Full Text: Sixty Years Since Peaceful Liberation of Tibet

4. The 17-Article Agreement was signed, and Tibet was liberated peacefully.

The Central People's Government and Chairman Mao Zedong had never given up their efforts for the peaceful liberation of Tibet. Even during the Qamdo Battle, Mao Zedong urged that the Tibetan "delegation should come to Beijing as soon as possible." The Qamdo Battle led to a division within the local government of Tibet, when patriotic and advanced forces got the upper hand, while the pro-imperialist separatist Regent Taktra Ngawang Sungrab was forced to resign. On November 17 the 14th Dalai Lama assumed power, and the political situation in Tibet started to develop in the direction of peaceful liberation.

On January 2, 1951 the 14th Dalai Lama moved to the Tibetan city of Yadong, on the one hand taking a wait-and-see attitude, and on the other seeking support from Britain, the US, India and Nepal while awaiting an opportunity to flee abroad. But no country wished to publicly support "Tibet's independence." Correspondently, the local government of Tibet was divided into a Kashag who remained in Lhasa and a temporary Kashag in Yadong. Following this, an "officials' meeting" of the local government of Tibet decided to formally send delegates to Beijing for peace negotiations with the Central People's Government. In his letter to the Central People's Government to express his wish for peace talks, the 14th Dalai Lama said, "In the past when I was young and had not taken power, the Tibetan-Han relationship was repeatedly disrupted. Recently I have notified Ngapoi (Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme) and his entourage to set out for Beijing as soon as possible. Racing against time, we will add another two assistants to Ngapoi, who will go to Beijing via India." Inspired by the Central People's Government's policy of equality of all ethnic groups and peaceful liberation of Tibet, the local government of Tibet sent a delegation for peace talks with the Central People's Government. The plenipotentiary representatives included the Chief Representative Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, and Representatives Kemai Soinam Wangdui, Tubdain Daindar, Tubdain Legmoin and Sampo Dainzin Toinzhub. The representatives set out in two groups, and assembled in Beijing on April 27, 1951. They received a warm welcome from the Central People's Government, which also organized a delegation, including Chief Representative Li Weihan and representatives Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua and Sun Zhiyuan. After friendly talks, the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet signed the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in Beijing on May 23, 1951.

Regarding the peace talks and the signing of the 17-Article Agreement, we need to stress some basic historical facts as follows:

First, the peace talks were held on the premise that the local government of Tibet admitted that Tibet is an inseparable part of China. When the 14th Dalai Lama and the local government of Tibet dispatched the delegation, every representative got a sealed plenipotentiary certificate, which stated the name and identity of the holder on the envelope, and inside the statement that Tibet is a part of China and some other sentences. The essential problem to be solved during the talks was to enhance ethnic solidarity and safeguard national unity. As Ngapoi recalled, on this problem, "the basic standpoints of the representatives of the two sides were the same."

Second, the Central People's Government's "ten policies" for the peaceful liberation of Tibet were the basis for the talks. The main contents were: British and US imperialist aggressive forces shall be driven out of Tibet; regional ethnic autonomy shall be exercised in Tibet; the present political system in Tibet shall remain unchanged; freedom of religious belief shall be guaranteed; economy, culture and education in Tibet shall be developed; matters of reform in Tibet shall be settled by the Tibetan people and Tibetan leaders through consultation; and the PLA troops shall enter Tibet. At first, the Tibetan representatives stressed that they could not accept the PLA's entry into Tibet. At that time, the Central People's Government representatives did not force them to accept this term; instead, they suggested a two-day adjournment, during which they arranged Tibetan representatives to visit some places, while patiently persuaded them, saying that now that the local government of Tibet admitted Tibet as an inseparable part of China, it had no reason to obstruct the PLA from entering Tibet. In the meantime, the central government took into full consideration the problem raised by the Tibetan representatives that it would be difficult for economically backward and resource-poor Tibet to supply the PLA, and promised that the PLA troops would "be supplied by the central government after entering Tibet, all their expenses will be borne by the central government." After negotiations, the two sides finally agreed that the local government of Tibet would make positive efforts to assist the PLA's entry into Tibet for national defence.

Third, the conflict between the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni was an important problem that had to be resolved in the talks. Due to instigation by imperialist aggressors, the 9th Panchen Lama did not get along with the 13th Dalai Lama in the early 1920s, and thus was forced to leave Tibet for inland China. He died in Yushu, Qinghai Province, in December 1937 on his way back to Tibet. On August 10, 1949, the 10th Panchen Lama was enthroned at the Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, with the approval of the national government. At first, the Tibetan delegation did not acknowledge the legal status of the 10th Panchen Lama. The central government delegation showed to the Tibetan delegation all the official documents by which the Kuomintang's national government had approved and confirmed the 10th Panchen Lama as the reincarnated soul boy of the 9th Panchen Lama, and the photos of the enthronement ceremony at the Kumbum Monastery, which representatives of the Dalai Lama attended. Faced with this irrefutable evidence, the Tibetan delegation finally acknowledged the legal status of the 10th Panchen Lama. The May Day holiday arrived during the peace talks, and the Central People's Government invited all the representatives of the local government of Tibet and the 10th Panchen Lama to attend the celebration on the Tian'anmen Rostrum, during which Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme and the 10th Panchen Lama had a friendly meeting and were received by Mao Zedong.

Fourth, the Agreement was reached on the basis of mutual respect and friendly negotiations. Most terms of the Agreement were about how to handle internal relations and affairs of Tibet. For these issues, the plenipotentiary representatives of the Central People's Government took initials to offer some proposals in line with the ethnic policy of the central government and the reality in Tibet. The Tibetan representatives also raised their suggestions. The Central People's Government studied and adopted some, while patiently explaining the reasons for not accepting others. Representative Tubdain Daindar talked about his experience of the talks: "As an ecclesiastic official from the Yitsang (Secretariat), I offered many suggestions about religious beliefs, monastery income and some other related issues, most of which were adopted by the central government." A Han-language version and a Tibetan-language one of the Agreement were prepared from the very beginning of the talks. And every revision made in both versions was only with consent from the Tibetan delegation. After the talks, both versions were signed and issued together.

As plenipotentiary representatives from the local government of Tibet, they discussed and established the following principles before formal talks: "Plenipotentiary representatives shall quickly decide on terms that they can decide on, and report to the Kashag in Yadong those that they cannot settle;" and when there was not enough time, "the plenipotentiary representatives can decide first and then report to the Dalai Lama." The channel for the Tibetan delegation to ask for instructions from the Dalai Lama and the Kashag was always unimpeded, and the representatives discussed among themselves for which items they would request instructions. Soon after the talks started, the issue of the PLA's entry into Tibet arose. The Tibetan representatives telegraphed the Dalai Lama and the Kashag in Yadong via cryptograph brought by Kemai Soinam Wangdui and Tubdain Daindar, saying that there would not be a big problem regarding most of the items, but if the local government of Tibet did not permit the PLA to enter Tibet, the talks could fail. During the talks, they contacted the Kashag in Yadong twice regarding its relationship with the Panchen Lama. During the 20-odd-day talks, although representatives from the two sides disagreed on some items, the talks went on in a friendly and sincere atmosphere and with full consultation. At the signing ceremony, the representatives of the two sides signed and sealed both versions of the Agreement.

To ensure that the Agreement was earnestly implemented, the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet signed two appendices to the Agreement, and one was the Regulations on Matters Concerning the Entry and Stationing of the People's Liberation Army in Tibet. Regarding the PLA's entry into and stationing in Tibet, the plenipotentiary representatives of the local government of Tibet questioned the number and deployment of and supplies for the troops. Since these details were military secrets, they could not be written in the Agreement, which was to be announced. Thus it was necessary to put them in Appendix I. Appendix II was the Declaration on the Local Government of Tibet Being Responsible for Carrying out the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. If the Dalai Lama acknowledged the Agreement and returned to Lhasa, then the peaceful liberation of Tibet would be a natural result. But if he did not return to Lhasa for some time for whatever reason, the Tibetan delegation hoped that the Central People's Government would allow the Dalai Lama to choose his own place of residence during the first year of the implementation of the Agreement, and to retain his status and power unchanged if he returned to his original post during this year. The Central People's Government consented. But if this clause was written into the Agreement, it would provoke controversy. So the two sides agreed on preventive stipulations for future possibilities and wrote them into this appendix. These two appendices were detailed rules for the implementation of the Agreement and complements to the Agreement on matters that had not been covered in the Agreement.

Fifth, the Agreement gained support from the Dalai Lama and both ecclesiastical and secular people in Tibet. After Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme returned to Lhasa from Beijing, the local government of Tibet held between September 26 and 29, 1951 an "officials' meeting" attended by more than 300 people, including all ecclesiastical and secular officials, Khenpo (abbot) representatives of the three most prominent monasteries, and Tibetan army officers above the regimental-commander rank. At the conference, a report to the Dalai Lama was approved. It stated, "The 17-Article Agreement that has been signed is of incomparable benefit to the grand cause of the Dalai Lama and to Buddhism as a whole, and to the politics, economy and other aspects of life in Tibet. Naturally it should be carried out." The Dalai Lama sent a telegram to Chairman Mao Zedong on October 24 to express his support for the Agreement. The telegram read, "This year the local government of Tibet sent five delegates with full authority, headed by Kalon Ngapoi, to Beijing in late April 1951 to conduct peace talks with delegates with full authority appointed by the Central People's Government. On the basis of friendship, the delegates of the two sides signed on May 23, 1951 the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. The local government of Tibet as well as the ecclesiastical and secular people unanimously support this Agreement, and, under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government, will actively assist the PLA troops entering Tibet to consolidate national defense, ousting imperialist influences from Tibet and safeguarding the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the motherland. I hereby send this cable to inform you of this." On October 26, Chairman Mao Zedong telegraphed the Dalai Lama in reply, expressing thanks for his efforts in carrying out the Agreement.

The signing of the 17-Article Agreement symbolized the peaceful liberation of Tibet, thus opening a new page in the history of social progress in Tibet. The peaceful liberation enabled Tibet to shake off imperialist aggression and imperialist political and economic fetters, safeguarded the national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of China, enhanced the solidarity among all ethnic groups of China and within Tibet, and created the basic preconditions for Tibet to advance and develop together with other parts of the country.

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