invades into Britain and forces local acting administration to sign a treaty aimed at having a big bite on Britain's land, will anybody recognize such a treaty?

We could see from history that China, even in the final years of the weak Qing Dynasty, did not let Tibet be split from the country. Today, the campaign for "Tibet independence" is even more impossible to succeed.

The author is a Chinese expert in Tibetan studies

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