China’s Sensitivity over Tibet – Part 1/2

December 6, 2010

Earlier this year, Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reported on China’s sensitivity over Tibet. 

He says the Dalai Lama has long been a thorn in the flesh of the Chinese government. Beijing openly calls him a Jackal in a Monk’s Robe. The Dalai Lama has met every US President since George Bush Senior in 1991.

Birtley says, China state media often says that Tibet has always been part of China long before Hawaii become part of the United States.

The Dalai Lama’s people, on the other hand, claim that China never ruled Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s global followers blindly accept this claim as the truth.

Since Birtley offers no evidence in his report to support China or Tibet’s claims, I offer two sources of primary evidence from unbiased and non-Communist sources that support China’s claim.

I will start with the oldest source. Robert Hart (1835 – 1911) worked in China from 1854 to 1908 and was the most powerful Westerner in China’s history. 

In a letter Hart wrote in October 1885 to Campbell, his agent in England, he mentioned a diplomat from the British Foreign Office was seeking friendly relations and trade with Tibet. However, China did not want “Tibet, its tributary”, exposed to Western trade and influence.

In another letter in December 1903, Hart mentions the Chinese Amban in Tibet.  An Amban was the title for the political governor assigned to Tibet by the Emperor in Beijing.

Granted, Tibet was remote and difficult to reach and manage, and there were times during those 636 years where it may have appeared that the Tibetans managed themselves.

However, the facts show that China does have a claim that Tibet was part of China.

The second source appeared in The National Geographic Magazine (NGM) in October 1912 when the medical officer of a Chinese mission sent to Tibet in 1906 wrote a piece about Tibet for the magazine.

If you want to read about and see Tibet of that time, I suggest reading Dr. Shaoching H. Chuan’s The Most Extraordinary City in the World (pages 959 -995). 

The NGM also published about 60 photos the doctor shot.

On page 979, Dr. Chuan describes the government of Tibet, “the Ambans are appointed by the Chinese Emperor every four years. All governmental affairs have to undergo examination by the two Ambans…”

The reason Tibet declared its independene from China in 1913 was due to British political medling.

Tibet stayed free less than 40 years before Mao sent the PLO to reclaim territory China ruled as a tributary state since the 13th century.

Learn more about Buddhism in China


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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