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Tibet: Not Liberated Yet
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Claude Arpi | Date:10 Apr , 2021 0 Comments
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

Despite the fact that the Chinese propaganda machinery is working day and night to make the world believe that the people in Tibet are the happiest on the planet, Beijing is nervous, very nervous.

Just a look at the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang shows that Xi Jinping is not fully controlling ‘his minorities’ areas (as they are called by Beijing’s propaganda).

The Tibet Military District Commander Transferred

Though it may not directly be linked, on April 6, it was reported that Lt Gen Wang Haijiang, Commander of the Tibet Military District (TMD) had been transferred to Xinjiang (XMD).

The Caixin, which broke the news, said: “The specific position is yet to be announced.”

But it can only be XMD Commander.

On April 4, on the occasion of the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival at the Martyrs Cemetery in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, while Chen Quanguo (Xinjiang’s Party boss and member of the CPP Politburo), Xuekelaiti Zakeer, Xiaokaiti Yiming, Nuerlan Abdumanjin, Wang Junzheng, Zhang Chunlin, Wang Haijiang, Yang Cheng, Xu Hairong, Elken Tuniyaz, Tian Wen, Li Yifei, Wang Mingshan, all members of the Standing Committee of the so-called Autonomous Region, were in attendance,  Wang Haijiang was not seen.

He must have just reached the capital of the restive province to take over his new job; it will give him over-all command over the Ladakh front against India, which reports to the South Xinjiang MD or SXMD. based in Kashgar.

Wang Haijiang, a native of Anyue, Sichuan,  born July 1963, must have pleased his bosses in Beijing (read Xi Jinping) during his tenure in the TMD.

According to Caixin, he has served in the frontier for a long time: “He was the commander of a division and the deputy commander of the Southern Xinjiang Military District; he was the deputy commander of the Tibet Military Region in 2016 and in the winter of 2019, he succeeded Lt Gen Xu Yong as commander of the Tibet Military Region. He was immediately promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.

The Ladakh Talks

This important change comes at a time when the 11th round of talks between the 14 Corps Commander based in Leh and Maj Gen Liu Lin, the Commander of the SXMD is scheduled to take place on the banks of the Pangong lake.

The successor of Gen Wang in Tibet is not yet known, but there are a few generals who fit the bill and could soon be nominated to replace Wang.

One of them is half Tibetan (from his mother side).

The Situation in Tibet

It is clear that the situation is not easy in Tibet and one clearly see that Beijing is nervous, fearing a reaction of the Tibetan populations, who are supposed to have been ‘liberated’ 70 years ago by Mao’s troops.

On April 6, as Gen Wang had just reached Urumqi, The Global Times reported: “Tibet issues border activity bans.”

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) announced a ban “on 15 border activities, further strengthening controls over illegal crossings.”

According to The Tibet Daily, the TAR Public Security Department and Foreign Affairs Office jointly issued a circular to other government departments, highlighting 15 acts that are prohibited at the border: “the strictly prohibited acts include entering the border management zone without valid documents, evading border inspection, organizing or helping others to be smuggled across the border, and hunting or collecting national protected rare animals and plants, etc.”

The circular added: “The bans also prohibit private small aircraft flight activities, damaging or moving of communications and water facilities, moving of markers that mark the location of the border, and damaging of military facilities. …Anyone who violates these prohibitions will be held accountable according to law, and will be transferred to the judicial authorities if the act constitutes a crime.”

Why suddenly?

The Global Times observed that at the Seventh Tibet Work Forum in August 2020, “the central government called for efforts to ensure national security and enduring peace and stability, steadily improve people’s lives, maintain a good environment, solidify border defense and ensure frontier security. …the emphasis on the 15 border prohibitions can further implement this approach.”

It was stressed that carrying or disseminating newspapers, books or electronic products containing content that endangers national security and undermines ethnic unity is strictly prohibited.”

It is rather drastic. This will undoubtedly alienate the Tibetans further.

What is causing such fear in the second most powerful nation of the planet?

The relations that the Indian populations in the Himalaya could have had with the Tibetans in Tibet?

It does not make sense, as there is presently hardly any contacts between the two.

The Global Times speaks of “Tibet’s long border and its harsh geographical and natural conditions, the border was not fully guarded before and criminal activities.”

What criminal activities?

Some Chinese observers thought that Tibet’s stricter border controls may help safeguard the region’s COVID-19 prevention work “as India recorded an all-time high of 103,558 single day new coronavirus infections”.

Here too it does not make sense as the Himalayan states are not presently touched by the pandemic. Arunachal Pradesh in particular has hardly any cases.

Infiltrations from India?

It is also said that in recent years, “the region has also been infiltrated by some foreign forces.”

With the monitoring system in place on the plateau, it is not easy for ‘foreign forces’ to infiltrate; it is in fact impossible.

Minnie Chan in The South China Morning Post mentioned the Special Frontier Force, the Tibetan commandos associated with the Indian Army.

An insider, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told the Hong Kong journalist: “All the bans are updated rules based on previous border regulations, with the key mission being to prevent exiled Tibetans trying to infiltrate Chinese borders.” 

Chan added: “according to Chinese officials, more than 10,000 exiled Tibetan were being trained as ‘special operation troops’ by India.”

Here again it is not serious.

More plausible is the fact that the PLA could be planning to open a new front against India to celebrate the ‘liberation’ of Tibet and the 100th anniversary of the Party. This should be watched seriously by the Indian Government.

The 70th anniversary of May 1951 

The main reason is that “Tibet is about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its liberation, it is necessary to take appropriate precautions.”

This is briefly mentioned by The Global Times’ article.

The grandiose celebrations will take place on May 23 and in July, Tibet will ‘celebrate’ again, this time the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China.

Years ago, I wrote a long paper on the treacherous 17-Point Agreement. It can be downloaded from my website.

Each and every Tibetan knows that Tibet was not liberated in 1951.

China fears this.

The truth is that seventy years ago, a Tibetan delegation led by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, a prisoner of war and former Governor of Kham,  was forced to sign ‘under duress’ a Seventeen-Point Agreement in Beijing. 

Article One says: “The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet; the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland-the People’s Republic of China”.

Since then, Tibet became a colony of China and the Tibetans slaves in their own country.

The Dalai Lama’s Memoirs

In his memoirs Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama vividly recalls these dramatic events:

  • From my rooms in the monastery, I could look down towards the river where farmers came to graze their sheep, yaks and dzomos [mixture of a yak and a cow]. And I could watch, enviously, the groups of picnickers that came almost daily to build a little fire and cook down by the water’s edge. I was so enchanted with all that I saw that I felt brave enough to ask Ling Rinpoche [his tutor] for some time off. He must have felt the same way as, to my surprise, he granted me a holiday. I could not remember being happier as I spent several days roaming around the area. On one of my excursions I visited a Bon monastery. My only sadness was that I knew that troubled times lay ahead. It could not be long now before we heard from Ngabo [Ngawang JIgme] in Peking [Beijing]. I half expected bad news, but nothing could have prepared me for the shock when it came.
  • At the monastery I had an old Bush radio receiver which ran off a six-volt battery. Every evening, I would listen to the Tibetan language broadcasts of Radio Peking. Sometimes I did so with one or other official, but often I listened alone. The majority of the broadcasts were taken up with propaganda about the ‘Glorious Motherland’, but I must say that I was very impressed with much of what I heard. There was constant talk of industrial progress and of the equality of all China’s citizens. This seemed like the perfect combination of material and spiritual progress. However, one evening, as I sat alone, there was a very different sort of programme. A harsh, crackling voice announced that a Seventeen Point ‘Agreement’ for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet had that day been signed by representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and what they called the ‘Local Government’ of Tibet.
  • I could not believe my ears. I wanted to rush out and call everybody in, but I sat transfixed. The speaker described how ‘over the last hundred years or more’ aggressive imperialist forces had penetrated into Tibet and ‘carried out all kinds of deceptions and provocations’. It added that ‘under such conditions, the Tibetan nationality and people were plunged into the depths of enslavement and suffering’. I felt physically ill as I listened to this unbelievable mixture of lies and fanciful clichés.
  • But there was worse to come.
  • Clause One of the ‘Agreement’ stated that ‘The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet. The Tibetan people all return to the big family of the Motherland – the People’s Republic of China.’
  • What could it mean? The last foreign army to have been stationed on Tibetan soil was the Manchu army in 1912.
  • As far as I was aware (and now know), there was no more than a handful of Europeans in Tibet at that time. And the idea of Tibet ‘returning to the Motherland’ was shameless invention. Tibet had never been part of China. In fact, as I have mentioned already, Tibet has ancient claims to large parts of China. On top of which, our respective peoples are ethnically and racially distinct. We do not speak the same language, nor is our script anything like the Chinese script. As the International Commission of Jurists stated subsequently in their report:
  • ‘Tibet’ s position on the expulsion of the Chinese in 1912 can fairly be described as one of de facto independence …it is therefore submitted that the events of 19 II – 12 mark the re-emergence of Tibet as a fully sovereign state, independent in fact and in law of Chinese control.’
  • What was most alarming, however, was that Ngabo had not been empowered to sign anything on my behalf, only to negotiate. I had kept the seals of state with me at Dromo to ensure that he could not. So he must have been coerced. But it was several more months before I heard the whole story. In the meantime, all we had to go on was the radio broadcast (repeated several times), together with a number of self-congratulatory sermons about the joys of Communism, the glory of Chairman Mao, the wonders of the People’s Republic of China and all the good things that the Tibetan people could look forward to now that our destinies were united. It was quite silly.
  • The details of the Seventeen-Point ‘Agreement’ were chilling all the same.
  • Clause Two announced that the ‘Local Government’ of Tibet would ‘actively assist the People’s Liberation Army to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defence’. This meant, so far as l could judge, that our farces were expected to surrender at once.
  • Clause Eight continued the theme by saying that the Tibetan army was to be absorbed into the Chinese army – as if such a thing were possible. Then in Clause Fourteen we learned that, from now on, Tibet was to be deprived of all authority aver the conduct of her external affairs. Interspersed with these more telling clauses were others assuring Tibet of religious freedom and protecting my position and the present political system. But far all these platitudes one thing was clear: from now on, the Land of Snows answered to the People’s Republic of China.
  • As the unhappy reality of our position began to sink in, several people, notably Taktser Rinpoche [the Dalai Lama’s elder brother] in a long letter from Calcutta, urged me to leave far India at once. They argued that the only hope for Tibet lay in finding allies to help us fight the Chinese. When l reminded them that our missions to India, Nepal, Great Britain and the United States had already been turned back, they countered that once these countries realised the gravity of the situation, they would be sure to after their support. They painted out that the United States was implacably opposed to Communist expansionism and was already fighting a war in Korea far that very reason. l could see the logic of their arguments, but somehow felt the fact that America was already engaged in fighting an one front lessened the likelihood of her wanting to open up a second.
  • A few days later, a long telegram arrived from the delegation in Peking. It did not say very much beyond repeating what we had already heard on the radio. Obviously Ngabo was being prevented from telling the truth. Recently, same members of the delegation have related in their memoirs the full story of how they were forced to sign the ‘Agreement’ under duress and use counterfeit seals of the Tibetan state. But from Ngabo’s telegram I could only guess at what had happened. However, he did say that the new Governor-General of Tibet, General Chiang Chin-wu [Zhang Jingwu], was en route to Dromo [Chumbi Valley] via India. We should expect him shortly.

The truth is that Tibet has never been liberated.

The Tibetan nation still lives under the yoke of the Chinese Communist Party, and Beijing has today a guilty consciousness; this creates a great uneasiness for Xi and his colleagues.

In the meantime, will Gen Wang Haijiang do better than his predecessor? 

Can he understand that India of 2021 is not India of 1962. The future weeks will tell us.  


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