Interview: British invasions probed as root cause of Tibetan separatism
www.chinaview.cn 2008-04-06 21:33:25   Print

    BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Tibet, a region coveted by western nations since the Opium War in the 1840s, has long been an inalienable part of Chinese territory and the Tibetans have been part of the big multi-national Chinese family. The so-called issue of "Tibet Independence," is originally an outcome of aggression by imperialist nations, said a Chinese expert.

    Britain launched two invasions into Tibet, in 1888 and during 1903 and 1904, in an attempt to build up an exclusive colonial influence in the region. It also tried to separate Tibet from China and ultimately turn it into a "buffer zone" against British-controlled northern India.

    "These two wars shall never be forgotten," said Hu Yan, a professor from the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

    "You may tell those Tibet separatists that Chinese people will never forget history and it was imperialist nations that had invaded Tibet and had been trying to separate Tibet from China," he said.

    FIRST INVASION: VIOLATION OF CHINESE SOVEREIGNTY

    After the Opium War, Britain planned to build a road as a trade channel between China's southwestern Yunnan province and Myanmar in a move to scramble for more economic benefits in the region.

    During the pre-construction research session in 1875, a translator named Augustus Raymond Margary from the British consulate in Shanghai was killed as a result of local protests. Britain grabbed the opportunity and managed to force the Chinese Qing government to sign the Chefoo Convention, which allowed the British to "visit and explore" Tibet.

    Having realized the greedy nature of the British invaders, the local Tibetan government built heavy fortifications on Ling Tu mountain along the border between Tibet and Sikkim in 1886.

    Britain, outraged and which allegedly claimed the fortified area within the British-controlled Sikkim territory, warned the Qing government of military action unless the defensive measures were dismantled in time. Having tried in vain with warnings, in 1888 Britain launched military attacks against Tibet. Tibetan troops were defeated largely due to their outdated weapons and shortage of supplies.

    After the war, the Qing government signed two more unfair treaties with Britain in 1890 and 1893. As a result, the Qing government acknowledged that Sikkim remained under British control and accepted Britain's proposal of border divisions between Tibet and Sikkim.

    The Qing government also agreed to open the southern Tibetan city of Yadong (Chomo) as a business hub where Britain was granted extraterritoriality and exempted from trade duties on both imports and exports and five years.

    The unfair treaties not only violated China's sovereignty but also infringed the interests of the local Tibetan government.

    In spite of the treaties signed, Tibetans continued to herd in their home pasture land. They even managed to destroy the border stones erected by Britain in an open protest against the border division and the unfair treaties. SECOND INVASION: MASSACRE OF TIBETAN SOLDIERS AND CIVILIANS

    At a time when Britain used India as its staging ground to press ahead its invasion plan of Tibet, the Qinghai-Tibet plateau also became the target of aggression by czarist Russia.

    Britain considered the Himalayas as the barrier of the Indian subcontinent and Tibet, located just on the other side of the mountains, should belong to Britain's sphere of influence.

    If Tibet were to fall into the hands of Russia, British India would be completely exposed to the threat of Russia. Governor-General and Viceroy of British India Goerge Curzon believed that Britain should pursue the Forward Policy to preempt Russia in the scramble for control of Tibet.

    In July 1901, Secretary of State for British India George Hamilton delivered a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry, claiming that Britain would not keep silent on the contacts between Russia and Tibet.

    In a letter to Hamilton, Curzon even proclaimed that "We regard the so-called suzerainty of China over Tibet as a constitutional fiction -- a political affectation which has only been maintained because of its convenience for both parties." He urged the government to approve the plan of the British invasion of Tibet.

    In 1903, under the name of negotiations, an invading army sent by the government of British India crossed the border line and intruded into Tibet.

    Led by F.E. Young husband, the British Army went into Pagri through Yadong. On March 31, 1904, the invading troops clashed with Tibetan troops in Qumigxung, north of Pagri.

    Armed with outdated weapons including swords, spears and matchlock guns, most of the 1000-odd Tibetan troops were injured or killed by the British troops, an old colonial power, with maxim guns and big guns, the most advanced weapons of the day.

    This was the British imperialists' savage and impudent massacre of Tibetan soldiers and civilians.

    Gyangze County fell twice, on April 11 and on July 6, 1904. On August 3, British troops invaded Lhasa, first time the ancient holy city was trampled under the iron heel of imperialists throughout the ages.

    Days before the British invasion, the 13th Dalai Lama left the Potala Palace with a handful of his followers and fled to Outer Mongolia through China's Qinghai province.

    The British invading troops withdrew from Lhasa in late September 1904, as supplies and communications could not be guaranteed.

    Britain's two invasions in Tibet were blatant armed aggression, Hu said, adding that it has been the longest among all the aggressive activities launched by imperialists in Tibet.

    ILL INTENTIONS, INTRIGUES NO SECRET

    Britain expanded its influence in Tibet after the two wars of aggression, which also fostered a hotbed for the emergence of the pro-Britain upper-class elements of Tibet, Hu said.

    After realizing that the plateau could not be conquered by armed forces, the Britain imperialists began to build up their influence in the upper-class elements of Tibet, instigating them to oppose the Chinese government in a bid to separate Tibet from China, bring it into the British sphere of influence and become its dependency as well as a buffer zone in protection of the northeastern border of British India, Hu said.

    "This was an invasion," said Patrick French, a British scholar and author of "Young husband, the Last Great Imperial Adventurer," when talking about Great Britain's invasion of Tibet in 1999.

    During a small workshop held in London in the Fall of 2003, a few British scholars including French reached consensus that robbery admittedly occurred in the Tibet war.

    In his book "Duel In The Snows" published in 2004, British scholar Charles Allen points out that in order to become the first group of Europeans in that area, F. E. Young husband and his clique created all kinds of conspiracies and intrigues to cheat the public and the media.

    These were the most commonly used despicable means by imperialists at the time. History is a mirror of reality. Anyone's attempt to agitate for "Tibetan independence", like the serious crimes of aggression against Tibet committed by imperialist powers in the past, is doomed to failure.

Editor: Yangtze Yan
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