History of Tibet (1950–present) - 1950–1955: Traditional Systems

1950–1955: Traditional Systems

Further information: Incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China

In 1949, seeing that the Communists were gaining control of China, the Kashag expelled all Chinese connected with the Chinese government, over the protests of both the Kuomingtang and the Communists. Neither the Republic of China nor the People's Republic of China has ever renounced China's claim to sovereignty over Tibet.

The Chinese Communist government led by Mao Zedong, which came to power in October, lost little time in asserting a new Chinese presence in Tibet. In June 1950 the UK Government in the House of Commons stated that His Majesty's Government "have always been prepared to recognise Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous" On 7 October 1950, The People's Liberation Army invaded the Tibetan area of Chamdo. The large number of units of the PLA quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces, and by October 19, 1950, 5,000 Tibetan troops had surrendered. In 1951, representatives of Tibetan authority, with the Dalai Lama's authorization, participated in negotiations with the Chinese government in Beijing. This resulted in a Seventeen Point Agreement which established China's sovereignty over Tibet. The agreement was ratified in Lhasa a few months later. According to the Tibetan government-in-exile, some members of the Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), for example, Tibetan Prime Minister Lukhangwa, never accepted the agreement. But the National Assembly of Tibet, "while recognizing the extenuating circumstances under which the delegates had to sign the 'agreement', asked the government to accept the 'agreement'...the Kashag told Zhang Jingwu that it would radio its acceptance of the 'agreement'." Tibetan exile sources generally consider it invalid, as having been reluctantly or unwillingly signed under duress. On the path that was leading him into exile in India, the 14th Dalai Lama arrived March 26, 1959 at Lhuntse Dzong where he repudiated the "17-point Agreement" as having been "thrust upon Tibetan Government and people by the threat of arms." and reaffirmed his government as the only legitimate representative of Tibet. According to this agreement between the Tibetan and Chinese central governments, the Dalai Lama-ruled Tibetan area was supposed to be a highly autonomous area of China.

From the beginning, it was obvious that incorporating Tibet into Communist China would bring two opposite social systems face-to-face. In western Tibet, however, the Chinese Communists opted not to make social reform an immediate priority. On the contrary, from 1951 to 1959, traditional Tibetan society with its lords and manorial estates continued to function unchanged. Despite the presence of twenty thousand PLA troops in Central Tibet, the Dalai Lama's government was permitted to maintain important symbols from its de facto independence period.

Tibetan areas in Qinghai, which were outside the authority of the Dalai Lama's government, did not enjoy this same autonomy and had land redistribution implemented in full. Most lands were taken away from noblemen and monasteries and re-distributed to serfs. The Tibetan region of Eastern Kham, previously Xikang province, was incorporated into the province of Sichuan. Western Kham was put under the Chamdo Military Committee. In these areas, land reform was implemented. This involved communist agitators designating "landlords" — sometimes arbitrarily chosen — for public humiliation in so-called "struggle sessions", torture, maiming, and even death. It was only after 1959 that China brought the same practices to Central Tibet.

The Chinese built highways that reached Lhasa, and then extended them to the Indian, Nepalese and Pakistani borders. The traditional Tibetan aristocracy and government remained in place and were subsidized by the Chinese government. The first national census in all of the People's Republic of China was held in 1954, counting 2,770,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 1,270,000 in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Tibet (1950–present)

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