While we’re on the issue of sovereignty, let’s talk about Tibet

The other day, I highlighted China’s argument for why it should be considered the rightful owner of the Diaoyu Islands – in short:

  • Military aggression should not be rewarded with new territorial claims
  • Treaties signed under duress should not be acknowledged
  • Historical claims should be the major determining factor in ownership, giving special priority to “first come, first serve”
  • Claims made by other gov’ts on land that is already being administered by another power are “illegal”

So, while we’re on the issue of sovereignty, let’s take a look at why China claims Tibet as its territory (according to the somewhat misnamed site, Chinahumanrights.org)

The peaceful liberation in May 1951 freed Tibetans from the fetters of imperialistic encroachment to enter a new epoch. Certain members of the ruling class, however, were unwilling to acknowledge the trend of historical development and dreamed to preserve serfdom. In March 1959 they started an armed rebellion intended to fragment the country. The central government, under the approbation and support of the Tibetan people, took decisive measures to disbanded local government of old Tibet and suppress the rebels and at the same time carryout democratic reforms in Tibet…

Or in other words, the Chinese military forced Tibetans to sign an unequal treaty, giving the Chinese rule over a land that prior to China’s claim had been settled first by an independent people. Even by the Chinese account, Tibet had an independent gov’t as recently as 1959, where as the last time China administered the Diaoyu islands was 1895.

So, given the similar nature of these claims, one might expect for the protests made by Tibetans to be treated with the same understanding and support as protests against Japan made by Han Chinese.

This was Beijinger’s protest against Japan last week (credit to Sinostand for the pics):

And here is how authorities responded to protests for a free Tibet (these pictures are mild compared to what reports from Tibetan groups suggest have happened in other confrontations)

Now a Chinese Nationalist might be encouraged to argue that the protests in Tibet were cracked down on because of their violent nature.

A Toyota dealership set on fire as a part of Anti-Japanese protests

And that the Central gov’t should not listen to “foreign forces” (Tibetans in exile), even though Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said of the recent protests,

“Whether the Japanese side takes seriously China’s position, listening to the just appeal of the Chinese public and adopting correct attitude and actions, will affect the development of the situation,”

Now, I know that it is not surprising for China (or any country) to hold one set of ideas for a foreign country, and another for themselves, but perhaps the next time the issue of the Diaoyu Islands comes up with your angry Chinese friend, you can tell them you completely agree, and then ask them to fight for a Tibetan sovereignty with their new found passion for “indisputable facts” and international law.

7 responses to “While we’re on the issue of sovereignty, let’s talk about Tibet”

  1. justrecently says:

    Technical objection: Hong Lei is just one of the FMPRC spokespeople. He may want to succeed his boss, Yang Jiechi, though. Evidence no. 1: he looks smarter than Yang.

  2. joseph.lemien@gmail.com says:

    I agree with you that “it is not surprising for China (or any country) to hold one set of ideas for a foreign country, and another for themselves”, but it is certainly an interesting point to take. Such hypocrisy is common for governments (and for us individual human beings, too, I would argue). Nontheless, I would find it somewhat hilarious to see this concept replace ‘freedom and human rights’ as a ralllying cry for critics of the current Chinese government.

  3. Chopstik says:

    Quick, who can say 双重标准? Or maybe I’m just trying to hold governments to the same standard in all situations… I know, I know, that’s just crazy…

  4. Anonymous says:

    yeah anyone who knows more than 0 chinese people would immediately see the meaninglessness and futility of this argument. please try using it on your “angry chinese friend” and let us know how it works out.

  5. Anonymous says:

    China has very ancient maps. Didn’t you know? There is one so ancient it pre-dates the Tibetan people. So actually the “first come first serve” argument works well with China’s “ancient map” argument.
    So all that stuff with the Chinese military moving in and tearing up their religious symbols, forcing them into illiteracy by banning the Tibetan language was all just in reaction to Tibetans encroaching on Chinese sovereignty.

  6. Friend of Irony says:

    You say that the “Chinese military forced Tibetans to sign an unequal treaty”, so therefore, what? All unequal treaties are wrong and need to be annuled? The Sino-Soviet treaty of 1945 which granted Outer Mongolia independence was also an unequal treaty, as acknowledged by Mao and Stalin.

    But I’m guessing that you would claim that *that* unequal treaty is illegitimate, since anything that denigrates China’s sovereignty, despite its evident rapaciousness (such as the Japanese conquest of Ryukyu and Senkaku) is pretty popular among China expat bloggers.

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