View Full Version : Is Tibet Entitled to Self-Determination?

02-02-10, 02:29
Is Tibet Entitled to Self-Determination?

Paul Harris, a human rights lawyer in Hong Kong, wrote the following piece which explores Tibet’s right to self-determination under international law. A shorter version of the article appeared in the South China Morning Post. According to Harris, after commissioning an expanded version of the SCMP article, the Board of the Hong Kong Law Society’s Hong Kong Lawyer magazine later pulled it, saying the topic was too political. Harris’ original full article follows:

Is Tibet Entitled to Self-Determination?

1. The purpose of this article is to explore whether Tibet can be said to have a right to self-determination under international law.

2. The official position of the Chinese Government on this issue is that Tibet is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China (just as France once claimed that Algeria was an inalienable part of Metropolitan France). Those who question this are regularly attacked in the official Chinese media in vitriolic terms as “splittists” , and anti-China. If they are themselves Chinese and live in China they are liable to be imprisoned. Wei Jing Sheng and more recently Hua Jia are well-known Mainland Chinese dissidents imprisoned for calling for a new Chinese government attitude towards Tibet.

3. Questioners about Tibet from outside China are also habitually criticized by China for “interfering in China’s internal affairs”. However to the Tibetans and most people in the world outside China who are familiar with Tibet’s situation, it is an international problem crying out for a solution.

4. Most countries recognize China’s sovereignty over Tibet. The one notable exception is the United Kingdom which traditionally recognizes “suzerainty” of China with autonomy for Tibet, a subtle evasion which happens to be fairly close to the actual situation of Tibet in relation to China during the last years of the Ching dynasty (1644-1911). The United States has officially recognized China’s sovereignty over Tibet since 1966. Many states have glossed over or deliberately left undefined the question of whether their recognition is de jure or de facto i.e. recognizing China as having a legal title, or merely recognizing the fact that it is in reality ruling Tibet.

5. Notwithstanding these ambiguities, overwhelming state recognition for a given territorial status is itself usually powerful or even conclusive evidence of that status in international law. The question therefore arises as to why Tibet should be different? To answer this it is necessary to consider the meaning of sovereignty and of self-determination in international law and the facts of China’s involvement with Tibet.

What is sovereignty?

6. Under the traditional theory of state sovereignty which underpinned international law for three hundred years, it was for the rulers of states to determine by agreement between themselves which territories they would rule over. This system, formalized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, did not give any role to subjects in choosing their ruler. If sovereignty was not determined by conquest, it was decided by mutually agreed cession. No one consulted the inhabitants of the island of Minorca before it was ceded by Spain to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, or before it was ceded to Britain a second time, after capture by the French, by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, or before it was ceded back to Spain by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Minorca’s experience was typical of many small European territories which happened to be coveted by more than one European power. Similar cession with complete disregard for the views of the inhabitants was also the fate of overseas colonial territories. Bombay became British in 1662 because it was ceded to England by Portugal as the dowry of Charles II’s Portuguese bride, Catherine of Braganza.

7. Modern international law, although now applied at least to some extent by every country in the world, is largely a European invention . This applies particularly to the doctrine of state sovereignty, under which China claims sovereignty over Tibet. It has been cogently argued that by appropriating this European concept to claim sovereignty over Tibet, China is distorting a traditional historic relationship between the Ching dynasty emperors and the Dalai Lama of Tibet, which was that of a patron and a religious leader, and not that of a sovereign and a subject. If this is right, all China’s claims to sovereignty based on the Ching-Dalai Lama relationship (and its more recent claims based on the earlier relationship between the Mongol (Yuan dynasty) emperors and Tibet) are misconceived. However I argue below that, misconceived or not, these claims are in any case irrelevant to whether Tibet now has a right to self determination.


8. The Westphalia concept of state sovereignty came into conflict with nationalist aspirations for statehood in nineteenth century Europe. Polish nationalists did not like Poland being partitioned between the German and Russian Empires. Czechs did not like being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Britain supported the cause of Greek independence against the Ottoman Empire, and the European powers generally supported the cause of independence of the Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians.

9. At the Paris Peace Conference after World War 1 US President Woodrow Wilson pushed for the peace settlement to be based on the principle that “every territorial settlement in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival states”. Despite this, the principle was only selectively applied, where it coincided with the interests of the major players at the conference. In other cases it was flagrantly ignored, most notably in the transfer of the former German Chinese treaty port of Tsingtao to Japan against the wishes of its inhabitants.

10. By the time the United Nations was set up after World War II, it was generally recognized that peoples had the right of self-determination. Article 1.2 of the United Nations Charter states that the purposes of the United Nations include the development of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of self-determination of peoples. It can therefore be said that all states which have become members of the United Nations by ratifying the United Nations Charter – including China – have accepted the principle of respect for the self-determination of peoples.

11. The United Nations Charter was followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights in the Universal Declaration were elaborated in two more detailed international covenants which, unlike the Declaration itself, are treaties intended to have legal force. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “All peoples have the right to self determination. By virtue of that right they may freely determine their political status”. The ICCPR has been ratified by 161 of 192 United Nations member countries. Five other countries, including China, have signed but not ratified. A nation which is a signatory of a international treaty, such as the ICCPR, is obliged under international law to “refrain from acts which would defeat the purpose and object of the treaty” (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 18, codifying earlier customary international law).

12. China is therefore bound, both by its adherence to United Nations Charter and by its signature of the ICCPR to respect the principle of self-determination of peoples.

What does the right of peoples to self-determination actually mean?

13. There was no consensus about what the right to self-determination meant when it was included in the ICCPR. Western countries were generally reluctant to include it, but felt obliged to do so in response to the aspirations of recently independent countries to end European colonialism in those places were it still existed. Communist and Soviet influenced countries generally interpreted self-determination as meaning the right to choose a socialist form of government.

14. Since the ICCPR came into effect in 1976 there has been widespread concern that if the right to self determination in Article 1 is applied literally this could lead to the break-up of many existing states. This applies particularly to Africa, whose national boundaries are mostly colonial era constructs, but also to numerous other states with ethnic minority populations who form a majority in particular regions.

15. The consensus which has emerged is that the right to self determination for the purposes of ICCPR Article 1 applies only to the following: (1) entire populations living in independent states, (2) entire populations of territories yet to receive independence, and (3) territories under foreign military occupation .

16. This is a restrictive definition which excludes numerous groups who would in ordinary language be regarded as “peoples”. It excludes African tribes whose populations may be concentrated in one part of state, or parts of more than one state. It therefore gives no encouragement to the destructive tendency to fragmentation of African states which was seen in the Biafran War in Nigeria and which has recently been evident in Kenya. More controversially it excludes some peoples with a long history of struggle for independence, such as the Kurds (spread across parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria).

17. The issue of self-determination was considered in the context of colonial territories in the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV)) of 14 December 1960. Article 1 of this Declaration states that “The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.” A further General Assembly resolution, the Declaration on Principles of International Law, Friendly Relations and Co-operation among states in accordance with the charter of the United Nations, of 1970, again states that “alien subjugation, domination and exploitation are a violation of the principle” [of self-determination], as well as a denial of fundamental human rights, and is contrary to the [United Nations] Charter”.

18. These two United Nations General Assembly Resolutions have been extensively applied. The concept of alien domination has been treated by the UN as applicable to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan; the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia; the occupation of Arab territories by Israel; of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the former Soviet Union; of Grenada by the United States; of East Timor by Indonesia; and of Kuwait by Iraq . It is strongly arguable that the rule that alien subjugation, domination and exploitation breach a people’s right to self-determination now forms part of international customary law i.e. international law established not by treaties but by the customs of nations.

The history of China’s relations with Tibet

19. China’s present control over Tibet dates from 1950 when the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet and defeated the Tibetan Army at Chamdo. China claims that Tibet was already part of China when it invaded.

20. This claim is based on a claim to sovereignty over Tibet by the Ching Imperial dynasty dating from the eighteenth century. More recently China has claimed that its rule over Tibet can be traced to the rule of Tibet by the Mongols – known in China as the Yuan dynasty.

21. There are at least three major historical difficulties with China’s claim. Firstly, as indicated above, it is doubtful whether the relationship between the Ching and the Yuan on the one hand, and Tibet on the other,was really one of sovereign and subject. The Kangxi Emperor occupied Tibet in 1720. After his death in 1722 this occupation continued under his successor the Yongzheng Emperor until 1728, and there were further Chinese invasions in 1750 and 1792. However after the end of the occupation in 1728, and after each of the later invasions, the Chinese armies withdrew and Tibet had virtually complete independence in practice .

22. Secondly, it was never suggested under either dynasty that the relationship made Tibet a part of metropolitan China. If it was a political relationship at all, it was one of dependency which translated into modern language was a colonial relationship. It is therefore a basis for concluding that Tibet is a colony and so entitled to self-determination.

23. Thirdly, and most importantly, there was no relationship – either similar to that between Tibet and the Ching dynasty, or similar to the modern concept of sovereignty – between Tibet and the Chinese Republic which succeeded the Ching dynasty in 1911. In 1912 the Thirteenth Dalai Lama made a formal declaration of Tibetan independence. Although the Chinese Republic responded by laying claim to Tibet, it never exercised any control over it, save for certain far eastern regions, where there had always been an ill-defined borderland, which it invaded and occupied. Tibet was entirely independent of foreign control between 1911 and 1950.

24. Even if China’s historical claim was much stronger than it is, this would not provide a justification for invasion of an independent country. Most countries were at one time under alien rule. In 1911 Ireland was under British rule as it had been for centuries, Finland was ruled by Russia, and Korea was ruled by Japan. The setting up of the United Nations was expressly intended to prevent the kind of aggressive wars, based on spurious or doubtful claims to historical rule or cultural identity, which had been the practice of both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

25. China has frequently attempted to justify the invasion by the claim that Tibetan society was feudal and backward, and that China therefore brought liberation to the Tibetan peasantry from feudal domination.

26. Scholars agree that the pre-1950 Tibetan regime was feudal and backward . One aspect of its backwardness was its failure to appoint ambassadors to other countries or to apply to join the United Nations until invasion by China was imminent. However this failure was not due to lack of independence but due to the absence, in Tibet’s intensely traditional and isolated government, of a clear sense of the need for a modern state to maintain relations with other states.

27. At the risk of stating the obvious, the fact that a country is backward cannot justify invading it. Backwardness was often advanced as a justification for nineteenth century colonialism, what Kipling called “The White Man’s burden” when he encouraged the United States to colonise the supposedly backward Philippines. The fact that China relies on the “backwardness” argument to support its occupation of Tibet is a further indication of a classic colonial occupation.

China/Tibet relations since 1950

28. China invaded Tibet on 7 October 1950. On 7 November 1950 the Tibetan Government appealed for help to the United Nations but no assistance was forthcoming. Tibetan forces were easily overwhelmed by the much stronger Chinese forces, with the bulk of the Tibetan Army being surrounded and surrendering at Chamdo.

29. After the surrender the Chinese Government embarked on what would now be called a “charm offensive” in Tibet. Tibetans were given money by People’s Liberation Army representatives, and encouraged to accept Chinese occupation on the understanding that their traditional way of life would be unchanged and that Tibet would enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

30. In 1951 China and representatives of the Dalai Lama signed the “17 point agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”. The drafting phraseology of this document shows that some-one was looking at it when drafting Hong Kong’s Basic Law. It provides that “the Tibetan people have the right of exercising national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Central People’s Government’(Article 3); that “ the Central People’s Government will not alter the existing political system in Tibet”(Article 4), and “will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama”(Article 4).

31. These autonomy provisions were never observed. The Chinese Communist Party ruled Tibet, as it rules China, by way of a centralized party organization based on classic communist doctrine, whereby each organ of government is shadowed by an organ of the party. These party organs are accountable to the Chinese Communist Party and do not function in accordance with concepts of autonomy. In Tibet the new Chinese authorities insisted on taking all important decisions and interfered on an increasing scale with the daily life of Tibetans. In response to the harshness of Chinese rule, the Tibetans rose in revolt in 1958. The revolt was easily crushed by China, and in 1959 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and some 80,000 other Tibetans fled into exile in India.

32. The severity of Chinese repression in Tibet since that date is well-documented . There is severe repression of Tibetan Buddhism, which in 1997 was labeled as a “foreign culture” Virtually all classes in secondary and higher education in Tibet are taught in Chinese not Tibetan, resulting in a high drop-out rate among Tibetans. Urban development has generally benefited Chinese immigrants, large numbers of whom have moved to Tibet and who are now about 12% of the population in the Tibet Administrative Region. Tibetans are routinely detained for long periods without charge or sentenced to long prison sentences for peacefully advocating independence or maintaining links with the Dalai Lama. Torture and ill-treatment in detention is widespread. Freedom of expression is severely restricted. Peaceful political demonstrations are invariably broken up and their participants arrested. Tibetan culture is treated as inferior to Chinese culture, and most key posts in the government and the economy are held by Chinese. Those few Tibetans who are able to enter Chinese government service do so at the cost of alienation from their own people and culture. Tibet’s environment and natural resources are ruthlessly exploited in the interests of China. Overall the situation bears marked similarities in all these respects to the situation of Algeria under the French or of Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan under Soviet Russian rule.

The case for self-determination

33. No-one disputes that the Tibetans are a distinct people with their own language and culture, who form a large majority of the population of Tibet. They do not control their own destiny. Tibet is controlled by the Chinese Government by means of military occupation for the benefit of the Chinese state. Tibet is a country under foreign military occupation, and its people are subject to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation” within the meaning of the UN Resolutions on Colonial Peoples and on Friendly Relations.

34. The severity of the repression the Tibetans have undergone at China’s hands, combined with the threadbare nature of China’s territorial claim to Tibet, mean that if the universal right of peoples to self-determination has any meaning it must extend to Tibet.

35. Tibet’s status has been given renewed topicality by the recent independence of Kosovo. Kosovo was an autonomous region of Serbia dating from when Serbia was a state within Federal Yugoslavia. About 90% of its population are ethnically Albanian, and so distinct from the Serbs who form the remaining 10% and the large majority of the population of Serbia as a whole. Kosovo had enjoyed some real autonomy in Yugoslavia but in the 1990s this was progressively reduced. In 1996 guerilla warfare broke out as Albanians rose in revolt against Serbian rule. In 1999 as a result of a NATO air campaign against Serbia, the Serbian Army withdrew from Kosovo and a United Nations administration was set up. Following a recommendation from the United Nations Special Representative, Martti Ahtisaari, a plan was devised for Kosovo’s independence, which was bitterly opposed by Serbia. Kosovo nevertheless declared independence on 17 February 2008. This has so far been recognized by 38 countries, including all of the Group of Seven industrialized countries. It has not been recognized by countries such as Russia, China and Spain which face their own separatist issues (although it has been recognized by Turkey).

36. The recognition of Kosovo would seem to extend the right of self-determination beyond the traditional colonial or foreign occupation situation. Kosovo was never a colony, and the Serbian Army had withdrawn long before the independence issue was determined. The only coherent legal basis for recognizing the exercise of self-determination by the Kosovo people in the form of an independent state is that, prior to that independence, while under Serbian rule, the Kosovar Albanians were subject to “alien subjugation, domination and exploitation”.

37. The Kosovars and the Serbs were historic enemies. Who was exploiting whom varied at different times in history. However a convincing case can be made that in the later years of Slobodan Milosovic’s rule in Serbia, the Kosovars were being persecuted by the Serbian authorities, and were indeed in that sense subject to subjugation, domination and exploitation by people, who although long part of the same country, were culturally different and could in that sense arguably be described as alien.

38. If Kosovo has a right to self-determination, the right of Tibet is infinitely stronger. The catalogue of gross oppression, the second class citizen status of Tibetans under Chinese rule, and the identity of Tibet as a country are all much clearer than in Kosovo’s case.

Self-determination, autonomy and independence

39. Self-determination need not mean independence. In many situations, autonomy within a larger nation state offers the best of both worlds, combining the benefits of being part of a large state in terms of defence, foreign relations and economic opportunity, with preservation of local laws, customs and culture from outside interference. Hong Kong is a good example.

40. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he favours autonomy for Tibet within China, provided that it is meaningful autonomy. Such is his authority with the Tibetan people that they would probably support autonomy in any referendum in which he expressed support for it.

41. However unless there is a change in Chinese government thinking, real autonomy does not appear to be on offer. This is shown by the continuing aggressive denunciation and misrepresentation of the Dalai Lama by Chinese official spokespersons.

42. Unless real autonomy is offered, self-determination in Tibet is bound to mean independence. China may hold down the Tibetans by force for a long time, but, as the example of Ukraine and Russia shows, even hundreds of years of repression is unlikely to extinguish the longing for self-determination among what are, incontrovertibly, a people.

See also:

SCMP has written about Harris’ claims of self-censorship here (subscription only):

Human rights lawyer Paul Harris SC raised concerns of self-censorship after he was informed yesterday that his article on Tibet commissioned for the Hong Kong Lawyer had been barred from publication.

The fact that the article was being prepared for the May edition – coinciding with the Hong Kong leg of the Olympic torch relay on Friday – suggested the last-minute U-turn was a case of self-censorship because of the sensitive nature of the subject, he said.

Hong Kong is the first stop of the torch’s three-month tour around the mainland, before it arrives in Beijing in August.

Mr Harris acknowledged that his conclusions may be controversial, “but now, even debate on the issue has been denied”.

Also “Expert: China’s sovereignty over Tibet proved by history” from Xinhua, which provides a very different view on the subject.

* Posted by Sophie Beach
* April 26, 2008 9:40 PM
* Category: Law, Politics
* Tags: Tibet status


* January 28, 2010 | Course Correction
* December 10, 2009 | Wang Xiaodong (王小东): It’s Up to the West to Face Why China is Unhappy
* September 15, 2009 | Obama Officials Meet Dalai Lama in India
* April 23, 2009 | Robert Barnett: A Way out of Tibet’s Morass
* April 11, 2009 | Ian Buruma: China’s Burden
* April 1, 2009 | Pico Iyer: ‘A Hell on Earth’
* March 13, 2009 | Dialogue on Tibet: Past, Present and Future
* March 12, 2009 | Tibet Atrocities Dot Official China History
* February 19, 2009 | A Year after China Quashed Revolt, Tibetans Simmer with Resentment (Updated)
* January 20, 2009 | China Sees Separatist Threats
* November 24, 2008 | Did Britain Just Sell Tibet?
* November 20, 2008 | China Tightening Control in Tibet Region, Exiles Say
* October 29, 2008 | The Next Tibetan Uprising?
* October 28, 2008 | Who Owns Tibet?
* October 25, 2008 | Dalai Lama Says He Has Given up on China Talks



has the writer been to the Tibet?
By sg1018 | April 27th, 2008 at 6:43 am

[...] April 27, 2008 by BobG in Vancouver This is the first para of a post in China Digital Times blog today: [...]
By Discussion of Tibet’s right to self-determination « My agnostic views | April 27th, 2008 at 8:59 am

Re: has the writer been to the Tibet?

This is the red herring of argumentation, a false and dare I say infantile way to respond to the author’s work. The issue is the quality of the scholarship.

So, sg1018, look at the validity of the scholarship not someone’s travel itinerary. Also be aware that Harris included a link to a site that refutes his thinking:
“Expert: China’s sovereignty over Tibet proved by history” from Xinhua

Read an entire article in the future.
By Montreal1 | April 27th, 2008 at 9:01 am

[...] 原文链接 [...]
By 言论审查之风入侵香港法律界 | 自曲新闻 | April 27th, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Wei Jingshen told me some time ago that Tibet undoubtedly be,longed to China and should be ruled by Chinese–under a democratic government,. presumably of his own disposition.
By r s elegant | April 28th, 2008 at 3:24 am

This Paul Harris’ article is just another ” New Wine in Old Bottle” , yet another ( more sophisticated approach now – with a camouflage of ’scholarly’ jargon ,legalese and lofty ‘human rights’) attempt to justify and bolster the western position that ” We are going to make damned well sure that the Chinese will be villified/demonized from every anlgle for its ‘illegal’ occupation, but we will remain silent in every similar occupation and suppression in the West and our friends/allies”.

For all the so-called ‘quality of the scholarship’ and the pretended objectivity by including a link from a Chinese gov’t ( easy target for western ridicule as Chinese propaganda), this high -faluting article is written NOT with the noble ojective of arguing for UNIVERSAL APPLICABILITY of Human Rigts, UN Charter & Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Western and all countries now still subjugating other natives and aboriginals, but only with the sole intention of proving China is wrong in Tibet.
How ‘lofty’ is this article? We are not interested in selective morality, selective legal arguments just to villify one party with slit eyes but remaining completely silent, and even affirmative, about similar wrongs committed by blonde people or their allies elsewhere.
Just how much objectivity can you expect from these human rights circuses, including the Amnesty International?
Some time ago, human rights bodies in Britain cried very loudly about the ‘Holocaust’ carried out by the Israeli Army in Jenin , but remained absolutely silent about the terrorist bombs coming repeatedly from this area. The terrorists thanked this ‘wetty-wetty’ BRITISH HEART-BLEEDING by bombing London’s subways and bus. Serves them right. THis is called the ‘one-sided justice of the white people’ now to be enforced on the Chinese .Another one: vehement British/European condemnation of Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, silence over Hizbollah’s missiles until Khan (of Amnesty Inter) was forced by public opinion to mouth a belated ‘objective’ condemnation of Hizbollah’s missiles raining on Israel’s civilian centers.
Harris could have made a more objective and deeper research into Tibet’s position in China by reading up and providing links to books written by other Western wrtiters who take the middle position or opposite view of his. Alastair Lamb’s book on China & Tibet, for example.I have many book references on this issue stored in my hard drive and I need some time to find them if you need to complete your scholarly work. Read more first ( on both sides of the issue) before you embark on what you think is the definitive, be-all- and-end-all position in a complicated issue.There are other western writers who know more than you.

Your brilliant ‘legalese’ and legal gobbledegook cannot camouflage this shameful western intention: that all these human rights arguments and moral obligations applies ONLY to China, and China only should make amends , while the rest of the world ( especially the Western nations) can sit back and feel good about the human rights situation in their countries.Try that approach on any other country and see what they will tell you. Wow, how irritable and venomous you western people are when we point to some of your human rights violations? Just see the reactions of the whites on the blogs.How they scream : “What we whites do is our business.You Chinks have no rights to criticize us.We are morally too superior to you Chinky sub-humans.”

Look at how this typical Westerner Harris twists and obfuscates deviously every lofty Human Rights principle to suit Western interests and interpretation. Look how he contradicts every principle that he enunciates. Look at his arguments 14′ 15 and 16.
In one earlier breath he talks about the lofty ICCPR( International Convenant on Civil & Political Rights) which says ” All peoples have the rights to self-determination” but in Arguments 15 & 16 , he begins (like all Western countries) to subvert this ICCPR by restricting its scope and DENYING its applicability to African peoples and tribes ( forced into unions – artificial constructs of the British) ,the subjugated Kashmiris, Assamese, Nagas & other tribal peoples OFFLOADED BY THE BRITS ONTO INDIA to expiate British guilt of having colonized India.There are now bloody repressions of these tribal peoples ( ISN’T THAT ALIEN SUBJUGATION ,a violation of General assembly Resolutions of 1960 & 1970 ?? Harris’ arguments 17 & 18) The tribals are of Mongoloid stock, not of Indian stock)by the Indian Army, but why are the lofty principles NOW NOT APPLIED TO THESE PEOPLES, DISTINCT FROM THE INDIANS ??
Why? Because these devious westerners can twist every solid human rights principle to suit their own interests. In this case: British guilt of colonising India hence the need to give some goodies( tribal human sacrifices!!!)to the Indians, the Western policy of using India to contain China, for fear and envy of a rising China, hence the West’s sanitizing of all Indian alien subjugation of different peoples in Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Tripur etc. and the corresponding vehement demonization of China.

Note carefully that Harris ( like many of the cynical Brits and Westerners) has not the slightest pity for African peoples( tribes)slaughtered by other tribes in FORCED ARTIFICIAL UNIONS/FEDERATIONS created by the Brits before they fled Africa and Asia.
Look at total British indifference ( in fact they actively supported the sacred inviolability of these artificial Unions)to the genocide of the Chtistian Biafran people in the Nigerian Civil War, the Genocide of the Christian Southern Sudanese by the Northern muslim North Sudanese.The Brits actually supplied lethal arms to the Northern Nigerians ( mostly muslims)to slaughter the Biafran Ibos and now they preach self-determination to China on Tibet. Likewise British & Western indifference to the genocide & enslavement of the Southern Sudanese christians for 52 years ( civil war started in 1955)is so shameful. Britain was the first arms supplier to Sudan followed by USA which sold arms to Sudan until 1987 ( USD$ 108 million in 1987 according to Wikipaedia)while North Sudan was busy killing the Southern SAudanese. Now, how convenient it is to find a scapegoat in China. Britain was the architect of these two genocides in Nigeria and Sudan.Yet, with alacrity this Harris ( and all the West)skirts these geocides by saying the UN Charters and principles do not apply to these people with “destructive tendencies’. They are only seeking self-determination.

Look how he himself arbitrarily ( like the West, when it suits their interests) sets the parameters of the noble UN Charters & principles and then changes it again.
He says any ‘alien subjugation’ of a distinctly different people automatically confers the subjugated a right to self-determination. Then how is it that the Australian aborigines and American, Canadian Red Indians are
not given the right to self-determination ? Oh, they say we let them practise their culture and religion( for gawking condescending tourists), let them free use of their pristine lands ( all arid and desert).”Tibet’s cultural genocide ” they cry. Are they not tearing R.Indian and aboriginals from their parents, forcing them to be quartered in white run camps ( girls and boys leased out to paedophiles – watch YouTube “Genocide of the Red Indians’), introducing drunkenness, casinos, prostitution etc. ?
How come Kashmiris are not given self-determination ( a UN Resolution stipulates a plebiscite)as they are really a distinct people subject to alien subjugation by the Indian Army?
Now your lofty UN principles , according to the West, do not apply here cos you see India as subservient to Western intertests and an important ally in the holy crusade of the West to contain China.

In argument 15 he says ” The consensus which has emerged that the right to self-determination should be restricted to 3 situations….”. WHOSE CONSENSUS? This restrictive view has never been coherently formulated nor accepted by any nation except the big power Western nations to suit their own geo-political & economic interests.
Going by his reasoning, Kosovo does not fall under any of these three situations where self-determination is allowed.In his next breath, he justifies the independence of Kosovo.What an arbitrary view of Human rights. If the fact that a majority being bullied by a minority confers on the majority the right to independence, then Kashmir, Manipur and Assam should be independent now because the minority ( Indian Army) is suppressing the majority tribal peoples.Why this hypocritical silence over all the subjugated peoples, except the Tibetans? There is a website called ‘Weeping Sikkim’ detailing the sorrows of the Sikkimese peole now being forcibly integrated and assimilated into India by deliberate migration of Indians into sikkim. So it is in Nepal and Bhutan and other tribal areas like Assam to change the indigenous demographic picture to justify forcible incorporation into India.Where is your ’subjugation of distinct peoples’ principle, Harris? You have forgotten it already?

And this fellow is subtly trying to justify British rule of Northern Ireland by stating that Britain ‘ruled Ireland for centuries’.What rubbish.Just as you claim that FORCIBLE rule is not valid in Tibet, so is it equally invalid in Northern Ireland.Look at all the protests all these years ( The Bloody Sunday March where Brit soldiers shot peaceful Irish protesters – more shameful than the Chinese handling of the Tibetan rioters who were murderous), the bombings ( latest Omagh bombing by the Real IRA), the suppressive brutality of the British Army there.. When did the Irish there ever support your self-proclaimed rule? Clearly this is a case of alien subjugation of a distinct people,so the Irish have a RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION. GIVE THE CATHOLIC IRISH INDEPENDENCE IN N. IRELAND,just as you cry ” Free Tibet”.

As for your arguments favouring self-determination, I will rebut you point for point in my next e-mail. We’ve got to rush to work to feed our families ( we don’t have the dole like you Brits).We do not have any free time like you to immerse in high-faluting jargon and obfuscation under a scholarly cloak and legal sophistication and to be busybodies and judge or finger-point other people without looking into ourselves.
Ta ta , see ya soon.
By B.Singhdee | April 29th, 2008 at 12:39 am

[...] not seeking independence from the Chinese state, but are seeking higher levels of autonomy. Even long time human rights advocates recognize that the right to self-determination does not mean a right to [...]
By Rethinking Security in Tibet (Part 2 of 2) « Pondering IR in Pokfulam | October 2nd, 2008 at 9:31 am

Tibet is a part of China.

Hypocritical Britain has absolutely no standing in having any say on the Tibet issue – they tried to invade and control Tibet during the Victoria period, just like how they invaded India and Hong Kong, and in doing so robbed the properties and freedom of Indians and Hong Kong Chinese.

And let’s not forget how evil Britain systematically and intentionally sold opium to China.

Evil Britain promotes freedom in some situations and ignore them totally in some other situations. Now they are trying to play the role of defender of human rights – I find that repulsive. Please don’t insult everybody’s intelligence.

In modern times, what Britain and the successors of other colonial invaders are trying to do is to continue invading places like Tibet and Hong Kong by exerting influences through twisted facts and double-standard notions of rights and wrongs.

Seasons change, invaders don’t.
By Mary | October 2nd, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I wonder why a Chinese who is so critical of Britain would choose an English name like Mary…

And to be clear: Britain ceded its control of India in the face of the Indian independence movement. And it returned Hongkong to China abiding to the contract it had signed and the rule of law.
I can see no such behaviour with the P.R.C. yet in face of the Tibetans’ continuing refusal to be be part of the P.R.C.
Pointing at Britain’s past wrongdoings does not make right what China is doing to Tibet!
In that sense Mary is right:
Seasons change, invaders don’t. Except, this time it is China who is the invader. The former victim is turning oppressor herself…
By jh | October 3rd, 2008 at 5:00 am

Very well written article. It really brings attention to the very precarious and worrisome position that the UN is in with China as a member. I believe that the situation will really come to a head sooner rather than later. China must be stopped! With China claiming parts of Indian border regions simply because the 6th Dalai Lama was born in this region is hair-brained and a good insight into the way this regime thinks. Laying claim to Tibet because it was part of the ancient Mongol Empire is a VERY scarry notion, and one that should open the eye’s of the entire Asian continent including much of Eastern Europe.

B.Singhdee: Wow…i’ve not seen such a fit of misguided intellectual rage in quite awhile. It is obvious that you REALLY dont like British people. Your are doing nothing but simply raising the case “there is plenty of suppression and oppression in the world so why should we care about Tibet”; such a sickeningly lazy and cynical way to think.
By sr | October 3rd, 2008 at 4:49 pm

“And to be clear: Britain ceded its control of India in the face of the Indian independence movement. And it returned Hongkong to China abiding to the contract it had signed and the rule of law.
I can see no such behaviour with the P.R.C. yet in face of the Tibetans’ continuing refusal to be be part of the P.R.C”.

You are right the brits have contract to return Hongkong to China. The Dalai lama V also has contract with Emperor Kang Hsi acknowledging Chinese overlord over Tibet in return for dislodging the local king and putting him on the political apex of Tibet Contract ia contract has to be respected

And if the Tibetan majority want independent They will be long time ago

Russia is powerfull and bristle with the latest weapon but that does not prevent the Mujahiddin from booting them out of Afghanistan So all those whinning pro Tibetan raise your weapon and Fight like a man
By John | October 3rd, 2008 at 5:07 pm

So, John is asking the Tibetans to become terrorists… What kind of an outdated world view is this?
In fact, if the P.R.C. keeps its policies in Tibet in place, it is probably what they will harvest. Great, really…

But to return to a serious level of argument:
Talking about the rule of law, I did not refer to some emperor some hundred years ago but to the 17 point agreement that China signed with Tibet as well as the Chinese constitution. Both are current and available in written form. And both are not honoured by the CCP.
By jh | October 3rd, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Who is revolting and invite CIA to come and help them ? That is well documented fact You can even find the interview with participant of that revolt. A sad episode where the Tibetan do the dieing and suffering while their instigator sit comfortably in their suburbia

They even shot their own people because the Dalai lama doesn’t want the outside world to know about the CIA involvement and blew his cover
By John | October 3rd, 2008 at 9:22 pm

as you write: the CIA involvement has been well documented. So has the 1959 uprising, the 1989 uprising and to some extent this year’s as well.
What does it show?
That for 50 years the Tibetans have been rejecting Chinese rule, and that the Chinese can only uphold “normalcy” in Tibet by paramilitary and military force.
At least, this was not the case in Hongkong while it was ruled by Britain.
I claim that, if Tibet had been a British colony, they would long have regained their independence. Bad luck for them that they weren’t…
By jh | October 4th, 2008 at 1:13 am

What it show is that the reactionary never stop in their effort to destabilized and dismembered China even against all the odd !959, 1989, 2008 uprising all failed because there is no support against

Ha british grant independece to their colony unwillingly by planting seed of future conflict. See they are promising both both Israeli and Palestinian states And create the longest conflict and misery mankind ever know

Ditto with Pakistan and India or arbitrarily carve Africa without any considering of tribal or historical affiliation

They draw McMahon line arbitrarily and convince the Indian that is the demarcation between China and India Even when China never was consulted or agreed to it

Now tell me who is the clever colonialist here Now they want independent and democracy for Hongkong when for 250 years They make every decision from Downing street Yeah some Hyphocrite are the brits

And apropo Younhusband incursion into Tibet and massacred thousand of tibetan just because he want some adventure and fame Yeah some Humanity you brits get off your highhorse and realized your hyphocrisy
By John | October 4th, 2008 at 8:36 am

“Hypocrisy” must be the most popular argument for Chinese in defense of their occupation of Tibet. But pointing ceaselessly at past (or even present) wrongs of others still does not excuse one’s own wrongdoings, does it?
Why is it that only Chinese support China’s rule of Tibet and not Tibetans themselves? Where are all the Tibetans in support of it?
I have not met a single one. Neither did I ever read a single posting by a Tibetan in support of Chinese rule of Tibet.

Tibet belonging to China is solely a Chinese notion. It is not shared by the Tibetans. And they are the ones who are concerned.
Imagine if Japan had succeeded in its occupation of China, keeping China in its “peaceful co-existence sphere of harmony”. It would publish all kinds of white papers on how much progress it has brought to China, how feudal and backward China was earlier etc.

It’s a shame that China has become so obviously the oppressor without reflecting on it at all…
By jh | October 5th, 2008 at 3:35 am

And the notion of Tibetan independence is delusion and Lie concocted by the Tibetan in exile and their western supporter. Not a single country recoqnized Tibet as independent country Not in the past, present or in future

Japan aggression against China is violation of sovereign independent country recoqnized by the world over. So invalid comparison by any stretch of imagination

Anyway Japan and China put a closure on bad History and recoqnized that the sad history of the last 50 years is just aberration in long and fruitfull historical relation going back to 2000 years. Instead of looking to the past Both countries and people looks forward to realized their common potential

Japan and China are each other biggest trading partner and People to people relation are blooming There are more than 3 million people who visit each other country and growings everyday
By John | October 5th, 2008 at 10:59 am

“John”: Don’t be a fool. Read the article before you post to the comment section. Anyway, You wrote “The Dalai lama V also has contract with Emperor Kang Hsi acknowledging Chinese overlord over Tibet in return for dislodging the local king and putting him on the political apex of Tibet Contract ia contract has to be respected” ….Once again you pro-communist/colonialists are overstating your PAST Emperor’s involvements in Tibetan internal affairs. Besides even if Dalai Lama’s and Han Chinese Emperor’s relationship of the past were more than a Priest-Patron relationship, which they were NOT, you would have no foot to stand on because the one leg you are standing on you yourselves cut-off during your communist revolution. Get it?
“And if the Tibetan majority want independent They will be long time ago ” ….What do you mean. THEY DID have independence prior to 1950. No reason to fight for something they already had! The fighting came AFTER 1950 when the PLA invaded!
“So all those whinning pro Tibetan raise your weapon and Fight like a man”….The Tibetan people are a strong hardy people that are a mold from their fatherland and Buddhism. While the Chinese might wish that the Tibetans raise there weapons and fight, the Tibetans are wishing that the Chinese pick up there many weapons that they brought and get on the train they built and go back home! Instead all they do is bring more Chinese colonialists and toxic waist to Tibet, and more Tibetan resources out.
“They draw McMahon line arbitrarily and convince the Indian that is the demarcation between China and India Even when China never was consulted or agreed to it”….China was never consulted because China had NOTHING to do with it because it was the border between India and TIBET!!! Remember, prior to the 1950 INVASION by the PLA slime, TIBET belonged to TIBETANS.
Dont be such an infantile. READ the article before you post!!


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