Wang Jiawei & Nyima Gyaincain
Tibet is Not an Independent Political Entity During the Period of the Republic of China
How were relations between the motherland and Tibet during the period of the Republic of China (1912-49)? Did the local government of Tibet still maintain the subordinate relationship with the Central Government? When the Tibetan separatists were obliged to admit some facts that Chinese emperors before the founding of the Republic of China had ruled Tibet, they went all out to say Tibet was an independent political entity following the founding of the Republic of China. Chapter 15 of Tibet: A Political History by Xagabba had Further Evidence of Tibetan Independence as its headline. Chapters 4 and 8 of The Status of Tibet by Van Praag state “Tibet declared independence.” Both mean to show Tibet was “independent” in this period. Is this true? Historical facts provide their own answer.
The Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911 informed the world of the beginning of the Revolution of 1911. The toppling of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which had a positive echo in various provinces, put an end to the 2,000-old-year history of the feudalistic empire system in China. The Republic of China was born, with Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shi-kai serving as its president respectively.
When the news reached Tibet, the Sichuan troops in Lhasa suffered internal strife. Driven by a shortage of provisions, they lived by taking from the Tibetans. Lian Yu and Zhong Ying, former Qing officials stationed in Tibet, blackmailed the local government of Tibet on the excuse that they planned to withdraw to the hinterland. When given what they demanded, they continued to stay in Lhasa. Part of the Sichuan troops stood by the Gaxag government in fighting troops led by Zhong Ying, throwing Tibet into chaos.
The British decided to take advantage to press ahead with their “Tibetan independence” project. For this purpose, the British Indian governor made a special trip to Darjeeling for secret talks with the 13th Dalai Lama. Before long, the latter sneaked Dasang Zhamdui into Tibet, where he brought together a 10,000-strong force of Tibetan troops and militiamen to fight the Sichuan troops in Lhasa, Xigaze and Gyangze. During the conflict, the systems of the Panchen Erdeni and the Daingyiling Monastery in Lhasa, most of the lamas with the Zhaibung Monastery and part of the Gaxag government were on the side of Lian Yu and Zhong Ying. The part of Sichuan troops led by Lian Yu and Zhong Ying, however, were strongly disgusted by most of the Tibetans because of their pervasive acts. Surrounded by Tibetan army and militiamen from U-Tsang area, they had no food and gradually fell into dire straits.
In the winter of 1911, Zhao Erfeng, the former Sichuan governor, was executed. Riots ensued in the Kam area. Many ex-headmen and monasteries, who lost their power in the implementation of new Qing policy of making the headman post an appointed and not a hereditary one, took the chance to kill and drive away officials appointed by the Qing imperial court and their troops. They captured the bulk of the 30-odd counties in the Kam area, which had been under Zhao’s rule for years, and established their own rule. Only Kangding, Batang, Daofu, Garze, Dege and Dengkou survived. But all these survivors reported a tense situation.
In the face of such a situation in Tibet and the Kam area, the government of the newly-founded Republic of China reacted to highlight the need to defend national unity. President Yuan Shi-kai issued his presidential order on April 22, 1912: “Now we have the harmony of the Han, Manchu, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetan nationalities. Areas inhabited by the Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui peoples are all part of the territory of our Republic of China. Namely, peoples of the Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui nationalities are all residents of our Republic of China.” (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet, p.285) Ideas expressed in this presidential order were rooted in Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and hence correct. However, the Yuan Shi-kai government adopted a policy characteristic of national oppression and appointing local officials in dealing with the Tibetan issue. In May 1912, Yuan appointed Zhong Ying to be the Tibetan officer holding the powers formerly held by the High Commissioner of the Qing imperial court. On June 10, he sent Yang Feng and other officials to Darjeeling for talks with the 13th Dalai Lama. In mid-June, he ordered Sichuan general Ying Changheng to steer his troops westward. Yan’s troops advance into the Kam area to suppress the rebellion in support of the Sichuan army. In the meantime, Yunnan general Cai E was ordered to move out of Kamnan in cooperation with the Sichuan Army.
In their respective books, Van Praag and Xagabba exaggerate Tibetan government resistance against the government of the Republic of China and its intention for independence. However, they mention nothing of the fact that the Tibetans were reluctant to divorce from the motherland, that the local government of Tibet had some leeway in dealing with the Sichuan troops, and that the 13th Dalai Lama contacted the government of the Republic of China soon after its founding.
During this period, Lian Yu and Zhong Ying once wrote to the 13th Dalai Lama, asking him to send representatives to negotiate with them in Lhasa. And the 13th Dalai Lama did send his representatives headed by Silun Qamqen. Through the negotiations, which experienced many twists and turns, and through mediation by Nepalese officials in Lhasa, both sides signed a peace agreement toward the end of July 1912 on the following terms: the Sichuan troops hand over their weapons to be sealed off in Tibet; the Sichuan troops return to the hinterland via India, while imperial commissioners and officials in Tibet remain in place; the imperial commissioners and the army chief retain 30 and 60 firearms respectively; the Han side pays the Tibetans for the losses inflicted by the Sichuan troops. By mid-August, Zhong Ying handed over some 150 Mausers, three guns and many boxes of bullets.
The agreement shows that the Tibetan side agreed that the imperial commissioners Lian Yu and Zhong Ying should remain in Tibet while the Sichuan troops had to go back home. This shows the Tibetan side had absolutely no intention of divorcing itself from the motherland. As Lian Yu was a minister of the toppled government of the Qing Dynasty, he had no way out but to leave Lhasa on August 4 for the hinterland via India. He was followed by the Sichuan army along the same route.
The Government of the Republic of China set up the Bureau in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs headed by Goingsang Norbu on July 19, 1912. When informed of the news, the 13th Dalia Lama took the initiative to write to Goingsang Norbu in Beijing. In this letter, he wrote: “An incident took place in Sichuan Province last winter, and the situation in Tibet has not calmed down yet. I intend to maintain the Buddhist order. Please forward the letter.” (Ya Hanzhang: Biography of the Panchen Erdeni, p.226)
When the letter was forwarded to Yuan Shi-kai, he issued an order on October 28, announcing the restoration of the title of the 13th Dalai Lama. The decision was cabled to him and he sent a cable back to Yuan Shi-kai in late December. In his cable, the 13th Dalai Lama addressed Yuan Shi-kai using such respectful wording as “the Powerful and Fortunate President Yuan” and “the President of Benevolence.” These cables not only show the 13th Dalai Lama’s contacts with Government of the Republic of China but also his respect for its president.
When Yang Feng, an official sent by Yuan Shi-kai, and others arrived in Darjeeling, the 13th Dalai Lama had already left for Tibet. Yuan was made to stay in Darjeeling and Kalimpong by the British. Yang asked Zhaxi Wangdui, a Tibetan, to carry a letter to the 13th Dalai Lama, who sent his men to deliver his letter to Yang in Kalimpong in November the same year. Yang read the letter from the 13th Dalai Lama with great care, and considered it possible that the 13th Dalai Lama still supports the Republic.
Yuan Shi-kai also sent others from Beijing to Tibet via India on December 17, 1912. However, the British barred their way into Tibet. On December 21, Yuan Shi-kai cabled the 13th Dalai Lama on matters concerning the ceasefire between the Sichuan army and the local government of Tibet: “Your Holiness the Dalai Lama propagates Buddhist tenets for the benefit of the people. From your letter to Goingsang Norbu, I learn that you yearn for peace. Now Zhong Ying has ceased fighting to wait for the settlement by the Central Government. I hope Your Holiness the Dalai Lama would ask your men to cease fire for fear that the Tibetans will suffer more. I will send an envoy to deal with all matters resulting from previous events involving the Han and the Tibetan, for eternal peace” (Tibet Is an Inseparable Part of China, p.457)
In his book Van Praag arbitrarily claims that “with the Qing emperor overthrown and the Republic of China founded, there existed no relations between the two countries.” Contacts between Yuan Shi-kai and the 13th Dalai Lama, however, negate this statement.
In commenting on Yuan Shi-kai’s presidential order – “Areas inhabited by the Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui peoples are all part of the territory of our Republic of China. Namely, peoples of the Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui nationalities are all residents of our Republic of China’ – Van Praag says arbitrarily: This shows the Republic of China had made major changes in related policies of the previous Qing empire. For the first time in history, it said Tibet and Mongolia are a component of the Chinese territory and the Tibetans and Mongolians are residents of the Republic of China. Van Praag is wagging his tongue too freely. It is known to all that Tibet remained part of Chinese territory during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (1271-1911); and the Tibetan race was also a part of the Chinese nation. In this, Yuan Shi-kai was not the first person to say the above. When the British was preparing military campaigns against Tibet on February 27, 1903, even Lord George Hamilton, a British Indian affairs minister, said “Tibet must be recognized as a province of China”. Both Yuan Shi-kai and emperors of the previous Qing Dynasty held that Tibet is part of China. There are no differences between them on this issue.
In early 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa after a separation of three years. During this period of time, he announced that “all documents and decrees which the Han brought to Tibet must not be observed.” In his speeches and documents issued in his name, he declared that the Chinese emperor and religious and government leader to Tibet only maintained the patron-lama relationship. However, none of his documents imply Tibet would become independent from the Qing government.
Xagabba and Van Praag play up the tendency shown by the 13th Dalai Lama and some others in the upper ruling class of Tibet in the early days of the Republic of China as the beginning of Tibet as an independent state.
In less than two months following the Wuchang Uprising in October 1911, at least 14 out of 18 inland provinces declared independence. By “declaring independence,” they meant to be independent from the Qing imperial court rule so as to have a Central Government which they thought was suitable for China. In no way were they working to divorce themselves from China. The reactionary rule by the Qing imperial court fell apart during the uprisings and the declaring of “independence.”
It was because of the above fact that Dr. Sun Yat-sen said in early 1912: “Following the Wuhan Uprising, more than 10 provinces declared ‘independence’ which means a divorce for the Manchurian Qing, but a reunion for various provinces. So were Mongolian and Tibet.” (Gu Zhongxiu: History on the Founding of the Republic of China, pp.57-58)
The tendency for “independence” shown by the 13th Dalai Lama and some others was different from the “independence” declared by various inland provinces. No uprisings broke out in Tibet to overthrown Qing rule. The British imperialists had a finger in the pie. However, both moved when the Revolution of 1911 had broke out in opposition to the corrupt rule by the Qing imperial court. At a time when the Qing imperial court had been toppled and a new Central Government had not built up its authority in China yet, there would inevitably be a strong tendency for “independence.” When the new Central Government had consolidated its rule and built up enough authority in rule, such a local tendency for “independence” would become weakened and gradually die out. During the Republic of China, the tendency for “independence” shown by certain provinces died out gradually. It was generally the case with the Tibetan tendency for “independence.”
Of course, the so-called “Tibetan independence” is different from the above case because the slogan was raised to incite separation of Tibet from the motherland. The 13th Dalai Lama actually didn’t make up his mind to achieve the above goal because he was confronted with many restrictions, such as the traditionally inseparable relations between Tibet and the motherland which had been in existence for hundreds of years since the Yuan Dynasty, many international treaties which declare in explicit terms that China enjoys sovereignty or suzerainty over Tibet, opposition from those in the upper ruling class in Tibet who hated the British invasion and were in favor of unity with the motherland, fond feelings cherished by the broad masses of the Tibetans for peoples of other nationalities in China, and the announcement made by the president of the Republic of China concerning the harmony of five races in China. Therefore, he talked a lot but did a little in this regard. He planned to do so, but he had worries. While he was doing so, he looked around himself. He often made abrupt turns when he thought or found his move was not feasible. In a nutshell, he was ambivalent and hesitant in taking actions. What he did in the ensuing 20 years testifies to this conclusion.
When the 13th Dalai Lama had returned to Lhasa, he summoned a meeting of representatives of various counties and manor, soliciting opinions on future government affairs and reform measures in Tibet. During discussion on ties with the motherland, most representatives proposed opposition to the erroneous policies followed by the Qing imperial court and voiced objection to Tibetan separation from the motherland. Faced with the situation, the 13th Dalai Lama hesitated. In his book entitled Tibet: Past and Present, Charles Bell admits that of the Tibetan monks and lay people, there were those who favored the Chinese Party, a fact which could not be denied…There were also peasants who were heard time and again to yearn for the coming of China…Tibet which had the tendency for independence was not planning to totally separate itself from China with which they had united politically for a long period of time. (Ya Hanzhang: Biography of the Dalai Lama. P. 213)
The above shows that the early days of the Republic of China, the Central Government did its best to contact the 13th Dalai Lama with the result that while the British incited “Tibetan independence”. It made a show but was never achieved.
Britain adopted an iron-handed policy for further efforts toward “Tibetan independence” in early 1912. On January 13, the British Foreign Ministry cabled its Indian office, stressing opposition to include Tibet in China in the strict sense. (Wang Yuanda: The Revision of the Britain-Russia Tibet Agreement of 1907, p.143 and p.176 Tibetology Studies) On April 10, the British Foreign Secretary sent a cable to John Jordan, British minister in Beijing, demanding that the Chinese government promise to maintain Tibet’s autonomy under China’s suzerainty in return for British recognition of the government of the Republic of China. (Wang Yuanda: The Revision of the Britain-Russia Tibet Agreement of 1907, p.143 and p.176 Tibetology Studies)
The Sichuan army led by Yan Changheng and the Yunnan army led by Cai E moved westward in June 1912. They defeated the resistance put up by local headmen and monasteries in the Kam area, and entered Qamdo and the area south of Yanjin respectively towards the end of August. In late September, they closed in on Gongbo’gyamda.
During this period, the British, exploiting the weak points of the Yuan Shi-kai regime, intervened. John Jordan in Beijing flagrantly raised five points concerning Tibetan affairs with the Chinese Foreign Ministry: (1) The British government does not allow China to intervene actively in the internal administration of Tibet; (2) The British government opposes Chinese officials seizing administrative power in Tibet, and refutes the Chinese statement that Tibet is on an equal footing with China’s provinces;” (3) Britain does not allow China to station numerous troops within the territory of Tibet; (4) An agreement should be signed and the British side would then recognize the Republic of China; (5) The communication between China and Tibet be cut for the time being.(Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. P.293) In its memorandum issued on August 26, the British Foreign Ministry noted: While Tibet nominally maintains its autonomous state under Chinese suzerainty, it should be placed under absolute dependence on the Indian government. Tibet should sincerely and totally be put under the wing of the British forces. (Wang Yuanda: The Revision of the Britain-Russia Tibet Agreement of 1907. p.146 and p.177 Tibetology Studies) John Jordan lodged a protest with the Chinese Foreign Ministry on September 7, threatening to rescind British recognition of the Republic of China if the Chinese government went on sending troops in a westward expeditionary move; further, Britain would assist Tibet in its effort to win independence.
Under British pressure, the government of the Republic of China cabled Cai E and Yan Changheng from September to October 1912, ordering them to stop fighting. The advance teams of the westward expeditionary troops thus stopped moving further when they reached Gongbo’gyamda.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry refuted the five-point note from the British side on December 23, 1912: In accordance with the 1906 treaty signed between China and Britain on Tibet, no countries in the world except China have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet: China has not sent numerous troops into Tibet, and has only sent a certain number of troops to certain places in accordance with the 1908 treaty on trade under which Britain entrust China to protect the market and the Indian-Tibet communication route; as China and Britain have twice concluded conditions on Tibetan affairs, there is no need to conclude a new treaty; recognition of the Republic of China is another matter separate from the Tibetan issue, and Britain is expected to recognize the Republic of China earlier than other countries.
The British government refuted the Chinese note and continued to force the Chinese government to act in accordance with the five points it raised.
On January 11, 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama sent Derzhi to Kulun, where he signed Mongolia-Tibet Treaty. Both Xagabba and Van Praag use this as an evidence for “Tibetan independence.” However, it was known to all that not only China but the international community as a whole refused to recognize the so-called Mongolian state supported by Czarist Russia. It was far from being a sovereign state. When China and Russia signed a treaty for the settlement of pending cases in 1924, the Soviet government recognized Outer Mongolia as part of the Republic of China. The Mongolian People’s Republic was founded as a sovereign state after the conclusion of the Sino-Russian treaty. Tibet, on its own part, however, has never become an independent state. The treaty signed by two self-styled “independent” minority nationality areas in China when China was in chaos after the Revolution of 1911, naturally, does not possess the nature of a treaty signed between sovereign states. As the Chinese government refused to recognize the Mongolia-Tibet Treaty, it was therefore invalid. The signing filled Britain with fear that Czarist Russian forces were highly likely to meddle with Tibetan affairs once more. When Charles Bell was sent to get information from Xazha, Xazha replied: ‘The 13th Dalai Lama didn’t authorize Derzhi to conclude any treaty with Mongolia. He had just sent an ordinary letter to Derzhi, asking him to work hard for the benefit of Buddhism.” (Ya Hanzhang: Biography of the Dalai Lama, p.222) This is evidence that neither the 13th Dalai Lama nor Xazha recognized the Mongolia-Tibet Treaty.
Out of his fear for the possible impact of Czarist Russia’s influence on Tibet with the signing of the Mongolia-Tibet Treaty, John Jordan made a proposal to the British government: These new things—the elimination of Chinese forces in Tibet and Russia’s contact with Tibet through Mongolia—require us to revise our Tibet policies….First of all, we should establish closer ties with the 13th Dalai Lama and gain a thorough understanding of arrangements which the Tibetan government would make….Signing a tripartite treaty between Britain, China and Tibet is perhaps the best choice. Holding negotiations for conclusion of such a treaty between the three parties should be a good beginning. Even if the negotiation fails, we may have a more favorable place to talk with Tibet which is independent of Chinese. (Song Liming: Historical Background for the Convocation of the Simla Conference. p.35, issue No.2, 1992, China Tibetology). The British Indian government accepted the proposal, and began masterminding convocation of the so-called “tripartite conference”.
At that time, the government of the Republic of China had not been widely recognized internationally. Various political forces in China were not unified. Politically, the government of the Republic of China needed recognition and support from powers in the world. Economically, it was hard pressed and was in urgent need for foreign loans. Yuan Shi-kai wished, first of all, to win British government recognition and loans from British consortia. Yielding to British pressure, the government of the Republic of China prepared to accept its conditions and enter into negotiations.
Britain continued to exert more pressure on the Chinese government. When the latter appointed Lu Xingqi as the Tibetan affairs official in April 1913 and informed the British Indian government of the news. Britain flagrantly refused to accept the fact and prevented him from entering Tibet via India and even from writing to Tibetans. As a result, Lu had to handle the Tibetan affairs in India. When the 13th Dalai Lama learnt of Lu’s appointment, however, he cabled Yuan Shi-kai right away telling Yuan he planned to send people to discuss Han-Tibetan affairs in Darjeeling, but had received no reply. (Ya Hanzhang: Biography of the Panchen Erdeni, p.227) This shows the 13th Dalai Lama accepted Lu’s appointment and intended to send people to contact him in India. His plan fizzled out because of British obstruction.
Britain left no stone unturned to prevent the Central Government of China from entering into direct talks with the local government of Tibet, and force the Chinese government to agree to participate in the “tripartite” talks by threatening not to recognize the Republic of China and grant loans. These facts suffice to show that Britain not only interfered with the internal affairs of China but aimed to tear China apart.
Yuan Shi-kai nominated Zhang Yingtang as the representative of China to participate the “tripartite” conference. The British side, knowing Zhang was a very tough negotiator, refused to accept him. Having no way out, Yuan nominated Evan Chen. As Chen once worked in the Chinese Embassy in Britain, he was accepted. When the government of the Republic of China nominated Hu Hanmin as another representative, the British side forced withdrawal of the nomination on the grounds he had showed anti-British tendencies. British intervention in the nomination of Chinese representatives, participating in the “tripartite” conference shows how far Britain had gone in interfering into the internal affairs of China.
With regard to the title of and power due to the Chinese representatives, the government of the Republic of China declared time and again that Evan Chen was the “Tibet pacification commissioner,” a title granted to show China’s sovereignty over Tibet, and refused to agree that the Tibetan representative participating in the conference held full power. On July 15, 1913, Gu Weijin with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with B. Alston and pointed out: If the Tibetan delegate uses “fully empowered minister,” the Chinese government can hardly accept him. When an agreement has to be signed towards the end of the conference and the Tibetan delegate can not sign it in a position on equal footing with the Chinese and British delegates, the Chinese government will not admit that Tibet enjoys the right to conclude any agreement. On July 28, the British side demanded the Tibetan government be put on equal footing with the Central Government of China, with Britain acting as mediator. The British side said Henry McMahon was fully empowered to negotiate with the representatives of China and Tibet upon invitation by the 13th Dalai Lama. When this was categorically refused by the Chinese government, the British threatened not to attend the conference. The Yuan Shi-kai government, obsessed with seeking recognition from Britain, made concessions. As a result, the British-engineered “Simla Conference” was monopolized by Britain from beginning to end. The 13th Dalai Lama, favored by the British, was eager to hold the conference but had no initiative in this regard. The Chinese government, on it own part, was entirely passive.
On October 2, 1913, Evan Chen arrived in India. For fear that the Tibetan officials would waver when meeting with officials of the Chinese Central Government, Britain refused to allow Evan Chen to meet Xazha. Special people were sent to “accompany” and “receive” the Tibetan delegates, placing them under strict control and supervision. This suffices to show the “Simla Conference” was not, as the British claimed, a conference at which representatives of the three sides enjoyed equal rights. Instead, it was a conference at which the British suppressed the rights of the Tibetan delegates and the representatives of the Chinese Central Government. At that time, Evan Chen and Lu Xingqi sent each other cables and often made reports to Beijing. These cables were all intercepted by the British, enabling them to learn of Chinese plans and negotiating stance. This constituted another cause why the Chinese delegates landed in a quagmire during the “Simla Conference.”
On October 6, 1913, the British government announced recognition of the Republic of China in response to the Yuan Shi-kai government’s consent to hold the humiliating “Simla Conference.”
The “Simla Conference” was officially held on October 13. It was chaired by Henry McMahon, the British representative. Tibetan Representative Xazha raised a six-point demand at the very beginning in accordance with the decision made secretly with the British. Highlights of the demand included: (1) Tibet wins independence and the treaty signed between China and Britain in Beijing in 1906 is invalid; (2) China-Tibet border be delineated to cover the whole of Qinghai and border areas of Sichuan; (3) The treaty signed in 1893 and 1908 on trade between Tibet and India be revised by Britain and Tibet, with China having no say in the revision; (4) China is not allowed to station people in Tibet, and Chinese business people are not allowed to enter the area without passport issued by Tibet; (5) Monasteries in China and Mongolia, which accept the Dalai Lama as the Buddhist leader, should have abbots appointed by the Dalai Lama, and Chinese and Mongolian monks should give financial alms to monasteries in Tibet, a practice which will be the case in the future; and (6) Taxes collected by China from Zhandui (present-day Xinlong County in Garze Prefecture, Sichuan Province) be returned and all losses inflicted on the Tibetans be repaid.
The six points boil down to the following: Tibet is a independent state; contacts between the local government of Tibet and the Central Government be cut off; Tibetan areas in Qinghai and Sichuan be cut off from China to become part of Tibet. The six points were more than what the 13th Dalai Lama demanded beforehand. As a matter of fact, they were meant to put the Amdo Tibetan areas, put under the Xining minister during the reigns of Qing Emperors Yongzhen and Qianlong, and the Kamba Tibetan area put under the Sichuan governor under the Gaxag government of Tibet. Historically, the Gaxag government had never administrated the Amdo and Kamba Tibetan areas (except for Xinlong, bestowed on the Dalai Lama by the Qing court). All the six points were raised with the support of the British side, with first and the second points engineered by Charles Bell.
On November 1, Evan Chen refuted the proposals made by Xazha in accordance with instructions from the government of the Republic of China. He expounded the reasons why Tibet is part of China. On this basis, he proposed: (1) Tibet is part of China; (2) China may station its officials in Lhasa; these officials enjoy the same powers and rights as officials previously stationed there; they may have 2,600 guards; (3) Tibet must seek instructions from the Central Government of China before taking actions on matters such as foreign, military and government affairs; without the approval of the Central Government of China. Tibet is not allowed to conclude any agreement with foreign countries; (4) The Tibetan government must set free those jailed for favoring the Han and return their properties to them; (5) The fifth point raised by the Tibetan side may be open for negotiation; (6) If the trading terms concluded previously need to be revised, the revision should be done by the Chinese and the British sides in accordance with the third article of the 1906 Sino-British Treaty; and (7) The Chinese-Tibetan border be identified in the attached map.
Given the vast difference between the Tibetan and Chinese proposals, the conference went into informal talks during which both sides were free to make explanations. Evan Chen reaffirmed that, as Tibet is part of the Chinese territory, there was no need to delineate the boundary between Tibet and China; even though Tibet was allowed to exercise autonomy, the autonomy should be exercised in an area west of Gongbo’gyamda (Taizhao) under the rule of the Central Government of China. Xazha and others, under British instigation, not only demanded independence but also attempted to expand the Tibetan area to Kangding.
Henry McMahon stepped in as mediator at this time. First, he asked the Chinese and Tibetan delegates to discuss the so-called Chinese-Tibetan border issues. Understanding what this proposal meant, Xazha expressed agreement. Evan Chen, thinking the border issue was not on the conference agenda, persisted that the negotiations should be conducted in accordance with the proposal made by the Central Government of China, article by article. The British, however, insisted that the border issue be negotiated. On January 12, 1914, the Central Government of China and the local government of Tibet submitted their own documents on the issue.
On February 17, a plenary session was held. In his speech, Henry McMahon talked glibly about Tibetan autonomy and China’s “suzerainty” over Tibet, and refrained from using such words as “Tibetan independence” and “Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.” Following the methods used to divide Outer and Inner Mongolia, he proposed a division into “Inner Tibet” and “Outer Tibet”, with the separate entities to be marked with red and blue lines respectively on the map.
The red line drawn to serve as the borderline of “Inner Tibet” goes along Kunlun Mountain which now serves as the borderline for Xinjiang and Tibet, and extends northeastward to cross the northern part of Qinghai Province, following the northeast edge of the Chaidamu Basin and then turning southeastward to Kangding, where the line moves south and then west to cross the northwestern part of Yunnan, following the Himalayan mountain ridges until reaching the Chinese border with Bhutan. The blue line drawn to serve as the borderline of “Outer Tibet” and “Inner Tibet” goes from the present-day Xinjiang-Qinghai-Tibet borderline and extends off the red line eastward largely along the Kunlun and Bayankala mountains, where it turns southeast, passing between the Lancangjiang and Jinshajiang rivers to reach the present-day Yunnan-Sichuan-Tibet borderline before merging with the red line. This blue line indicates that the Amdo Tibetan area in southwest Qinghai, and the western part of the Kamba Tibetan area would be put under the administration of the Gaxag government of Tibet, although it had never ruled these areas.
According to the proposal of the British side, China enjoyed certain sovereignty in the Inner Tibet, while Outer Tibet would be ruled by the Tibetans themselves. The plot lies in the following: As the first step, “Outer Tibet” seeks independence through autonomy so as to separate from China and come under British control; as the second step, “Inner Tibet” is incorporated into the “Tibet state” attached to Britain when the British forces in Outer Tibet had gradually consolidated their position, and the Tibetan military forces had extended eastward. The 13th Dalai Lama knew nothing of this plot beforehand.
Xazha and some others, pretending not to accept the Henry McMahon proposal, demanded the use of the six points raised by the Tibetan side. Evan Chen failed to see through the British plot. He only proposed revision of the scope of Inner and Outer Tibet.
The British side turned a deaf ear. At the plenary session held on March 11, they used British recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet as a bait to put forth an 11-article document for mediation, which, in essence, was much like the six-point proposal raised by Xazha.
Under British pressure, Evan Chen was forced to give up his principled stand that “the names of the Inner and Outer Tibet should not be used”. He agreed, one by one, with the articles of the British document for mediation aimed at China’s sovereignty. He went so far as to make major concessions in the border issues at the March 18 and 28 and April 3 meetings. With regard to the border of Sichuan and Tibet, he promised to retreat from the previously upheld Gongbo’gyamda first to Dainda Mountain and then to the Najiang River. This means a backward retreat of about 300 km as the crow flies.
Behind the back of the Chinese delegates, the British clinched a dirty deal with Xazha and some others: Tibet cedes 90,000 square km of Chinese territory at the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border to Britain in return for further British pressure and China to allow Tibet to become independent. The “McMahon Line”, then rarely known, but now known to all, was created against this background.
The eastern section of the Sino-Indian borderline had been for some 1,000 years along the southern foot of the Himalayas, skirting the Assam Plain of India. The traditional borderline went northward to the ridges of the Himalayas, taking in the Moinyu¸Lhoyu and Zayu which had always been under the jurisdiction of China’s Tibet. In these areas live, respectively, the Moinba, Lhoba and Deng peoples; each area is also home to some Tibetans. From the winter of 1911 to 1913, Britain cashed in on the destabilized situation in China that followed the 1911 Revolution to sneak military personnel illegally into these areas for espionage activities on repeated occasions. From May to November, 1913, prior to the convocation of the “Simla Conference,” Henry McMahon personally sent Major F. M. Bailey into these areas to survey roads and gather information. On this basis, a detailed map on these areas was worked out. Acting in accordance with the instructions from the British Indian government, Major F. M. Bailey and some others drew a line basically along the ridges of the Himalayas extending from the China-Myanmar borderline to the China-Bhutan borderline. This is now known as the “McMahon Line” which attempted to take away some 90,000 square km at the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border.
While Evan Chen and Xazha were hotly discussing issues concerning the delineation of the “Inner and Outer Tibet” as proposed by the British, Charles Bell produced the map identified with the “McMahon Line” to Xazha behind the back of the Central Government delegates of China, and asked the Tibetan side to turn Moinyu, Lhoyu and Zayu south of the line totally over to British India in return for British support for “Tibetan independence” and for British assistance in driving the Sichuan army out of Qamdo and some other areas in Tibet.
In areas coveted by the British, there were the vested interests of the local government of Tibet, monasteries, manors and pasturelands. And the 6th Dalai Lama was born in Moinyu. Given these facts, Xazha and representatives of the three major monasteries dared not give consent. Xazha told the British side: We have not been entrusted to negotiate on issues concerning the British-Tibetan border. The border between Lhoyu and Tibet involves many places, and the issue cannot be solved here. Charles Bell, however, threatened that whether this peace talks could yield good results depended entirely on the matter (meaning the “McMahon Line”). Charles Bell also said that income due to Tibetan nobles and monasteries in area south of the “McMahon Line” might not be touched. Under this situation, Xazha, who was eager to win British support for “Tibetan independence”, sent people back to Lhasa for instruction. In his letter to the local government of Tibet, Xazha said that, according to what Charles Bell had said, he and his party would have to be delayed in India if the Tibetan side rejected the “McMahon Line” and the British side would give no support to Tibet on matters involving the Han and Tibetans. In that case, the British were highly likely to hate Tibet and would collaborate with the Han, a situation in which they would achieve their goal and Tibet would be in an isolated position. This would exert serious impact on the religious and government affairs in Tibet.
Silun Xoikang, on behalf of the local government, hesitated, and in his first reply to Xazha he gave no clear answer. Later, however, he wrote to Xazha, stating: “It is not suitable to see that the Great Britain government, on which Tibet depends sincerely, is not happy. We hope to stress the demand for future independence of Tibet and for making the Han troops pull out of the Kam right away to the Han area. So long as we can achieve these results, we may send people as soon as we get the notice (from Britain) to delineate the border and transfer income, land and residents of the Tibetan government to the British government personnel.” (Yang Gongsu: History on China’s Struggle Against Foreign Invasion and Intervention of Tibet. P.194)
Britain readily agreed with these conditions. On March 24, Henry McMahon sent a letter to Xazha. Enclosed in the letter were two copies of the map red-marked with the “McMahon Line” as the boundary between India and Tibet, asking him to sign and affix his seal on them as confirmation. Xazha signed and put his seal on the two copies. He left one copy with Tibet, while sending the other to the British side, along with a letter dated March 25 to Henry McMahon, in which he informed the British that he had confirmed the illegal “McMahon Line” as the boundary between Indian and Tibet. This gave the British an excuse to illegally occupy the 90,000 square km of Chinese territory, to which Xazha had agreed without the knowledge of the Chinese delegates.
With Xazha’s acceptance of the “McMahon Line,” Britain moved to lure and force the Chinese government into agreeing to take the British document for mediation as the draft treaty. As the Yuan Shi-kai government had never dared to give up Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, Henry McMahon made a sly revision of his document for mediation, but retained the basic contents of the original. On April 27, Henry McMahon brought the revised copy of the document for mediation and the attached map to the meeting, giving a memorandum to the Chinese side: The Chinese side must give an affirmative answer to the draft treaty and the map otherwise he would declare a split in the conference and Britain would conclude an agreement with Tibet directly. Highlights of the draft treaty included: (1) Tibet be divided into Inner and Outer Tibet; (2) China enjoys suzerainty over the whole of Tibet but is not allowed to turn Tibet into a province; (3) Britain will not annex any part of Tibet; (4) Outer Tibet is autonomous and China should refrain from interfering with its administration, sending troops and officials (except in the following sixth point), and turning Tibet into a colony. Britain will not take such actions in Tibet either, but will retain its commercial attaches plus a certain number of guards in Tibet; (5) The central government of Tibet in Lhasa reserves its established rights in Inner Tibet, including the right to manage most of the monasteries and appoint local officials. However, China may send troops and officials into Inner Tibet or run a colony there; (6) China continues to station high officials in Lhasa, plus up to 300 guards; and (7) British commercial attaches in Gyangze are allowed to go to Lhasa to settle problems which could not be settled in Gyangze. By the time of initialing the treaty, the British side played tricks by asking Xazha to sign first. When it was Evan Chen’s turn, Henry McMahon declared that both the British and Tibetan delegates had signed, so the Chinese delegate had to make a decision right away. Evan Chen was afraid that refusing to sign under the existing situation would offend the British, and so he marked “Okay” on it. When doing this, Evan Chen declared that this was a absolutely different from signing. Signing the treaty called for endorsement from the Chinese government. Even when he had marked “Okay”, this move would be invalid if the Chinese government refused approval.
When Lu Xingqi had read the initialed treaty, he cabled Yuan Shi-kai right away: “Shocked to find tricky diplomatic means of the Indian government. The content is cruel enough to have Tibet under its control, depriving us of our sovereignty over the region,” “The matter concerns territorial sovereignty. How could we give it up under pressure from others?” (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. P301). The treaty touched off a nationwide opposition, especially in Xinjiang, Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan. The government of the Republic of China cabled Evan Chen on May 1 not to sign the official treaty, and, in the meantime, sent a note to the British Embassy in China, pointing out that what Evan Chen had done was an individual act and, therefore, invalid.
On July 3, 1914, Britain, in total disregard of opposition from the Chinese government, flagrantly ordered Henry McMahon to, on behalf of Britain, sign the “Simla Convention” which Xazha also signed, The two also worked out an appendix, which stated that “as the Chinese government didn’t sign the convention, rights due to the Chinese government, as contained in the convention, are invalid.” (Zhu Qiyuan and Xerab Nyima: The Relations Between the Central Government and the Local Government of Tibet During the Republic of China. P.51) Evan Chen read out the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry right away: China does not agree with and cannot accept the convention, which has been signed by the British and Tibetan sides.
Thus, the so-called “Simla Conference” ended in failure.
As the “Simla Convention” was signed only by the British and Tibetan delegates and the Chinese delegate refused to sign, it is illegal and invalid. Even the British government admitted that the “Simla Conference” failed to produce any treaty with the Chinese government as a signatory. Henry McMahon also admitted: Before I left India. I failed to make the Chinese government officially sign the tripartite agreement. I am sorry for this failure. (Neville Maxwell: India’s China War, p.45) Van Praag once makes the following statements: In view of the impact of the tripartite agreement on Sino-Tibetan relations or on the status of Tibet, this treaty is of no significant value. This is because in less than one day following the initializing of the draft treaty, the Chinese government rejected the behavior of its fully-empowered delegate who initialed the treaty. In the meantime, the Chinese government refused to accept this treaty. Van Praag also says: As China refused to accept what the British confirmed as the geographical and political area of Tibet which includes two places, the division of Outer and Inner Tibet is actually invalid. In the eighth chapter of the book entitled The Status of Tibet, however, he describes what he called an invalid treaty as powerful evidence for Tibet to be an “independent” state. Xagabba says in a tone which impresses others that the treaty is valid: “The British and Tibetan endorsement of this treaty virtually wipes out China’s suzerainty over Tibet, and reaffirms the right due to Tibet to become independent and sign treaties.” The statement which converts an invalid treaty into a valid one should be counted as an addictive hobby of Xagabba.
As the “McMahon Line” went beyond the agenda of the “Simla Conference” and was created by the British and Tibetan sides behind the back of the Chinese side, it was naturally illegal and invalid.
Neville Maxwell, a famous international commentator, made a deep and honest analysis of the “Simla Conference.” The “Simla Conference” itself is a story. If involves a show of diplomatic ploys, power polities, espionage and other complicated performances. He went on to point out: The essence of the “McMahon Line” is to push the border northward for about 60 miles, and move the strategically open mountain ranges to the top of the Himalayas in Assam. (Neville Maxwell: India’s China War. P.47)
In addition to Maxwell’s book, many justice-seeking foreign scholars have produced books to throw light to and attack the cheating acts of Britain in staging the “Simla Conference” and producing the “McMahon Line.” They include The Making of Modern Tibet by A Tom Grunfeld and The China-India Border by British scholar Alastair Lamb. The late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai expounded the illegality of the “Simla Convention” and the “McMahon Line” and China’s stern stand on these matters in his November 15, 1962 letter to leaders of Asian and African countries. Qabai Cedain, a noted Tibetan scholar, pointed out sharply: “The Simla Convention is illegal and serves as the evidence that the British imperialists plotted to tear Tibet from the motherland” (Qabai Cedain Puncong and Norcham Wugyain: Concise History of Tibet, middle volume, Tibetan edition, p.677) One of the authors of this book was told in Tibet that Sangpo Zhaxa Cewang Rinzen had said indignantly that his Magor Manor in Moinyu was lost to others: Lhalu Cewang Doje said painfully that his Baqa Xirin Manor in Lhoyu was seized by others: Dawang Lhanyi Yexei Chilai said angrily that the beautiful Moinyu suffered from foreign occupation.
In the face of condemnation from people nationwide and even worldwide, Xagabba and Van Praag feel awkward when talking of the “Simla Conference” and the “McMahon Line”. They mention nothing on many issues. Though some issues are touched in their books, they make no venture to go deep into them. For example, Xagabba mentions only the name of this line, and quotes two letters exchanged between Henry McMahon and Xazha. Except for these, he says nothing of the birth of this, how large the land area south of the line that formerly belonged to Tibet was, and why Britain tried to occupy it. As a result, people who read his book gain no knowledge of the “McMahon Line” issue. Another example is found in “Inner and Outer Tibet.” Both Van Pragg and Xagabba simply mention the fact that the division was proposed by Henry McMahon seemingly as one method to be used to satisfy the need of both sides and eventually bring them together for reconciliation. They mention nothing of the British plan to achieve “Tibetan independence” in two steps, when the Tibetan army could hardly move to area east of Qamdo and the Sichuan army had already controlled the Kam area in the east: As the first step, Outer Tibet achieves independence in the name of “autonomy;” and as the second step, Inner Tibet achieves independence when the Tibetan army succeeds in advancing eastward. As a result, the readers would not be able to have a good understanding of the “Inner and Outer Tibet” issue.
From these facts one sees Xagabba and Van Praag do have their difficulties probing the depth of these problems. The Simla Conference” and the “McMahon Line” served as a show of imperialist greed and high-handed behavior. They are afraid that closely examining these problems would bring the ugly performance of the British into the light.
After the “Simla Conference,” the British side asked Xazha to bring handsome gifts to the 13th Dalai Lama. The latter, however, never said in the public that he accepted the “Simla Convention.” Charles Bell once revealed the 13th Dalai Lama’s serious discontent with Xazha by saying: When Xazha returned to Lhasa, he found the Dalai Lama was dissatisfied with what he did during the negotiations. He was summoned to meet him at six in the morning, but the Dalai Lama made him wait until five in the afternoon. Xazha and his friends kept quiet about the Dalai Lama’s reprimand, which, however, has been revealed. (Charles Bell: Biography of the 13th Dalai Lama. P.195 translated by Feng Qiyou). In his book, Xagabba says: “I am at a loss as to why the 13th Dalai Lama and the Gaxag refrained from making the treaty public to the Tibetan monks and other people, with the result that the public is highly unlikely to be clear about the content of the treaty.”
The “Simla Conference” served as a troubled water stirred up by separatists under the instigation of Britain out of the need for “Tibet independence”. The Chinese government, backed by the Chinese people, the Tibetans included, stood up the impact of the troubled water at the critical moment.
In an effort to make its promises to Tibet a reality, Britain moved to beef up Tibet military might. It gave the Gaxag government of Tibet 5,000 out-of-date British army rifles, plus ammunition, as a reward for the 90,000 square km of the land south of the “McMahon Line.” This made it possible for the Tibetan army to be armed with modern equipment for the first time in history. In the meantime, Britain opened a military school in Gyangze to help train Tibetan officers. Tibet also sent people to India to study the use of heavy artillery and machine guns. The Gaxag government then organized the headquarters of the Tibetan army, which expanded from four regiments, totaling 3,000 men to 11 regiments, totalling 8,000 men. The Tibetan army thus grew in strength.
In the winter of 1914, Domai Gyichao Galoon Lama Qamba Dainda led Deboin Cuike’s regiment to Gongbo’gyamda in the east. A regiment led by Deboin Gongran also moved eastward to the 39-Tribe area. Other Tibetan troops followed these eastward moves. These well-equipped Tibetan troops, with strong resentment for the Han, often collided with the Sichuan army. The peace of the area was at risk.
In the autumn of 1917, the Sichuan troops stationed in Riwoqe captured two Tibetan soldiers who had “crossed the border” to cut grass. They were escorted to Qamdo. The Tibetan military leaders dispatched a letter to the Sichuan garrison, demanding the return of the two Tibetan soldiers and claiming the Tibetan military court would punish them. Peng Risheng, the commander of the Sichuan army, however, beheaded the two Tibetans. The indignant Tibetan army attacked the garrison and captured Riwoqe and Nganda before closing in on Qamdo and Chagyab. As the Sichuan warlord was busy fighting the Yunnan warlord, only a battalion was sent from the Sichuan border to Peng’s rescue, Qamdo fell to the Tibetans in April 1918 and Peng was taken alive. The Tibetan army then moved eastward in a pincer attack, capturing Dege, Dengke and five other counties. In July, the Tibetan army engaged the Sichuan army at Rongbecha west of Garze for over 20 days. The two forces dug in on opposite banks of the Yarlung River. When Cheng Xialing, a Sichuan border official, sent people to Lhasa, they received a letter from the 13th Dalai Lama claiming the Tibetans were “sorry to have offended their patron” and that they were “willing to seek peace.”
These battles constituted the first eastward invasion of a Tibetan army during the Republic of China.
The British government was glad to see the Tibetan army defeat the Sichuan army and approach the western bank of the Yarlung River. Eric Teichman, the British vice-consul to China, who was then shuttling between Gansu and Qinghai, was rushed to Tibet under the pretext of mediation. Actually he was charged with assisting the Tibetan army in consolidating its gains in the field. Chen Xialing sent Liu Zanting to negotiate with the Tibetan army at Qamdo, during which Erie Teichman brought out a 13-article peace agreement that he had engineered together with the Tibetans. The agreement included the following provisions:
(1) The Sichuan and Tibetan armies remain on the lands they currently hold. The Sichuan army stays in Batang. Yanjin, Yideng, Derong, Litang, Garze, Xinlung, Luhuo, Daofu, Yajiang and Kangding, and the Tibetan army stays in Riwoqe, Nganda, Qamdo, Toinpu, Dengkou, Dege and Shiqu. Neither should cross the temporarily drawn borderline.
(2) No force is allowed to settle issues surfacing following the signing of this agreement. Instead, the British consulate will be invited to mediate.
(3) This is a provisional agreement. A tripartite government conference should be held between the Chinese, British and Tibetan sides for the conclusion of a lasting peace agreement which, however, should not contain any revised articles of this agreement.
The above shows the British did its best to legalize the fact that the Tibetan army had already crossed the boundary of the so-called “Inner and Outer Tibet”, and went on to force the Chinese government to agree with the holding of another tripartite conference so as to sign an official agreement.
With regard to the contents of the agreement, Liu Zanting said that “the conflicts between the Sichuan and Tibetan armies fall under the internal affairs of China, and no outsiders should intervene” (selected Materials on the History of Tibet, p.308) He refused to sign the agreement. Chen Xialing also refused to sign it on the excuse that “the peace agreement loses authority and hence is invalid.” (Ya Hanzhang: Biography of the Dalai Lama. p.230) Meanwhile, Liu dispatched his man to Rongbecha to negotiate with Deboin Gongran of the Tibetan army. In October, both sides signed the Agreement on Ceasefire and Withdrawal of Troops at the Border. Under the agreement, the Sichuan army retreated to Garze and the Tibetan army to Dege; various counties in Xikang that had been captured by the Tibetan army were put under Tibetan control for the time being, with Rongbecha serving as the border for the northern route and Ningjingshan Mountain serving as the border for the southern route; the term of the ceasefire was one year, and was in place awaiting negotiations between representatives of the Chinese president and the Dalai Lama. This provisional ceasefire agreement ruled out the possibility for the British to intervene and stressed that the conflicts were the internal affairs of China. The agreement accepted the Tibetan army’s occupation of various counties, with the result that the Sichuan army controlled only 17 of 33 countries in Xikang.
At this point, the Northern Warlords split into the Hebei, Anhui and Lianning factions. In addition, the political scene included local warlords in the south and the revolutionary forces of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, China was torn apart, with incessant fighting between the various political forces. Under this situation, President Xu Shichang was unable to negotiate from strength. He had no leisure to discuss terms with the 13th Dalai Lama on matters concerning the eastward invasion of the Tibetan army. The crack forces of the Sichuan Army were engaged with the Yunnan army, and therefore had no extra strength to cope with the Tibetan army. The government of the Republic of China and the Sichuan warlord had no choice but to accept the provisional agreement for a one-year ceasefire.
Xagabba does not mention the invalidity of the Qamdo Agreement, but stresses that the wording and the events leading to the birth of the agreement show that Tibet was a power in the region, and the fact that the governments of the three sides involved with the agreement, including the Chinese, pleaded for British mediation testifies that Tibet was independent. This conclusion is, however, unfounded. It is very common for a ceasefire to be the end result of armed conflict between two local forces or between a local force and the Central Government. When one local force has gained a temporary and regional victory, this does not signify that the local power was an independent state prior to the struggle or had become an independent state as a result of the struggle. From 1915 to 1916, Cai E led the warlord armies of Yunnan against Yuan Shi-kai, who had declared himself president for life and emperor of China. The struggles ended with the abdication of Yuan. In this case, no one claims Cai E won independence for Yunnan. So why should the same yardstick be applied in the case of Tibet?
(4) Around the Gansu Delegation’s Entry into Tibet
In May 1919, Britain, on the excuse that the one-year ceasefire agreement had expired, urged the Chinese government to negotiate with the British on matters concerning the re-delineation of the boundary between “Tibet and China,” and flagrantly proposed that the large tracts of land in Xikang occupied by the Tibetan army in 1918 and parts of southern Qinghai be turned over to Tibet.
At that time, China was experiencing the May 4 Movement, with Chinese patriots, composed mainly of the Chinese students, raising such resounding slogans as “Winning national interests in foreign affairs and punishing traitors.” Under the pressure of national opinion, the government of the Republic of China decided not to re-negotiate with the British for the time being.
The government, on September 5, made public all matters concerning the British negotiations with the Tibetan government concerning Tibet after the “Simla Conference.” People from all walks of life throughout the country rose in indignation to protest the British move to tear Tibet from China and intervene in China’s internal affairs. The Sichuan provincial parliament adopted a motion that pointed out: “Since Tibet is part of Chinese territory, there is no boundary between China and Tibet. Agreeing to re-delineate the boundary means giving Tibet tacit consent to divorce itself from China…[We should] do our best to refuse the British intervention in delineating a boundary at the Sichuan border.”(Selected Materials, on the History of Tibet. P.310) Chinese students in Japan sent cables back home. One stated: “This matter concerns the life and death of our country, so we should not make concessions lightly. We must avoid numerous troubles in the future.” ((Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. P.311) With the strong opposition of the people nationwide, the British plot failed.
Next, the government ordered the Gansu army to send a delegation into Tibet. Acting in accordance with this order, Li Zonglian, Zhu Xiu and others arrived in Lhassa in December, where they met with the 13th Dalai Lama. This marked the first time the Central Government of China had sent emissaries into Tibet in spite of the British obstruction in the eight years following the Revolution of 1911. Zhu Xiu and other delivered gifts and a letter from Zhang Guangjian, the commanding general of the Gansu army, to the 13th Dalai Lama. During their stay in Lhasa, Zhu and Li worked patiently and asked the 13th Dalai Lama to send people to Beijing to take part in formal negotiations. They also met with Gaxag government officials, representatives of the three major monasteries and ordinary people, Gratifying results were scored in four months. In April 1920, “Zhu Xiu and others left Tibet for Gansu. On the eve of their departure, the 13th Dalai Lama threw a feast in their honor and said it was not his original intention to be pro-British. He had done so because the Qing imperial commissioner went to the extreme. He said he was glad to have the delegation in Tibet and that he hoped the Chinese president would send a fully empowered delegate to Lhasa to settle the issue. He went on to say he was fully in support of the Chinese nation and sought harmony between the five nationalities. He said the “Simla Conference’ draft treaty may be revised.” (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. Pp.464-465) The 13th Dalai Lama asked Zhu Xiu and others to forward gifts to Zhang Guangjian and to deliver an official letter written in Chinese and Tibetan.
Before the delegation’s departure, the 13th Dalai Lama sent Garboin Lobsang Gendain to Huangyuan in Qinghai to present gifts. In his letter to Zhang, the 13th Dalai Lama said: “Thank you for sending envoys here from afar to bring me a letter and perform grand rituals. In the face of these, I feel ashamed….If there is any confidential document, please inform Lobsang Gendain.” Tibet Is an Inseparable Part of China. P.466)
From this one sees the government of the Republic of China and the 13th Dalai Lama had somewhat improved their relations. Even Charles Bell admitted this is the only event to have taken place since 1910 when the Chinese army forced the 13th Dalai Lama to lead an exile life, and also an expression of the collapsing relations between Britain and Tibet, (Charles Bell [Britain]: Biography of the 13th Dalai Lama. P.207, translated by Feng Qiyou)
When Zhu Xiu and others returned to the hinterland, there was a war between the Hebei and Anhui and Anhui factions of the Northern Warlord. The Nationalist Government had no time to ask after the Tibetan issue. As a result, the relations between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet failed to be further improved.
In order to discourage the local government of Tibet from improving relations with the government of the Republic of China and prevent the 13th Dalai Lama from getting closer to the motherland. Britain sent Charles Bell, the British political officer in charge of Sikkim, and others to Lhasa in 1920. Charles Bell arrived with more than 20 horse loads of weapons. He also promised to give Tibet 5,000 advanced rifles on the excuse that “Tibet needs to maintain her independence,” which, he added, “depends on the expansion and improvement of its army.” (Charles Bell [Britain]: Biography of the 13th Dalai Lama, p.245, translated by Feng Qiyou) At this point, Tibet was preparing to expand its army to include 17,000 men in accordance with the British scheme. Arms expansion called for financial input, Charles Bell suggested the 13th Dalai Lama increase tax collections from monasteries and nobles.
When the proposal was revealed to the public, many voices arose in opposition. In the spring of 1921, more than 20,000 lamas from the three major monasteries in Lhasa, who were attending the Grand Summons Ceremony, demanded the punishment of traitors and expulsion of the Westerners. The 13th Dalai Lama felt ill at ease with the situation, but Charles Bell said: “You have an army of 6,000,” which is “strong enough to calm down the few large monasteries.” (Charles Bell [Britain]: Biography of the 13th Dalai Lama. P.271, translated by Feng Qiyou) This persuaded the 13th Dalai Lama to suppress the lamas through military force. Some 3,000 Tibetan troops were sent to surround the Zhaibung Monastery, disarming some 5,000 lamas who were preparing an attack on Lhasa with a view to driving the Westerners out of Tibet. This failed to calm public unrest. The walls surrounding the residence of Charles Bell were often covered with posters urging him to leave Tibet or forfeit his life. This frightened Charles Bell. The 13th Dalai Lama told him that, given the deep hatred on the part of the Tibetans, he would have to leave right away. Otherwise, he could not longer perform his duty of protecting him. (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. p.318) Charles Bell fled to India in October. As a result, the British plan for Tibet to expand its army with funds raised from increased taxation failed.
Tibetan opposition to Britain grained momentum, which found expression in Charles Bell’s expulsion from Tibet. According to reports made by Zhu Xiu and Li Zhonglian, the Tibetan political forces split into the “old” and “new” factions. The “old” faction was composed of chief abbot and lamas from the three major monasteries in Lhasa, who accounted for 70-80 percent of the total. People of this faction yearned for harmonious relations with the motherland. The “new” faction was led by the four Galoon officials, making up 20-30 percent of the total. Among the members of this faction, there were wavering elements under the sway of wild British ambitions.
During this period, the British were assisting pro-British Galoon Charong Dasang Zhamdui to organize a police force aimed at tighter control of the Tibetans. With the approval of Gaxag government, the Lhasa Police was formed in 1923. Britain sent Soinam Laiden, a Sikkim Bengali police chief, to Lhasa to take charge of the training as the head of the Lhasa Police. The new police force behaved arrogantly, offending the locals. They organized two demonstrations in front of the residence of Soinam Laiden and knelt down before the 13th Dalai Lama, pleading him to dispel this man. As a result, Soinam Laiden left Tibet for India. All the police officers were dismissed and 50 policemen were chosen to be put under the leadership of the Lhasa mayor. The British concocted police system in Tibet was thus aborted.
Although Charles Bell and Soinam Laiden had been dispelled from Tibet by the Tibetans, the British demanded to send more representatives into Tibet. The Dalai Lama rejected this suggestion on the excuse that “Tibetans who are not enlightened may cast suspicion about this and take actions against this. “The British, suffering repeated frustrations, planned to support Charong Dasang Zhamdui in a bid to take over the Gaxag government. The purpose was to put pressure on the 13th Dalai Lama and bring Tibet under British control.
Charong was a Galoon official of the Gaxag government and concurrently the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army. Restricted by the 13th Dalai Lama and lamas in the upper echelons of the ruling class in Tibet, he found it difficult to follow the instructions of the British. To rectify this, he cultivated a cadre of young, pro-British army officers. They formed a secret organization and conducted activities in its name. In the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar during 1923, when the Tibetan officials met to discuss financial issues resulting from the arms expansion, including salaries for the army officers, no military representatives were invited to the meeting. Extremely unsatisfied with this, Charong and his men wrote a letter to the Gaxag government, demanding permission for military representatives to attend all future meetings on Tibetan affairs. Charong and his young military officers plotted a coup with the intent of forcibly introducing a Britain-style political system. Their plot was reported to the 13th Dalai Lama. Closely following this, several young military officers broke into the main hall in the Jokhang Monastery, where monks and lay officials gathered for meeting. They questioned the monks and officials as to why there were no military representatives in attendance. People present on the occasion were indignant at their behavior and decided to summon lamas from the Zhaibung and Sera monasteries to serve as guards for the monks and officials. Charong gathered his troops to confront the lamas. Seeing through the plot of the pro-British elements, the 13th Dalai Lama dismissed the officers from their military posts and later removed Charong from his post as commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army. Charong, however, remained a Galoon official.
These events impressed upon the Dalai Lama the imminent possibility of Britain poking its nose into the internal affairs of Tibet and also the threat to his ruling position. To stop the British before it was too late, he closed the British schools in Gyangze and banned Tibetan officials and Civilians from wearing Western suits. As a token of his resolution, he ordered the dismantling of a Western-style villa put up by the British for him in Norbu Lingka. All these efforts were made along with his endeavor to strengthen Tibet’s ties with the Central Government. For this purpose, he sent Gongjor Zhongnyi to serve as the kampus of the Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing in the place of Lobsang Ceting, a position equal to the representative of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Gaxag government in Beijing. This move marked a turning point, as the Dalai Lama switched from seeking British help to strengthening ties with the motherland.
The change in attitude found its way into Charles Bell’s biography of the Dalai Lama: By 1925, the Dalai Lama had become increasingly staunch in bypassing the British to contact the Chinese directly….Charong, an old friend of Britain and the former commander-in-chief, was always pro-British. Now he had lost the bulk of his power and was soon to be dismissed from office. In 1926, the British school in Gyangze was closed….Russian newspapers took pleasure in this, reporting that the British influence in Tibet has gone bust. Undoubtedly, Britain has greatly lost its influence. (Charles Bell: [Britain]: Biography of the 13th Dalai Lama. Pp.365-366, translated by Feng Qiyou)
In his book, Xagabba mentions nothing about Charong and other pro-British elements plotting to destabilize Tibet or the 13th Dalai Lama smashing this plot and later seeking closer ties with the motherland. He knows Charong very well, and when talking about Charong’s removal from his office, says purposely: “It was reported that the Dalai Lama became estranged with him.” Van Praag devotes no space to this in his book, only briefly mentions at one point that Tibet began to implement a policy independent of its two neighbors, who had established equal diplomatic relations with it. They refuse to print the truth because they know the wave for “Tibetan independence” died along with Charong’s dismissal from office in 1924.
China suffered from a poor national situation during the government of the Republic of China. During this segment of history, Britain repeatedly tried to interfere in the affairs of China’s Tibet. Mistakes made by the Qing imperial court in dealing with Tibet led to widening estrangement between the Han and the Tibetans. These situations gave Britain an excuse to support the Tibetan separatists, which led to the rise of the “Tibetan independence” campaign. The government of the Republic of China, with the support of the Chinese people, the Tibetans included, withstood troubles resulting from these events and managed to build close ties between Tibet and the rest of China. The 13th Dalai Lama himself also rose from the traps set up by the British and awakened to the true situation. He thus moved to strengthen ties with the motherland.
The Northern Expedition (1926-1927), following the First United Front between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China, led to the defeat the Northern Warlords (1912-27). On April 18, 1927, the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek founded the Nationalist Government in Nanjing. On this basis, he managed to bring the whole of China under his control.
The Nationalist Government, immediately after is founding, placed great emphasis on the Tibet issue. The first article of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China for the Period of Political Tutelage stated in explicit terms: “The territory of the Republic of China includes various provinces as well as Mongolia and Tibet.” In 1928, the Nationalist Government set up the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, which operated under the Executive Yuan.
In the winter of 1928, the 13th Dalai Lama instructed Kampus Lobsang Basang, whom the Dalai Lama had stationed at Wutai Mountain in Shanxi, to visit Chiang Kai-shek and report to him on the Tibetan situation. In January 1929, Chiang Kai-shek sent a reply to the 13th Dalai Lama: “Tibetans are an ethnic group within the Chinese nation. The government is urging the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs to investigate the actual situation so as to invest in the construction of the region. I deeply appreciate your sending Lobsang Basang in the capacity of your representative to Nanjing to let me know your kind determination to work with the [Kuomintang] Party and government….U-Tsang is surrounded by strong neighbors and has long been oppressed by the imperialists. Fortunately, Your Holiness is deeply conscious of the righteousness of the cause and have turned your heart towards the motherland. We should make concerted efforts to build up the country and resist foreign bullying. It will therefore not be hard for us to create a China owned by the people, governed by the people and enjoyed by the people. China will then secure a foothold in the world and be able to assist the weak and small nations to join others for the common prosperity, thus fulfilling the Buddha’s wish to save all the souls in the world.” (Tibet is an Inseparable Part of China. Pp.485-486) These contacts show the government of Tibet began to work towards improving official ties with the Nationalist Government in Nanjing.
The 9th Panchen Erdeni, who fled to China’s hinterland in 1923 because of conflicts with 13th Dalai Lama, took the lead in sending people to congratulate Chiang Kai-shek on the founding of the Nationalist Government in Nanjing. With the approval of the Nanjing government, the Panchen Office was set up in Nanjing on January 20, 1929.
The actions of the 9th Panchen had a great impact on Lhasa. The 13th Dalai Lama sent Gongjor Zhongnyi, kampus of the Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing, and others to visit the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs in August 1929. During the visit, Gongjor Zhonguyi said that (1) the 13th Dalai Lama had no intention of collaborating with the British, and he contacted the British mainly because Tibet borders on British India and therefore must deal with the British: and (2) it was also wrong to say the 13th Dalai Lama hated the Han, because he had sent representatives to the hinterland in the sixth, ninth and 13th year of the Republic of China to declare his support for Chinese-Tibetan harmony.
Chiang Kai-shek received Gongjor Zhongnyi in Nanjing on September 10, 1929. Congjor told Chiang that the Dalai Lama was not pro-British and would not go against the Central Government, a statement which won appreciation from Chiang. Gongjor also said that the 13th Dalai Lama was loyal to the Central Government; Tibet’s military and diplomatic affairs may be handled by the Central Government in the future; the Central Government may station officials in Tibet, but the Tibetans should enjoy full autonomy; the Simla draft treaty contained propositions made by the local government of Tibet; in the future, the 13th Dalai Lama may issue a statement to the effect that the related issues be settled by the Central Government. Chiang Kai-shek received Gongjor Zhongnyi once again on September 13. During the meeting, Chiang told Gongjor that the Nationalist Government decided to send him back to Tibet in the capacity of the Central Government commissioner, bringing with himself a certificate of appointment issued by the Nationalist Government and Chiang Kai-shek’s letter to the 13th Dalai Lama. Gongjor Zhongnyi entered Tibet via India in December the same year.
On February 16, 1930, Gangjor Zhongnyi and his party arrived in Lhasa. The 13th Dalai ordered all officials with the Gaxag government, at the head of Tibetan troops, to welcome them in the western suburbs of Lhasa. The 13th Dalai Lama was very glad to received the letter, plus gifts, from Chiang. He rose to his feet and performed due rites to accept the document forwarded by Gongjor Zhongnyi as a token of respect for the Nationalist Governmet.
Prior to this, Liu Manqing entered Tibet in response to an order from the Nationalist Government. Born in Lhasa, Liu, a Tibetan, was well versed in Tibetan writing. She served as an official with the Nationalist Government. She entered Tibet via Xikang and arrived in Lhasa in early February 1930. On March 28, the Dalai Lama received her.
This period of time featured wars between new warlords in the hinterland. They included wars between Chiang Kai-shek and Feng Yuxiang from October to November 1929 and between Guangdong and Guangxi armies from October 1929 to February 1930. The wars damaged the prestige of the Nationalist Government among the Tibetans and exerted an adverse impact on the 13th Dalai Lama, who was considering mending fences with the Central Government. They also gave a new excuse to the pro-British elements in the upper echelons of the ruling class in Tibet. Hence, these wars between new warlords damaged relations between Tibet and the motherland. In spite of all this, the relations between the local government of Tibet and the Central Government improved to a certain degree.
On May 5, 1930, the 13th Dalai Lama received Liu Manqing once again, and said: “My greatest wish is for real peace and the unification of China….With regard to the Xikang incident, please ask the government not to send cruel soldiers to suppress our people. It is better to have a clear-headed official to take over the affairs. I am ready to withdraw my troops at any time. Since this is all Chinese territory, why distinguish between you and us? …It is not worthwhile to see brothers at odds.” He also said: “The British truly intend to tempt me, but I know that our sovereignty must not be lost. Nature and customs are not compatible. So, when they came, we managed to cope with them and didn’t venture to give them any rights. So long as China can consolidate itself, it should not be difficult to solve the Kam and Tibet problem.” (Liu Manqing:A Mission to Xikang and Tibet. Pp.118-20)
Obviously the 13th Dalai Lama had seen through the British charade during the years of contact with them. The activities of the 9th Panchen Erdeni in the inland also had an impact on him. He was also pushed forward by the broad masses of monks and lay people, especially the patriotic movements staged by lamas from the three major monasteries in Lhasa. Stark reality forced him to have second thoughts about the future of Tibet. This is why he decided to inform the Central Government of his attitude toward the British and the Central Government, facts which demonstrate that he began to give up the non-patriotic attitude he held during the late Qing Dynasty and the early days of the Republic of China.
In August 1930, Gongjor Zhongnyi returned to Nanjing from Tibet and was officially appointed as the resident representative of Tibet in Nanjing. With the consent of the Nationalist Government, Tibet opened offices in Nanjing, Beiping (present-day Beijing) and Xikang. This put an end to the abnormal relations between Tibet and the motherland that had lasted for close to 20 years. The local government of Tibet and the Central Government finally resumed normal contacts.
In May 1930, the headmen of the Baili and the Dajin monastery in Garze, Xikang, were locked in a struggle over land and corvee labor. The Tibetan army supported the Dajin Monastery and seized control of Baili. The Sichuan army, then stationed in Garze, moved toward Baili in deter an invasion. Eventually the two forces met in battle. The Tibetan army, with the support of the British, advanced eastward. As the Sichuan warlord was locked in internal fights, no reinforcements were sent to support the Sichuan troops stationed in Xikang. As a result, the Tibetan army captured, without encountering much resistance, Garze and Xinlong (Zhanhua). When the Nationalist Government queried Britain on matters concerning the supply of arms and munitions to Tibet, the British side answered: In accordance with the treaty signed in the past between India and Tibet. India had no choice but to supply weapons to Tibet for self-defence; if China agrees, the British government is willing to mediate disputes between China and Tibet. The Chinese officials rejected the British offer categorically on the grounds, that Sichuan-Tibet conflicts are the internal affairs of China. Closely following this, the Nationalist Government sent Tang Kesan with Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs to Garze to mediate the situation in April 1913. The government also cabled the 13th Dalai Lama through Gongjor Zhongnyi, asking him to stop the eastward advance of the Tibetan army and send representatives to negotiate with the commission official. Later, Tang Kesan and Deboin Gongran, the representative of the 13th Dalai Lama, met for negotiations in Xikang. The negotiations yielded a ceasefire draft in the spring of 1932, under which the Tibetan army remained stationed in Garze and Xinlong for the time being and captured Sichuan troops were released. The draft encountered objection from the Xikang and Sichuan military and government authorities and the Han and Tibetan peoples. The peace negotiations were thus suspended.
While the military situation in Xikang was far calm, a British Sikkim official was sent to Lhasa, where he plotted with the Gaxag government of Tibet on matters concerning a military invasion of the Yushu area in Qinghai. The upper echelons of the Tibetan ruling class, whose appetite was wetted by Tibetan military successes in Xikang, came up to the idea of achieving a “Greater Tibet” by capturing southern Qinghai. In March 1932, the Tibetan army launched an attack on southern Qinghai with the excuse of land disputes between monasteries in Yushu and also taking advantage of the weak defences then in place in southern Qinghai. The Tibetan expeditionary force captured Ranqian on April 3 and closed in on Yushu shortly after. Qinghai warlord Ma Bufang rushed reinforcements to the front, and the Qinghai army launched a counter-attack in July, routing the Tibetan army and driving it back to Xikang. The Qinghai army captured Shiqu, Dengke and other counties that had fallen into the hands of the Tibetan army since 1919. The victory on the part of the Qinghai army threatened the supply lines to the Tibetan forces in Garze and Xinlong. As a result, this part of the Tibetan army was forced to withdraw. In cooperation with the Qinghai army, Sichuan warlord Liu Wenhui sent out a brigade to attack the Tibetan troops in Garze and Xinlong, eventually occupying Garze, Xinlong, Dege and other counties east of the Jinshajiang River. The Sichuan and Tibetan armies confronted each other across the Jinshajiang River.
Britain came forward to support the invading Tibetan army by telling the Foreign Ministry of the Nationalist Government: In the third year of the Republic of China, the former Beijing foreign ministry sent representatives to meet with the representatives of the British and Tibetan sides at Simla, India. The second article of the “Simla Convention” states full respect for the boundary of Outer Tibet. Now the Sichuan and Qinghai armies are preparing a joint attack at Qamdo, which is within the scope of Outer Tibet. The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied: “This treaty was not signed by this government and is therefore not valid,” The British side said that, if the Chinese government could make the Sichuan and Qinghai armies stop launching attacks, Britain would persuade Tibet to cease all military actions. The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied: “Since the war in Xikang and Tibet is an internal Chinese affair, there is no need to accept British mediation. (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. Pp.327-328) Later, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Sichuan and Qinghai armies to stop launching attacks and wait for the 13th Dalai Lama to send a delegation to peace negotiations.
Seeing the Tibetan army suffering repeated military failures, areas east of the Jinshajiang River formerly occupied by the Tibetan army had all been lost and there was mounting opposition within Tibet to war, the 13th Dalai Lama sent delegates to negotiate with representatives sent by Liu Wenhui. The negotiation led to the signing of the Xikang-Tibet Gangto Ceasefire Agreement. The Jinshajiang River, therefore, served as the boundary between Xikang and Tibet. Tibet also signed a ceasefire agreement with the Qinghai warlord on Jun 15, 1933.
Xagabba says nothing about the British-instigated and British-supported Tibetan eastward invasion. In his book, Van Praag does his best to hide the British supply of arms and munitions.
(8) The Demise of the 13th Dalai Lama and Huang Musong’s Entry into Tibet
The 13th Dalai Lama passed away in Lhasa on December 17, 1933, at the age of 58. During his lifetime, he led the Tibetans to resist two British invasions and fight the national oppression policy of the Qing imperial court. Later, he showed a tendency to oppose the Han and support the British. But he didn’t go to extremes. In his later years, he made efforts to restore and improve ties with the Central Government. The 13th Dalai Lama was diligent in his religious studies and had a good command of Buddhism. His classical works were .loved by all. His life earned him great esteem among the broad masses of Tibetans. Following the traditional practice of reporting to the Central Government the death of the Dalai Lama, first instituted in the Qing Dynasty, the Gaxag government cabled the Tibet Office in Nanjing: “The Dalai Buddha passed away at 7:30 on the afternoon of the 30th Day of the 10the Tibetan month. All Tibetan affairs are temporarily being handled by Silun and Gaxag. Please feel at ease to continue your hard work and to report this matter to the Central Government.: Gongjor Zhongnyi reported the 13th Dalai Lama’s death to the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, and asked the commission to submit the report to the Executive Yuan. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.3)
The Nationalist Government attached great importance to the 13th Dalai Lama’s death. Shi Qingyang, the head of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, sent a cable expressing the government’s regrets to Tibet on December 21: “The entire Chinese nation is shocked to learn of the passing of Master Dalai and is deeply grieved for his death. We take great care in the affairs of the western border areas. In addition to reporting to the Central Government for comfort and compensation and asking various monasteries in Mongolia, Qinghai, Xikang, Beiping, Rihe and Wutai Mountain to recite Buddhist scriptures, I hereby send you this cable to express my mourning.” (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.4) On January 8, 1934, Congjor Zhongnyi submitted a report to the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs: “Please send, as soon as possible, high officials into Tibet to mourn the 13th Dalai Lama, and, taking this advantage, seek to solve all problems plaguing the Central Government and the local government of Tibet,…so as to console the person who has left us and benefit the border situation.” (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.12) On January 12, the Nationalist Government ordered. Huang Musong, deputy chief of staff and concurrently director of the Borderland Affairs Office, to be a special envoy of the Central Government to mourn for the late 13th Dalai Lama in Tibet.
The Silun and Gaxag government of Tibet cabled the Nanjing office on January 26. The cable, which was forwarded to the Nationalist Government right away, read in part: “Through a meeting [attended by monks and lay people]. Hotogu Living Buddha Razheng has been appointed as regent to take over the positions formerly held by the Dalai Buddha, during the period from the reincarnation of the late Buddha to the time when the new Buddha comes to the throne.” (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet. P.333) Before long, the Nationalist Government approved Razheng as the Prince Regent, and granted him the title “Great Master” on May 29. Razheng cabled to thank the Nationalist Government for all these on June 22.
Huang Musong and his party set out from Nanjing on April 26 and arrived in Lhasa on August 28 via Sichuan and Xikang. Huang was the first high official sent by the Central Government to Tibet since the founding of the Republic of China. In accordance with the rites needed to greet the High Commissioners stationed by the Qing Dynasty in Tibet, the Gaxag government of Tibet sent people to greet him in Maizhokunggar. A grand welcoming ceremony was then held in Gungbengtang in the eastern outskirts of Lhasa. All high Tibetan officials, wrapped in formal official robes, stood in great respect to await the arrival of the Chinese official, and the Lhasa residents took to the street to greet him. When the party arrived, the military band performed to honor them. Huang worshipped at the Jokhang Monastery in the evening of his arrival. Four Galoons of the Gaxag government paid him a visit the following day. Huang also worshipped at the Potala Palace and the three major monasteries in the city, granting lamas there tea and alms. These actions show the political, as well as patron-lama, ties between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet, a slap in the face of Van Praag who says no ties existed between the two after the founding of the Republic of China.
On September 23, the leaders in Lhasa met at the Potala Palace. A grand ceremony was held for the representative of the Nationalist Government to posthumously bestow the title of “Great Master of Patriotism, Magnanimousity, Benevolence and Sagacity” upon the late 13th Dalai Lama, and present a portrait of the late master with a jade certificate of appointment and a jade seal of authority. On October 1, an auspicious day chosen according to Tibetan traditions, a memorial service was held at the Potala Palace in accordance with rituals determined by the Nationalist Government.
Before and after all these activities, Huang negotiated with the local government of Tibet on relations between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet.
Huang’s presence and work in Tibet filled the British with hatred. To cope with the possible change, British Sikkim official F. Williamson sent Rayebado, a Sikkim, into Tibet. The man rushed there in the name of congratulating Razheng’s appointment as Price Regent. As a matter of fact, he went there to monitor Huang’s activities, plot with the pro-British elements on ways and means for opposing the Central Government and demanding payment for purchases of arms made by the Tibetan army during its eastward campaign in 1931-32, a move that was aimed at forcing the Tibetan government to stay away from the Central Government. Rayebado spread rumors in Lhasa and did his best to buy over Tibetan officials, seeking information about contacts between Huang Musong and the Gaxag government. He tried to sow discord between Nanjing and Lhasa. To add more pressure on Lhasa, F. Williamson himself rushed to Gyangze from Sikkim. Because of these British efforts, the negotiations between Huang and the Gaxag government encountered numerous obstacles.
During the negotiations, Huang stressed that Tibet was part of China and that the Tibetan government should obey the Nationalist Government; Tibet was to maintain its original political system and enjoy autonomy and the Central Government was to refrain from interfering with Tibetan administration that conformed with the scope of this Tibetan autonomy; the Central government and the local government of Tibet were to act in agreement on all foreign affairs. Tibetan affairs to be considered the state affairs would be handled by the Central Government, which would also determine Tibet’s foreign relations, border defense and communications facilities. Appointments of major Tibetan officials selected by the Tibet autonomous government were to be reported to the Central Government for appointment. And the Central Government was to station resident representatives in Sichuan and Tibet to guide work in Tibet on behalf of the Central Government.
The Gaxag government refused to accept the proposed harmony of the five nationalities in China and governance by the Nationalist Government. They persisted in demanding the patron-lama relation between the Han and the Tibetans, saying the “Han government should not interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet and alter the religious and government system of Tibet.” (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.98) Huang Musong talked to the Gaxag government representatives with great patience. Finally, the Gaxag government of Tibet admitted that “in foreign affairs Tibet is part of Chinese territory…All of Tibet’s power in conducting domestic and foreign affairs and its internal laws must obey the Chinese government so long as they do not violate the religious and government administration of Tibet….The Han and the Tibetan sides jointly work on matters of major importance to Tibet, such as signing treaties between Tibet and foreign countries.” In spite of this, the Gaxag government refused to allow the Central Government to station troops in Tibet; demanded immediate delineation of the boundary between Xikang and Tibet on the premise that Dege, Zhanhua and other counties east of the Jingshajiang River be turned over to Tibet for management; and insisted that Tibet handle its own affairs autonomously and independently.
Huang Musong worked hard for close to three months in Lhasa. Still, the demands of the Gaxag government were far away from the Nationalist Government proposition and the gap could not be narrowed in such a short period of time. In the end, Huang pleaded with the Nanjing government to allow him to return home. Huang left Tibet for Nanjing. With the consent of Gaxag government, Liu Pochen and Jiang Zhiyu remained in Lhasa, using a radio to maintain contact between Tibet and the Nationalist Government. They functioned as the predecessor of the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, which was later set up in Lhasa.
On November 28, Huang Musong left Lhasa. The Gaxag government gave him a letter, in which it shifted the responsibility for the failure of the negotiations onto the Congress of Monks and Lay People and asked Huang to understand its situation. In the letter, the Gaxag government expressed its intention to improve ties with the Nationalist Government. Surely the Gaxag government intended to improve ties with the Central Government, but dared not do too much in this regard for fear that the British would be offended; and did want to win the support of the British with a view to having more weight in negotiations with the Central Government. Still they kept a certain distance between themselves and the British for fear that they might come under British control. At that time, Chiang Kai-shek followed the reactionary policy of “to resist foreign invasion, it is necessary to have peace and stability at home.” He made one concession after another to foreign aggressors, the British and especially the Japanese, showing the local government of Tibet that the Nationalist Government was not dependable. The Gaxag government wavered in its resolve due to this overwhelming fact.
Huang Musong’s trip to Tibet helped expand the influence of the Central Government in Xikang and Tibet, and brought the local government of Tibet closer to the Central Government. The establishment of a Central Government office in Tibet put an end to the history of no organ of the Central Government being present in Tibet since the Revolution of 1911. These actions paved the way for the Nationalist Government to do a better job of administering Tibetan affairs.
In their book, both Xagabba and Van Praag mention the fact that Huang Musong went to Lhasa to mourn the 13th Dalai Lama. However, neither mentions how the British left no stone unturned to undermine the negotiations between Huang Musong and the Gaxag government. Van Praag makes a mistake by saying in his notes that the British Indian government learned of Huang Musong’s activities in Lhasa through Rayebado. When compared with Van Pragg, Xagabba is more frank in admitting that Rayebado went to Lhasa to “keep a lookout on Huang Musong.”
It must be pointed out that Van Praag contradicts history by saying that the proposal Huang Musong gave to the Gaxag government of Tibet contained such words as “China should consider that Tibet is independent and therefore refrain from interfering with the administrative affairs of Tibet” and “the Chinese army should no longer be deployed in any part of Tibet.” These statements are not to be found from any of the primary source material relating to Huang’s presence in Tibet.
Before and after Huang Musong entered Tibet, the Nationalist Government and the Gaxag government discussed many questions concerning the 9th Panchen Erdeni’s return from the hinterland to Tibet. If the 9th Panchen Erdeni could return, the conflict between the Front and Rear Tibet was highly likely to be eased, and the Central Government would be able to expand its influence in Tibet. Therefore, the British did their best to obstruct the 9th Panchen Erdeni’s return to Tibet. In August 1936, Basil J. Gould, a British Sikkim political official, led a delegation to Lhasa to negotiate with the Gaxag government on matters concerning the possibility of the 9th Panchen Erdeni’s return to Tibet and the British supply of military materials to Lhasa. In the meantime, he probed into the possibility of setting up a British office in Lhasa. The Gaxag government of Tibet rejected the British demands. Basil J. Gould explained and demanded again and again. Finally, he left Lhasa, but his commercial representative, Hugh Richardson, who was stationed in Gyangze, and a radio with which to contact the British was left in Lhasa. The Gaxag government had no way out but to give silent consent to Hugh Richardson’s presence. With the obstruction from the British side, the 9th Panchen Erdeni was unable to return, and passed away in December 1937 in Yushu, Qinghai.
The British office in Lhasa, led by Hugh Richardson, worked hard to cultivate pro-British forces in Tibet and plot activities aimed at Tibetan independence. Gradually, the British office gained much ground and Rayebado, one of its staff members, received the official title of Zhasa from the Gaxag government, a position which made it possible for him to attend some meeting of the local government.
Following the demise of the 13th Dalai Lama, traditional Tibetan methods were followed to locate the reincarnated soul boy of the late master. In 1938, Lhamo Toinzhub, a boy living in Huangzhong, Qinghai Province, was selected as the candidate. He was taken to Lhasa in 1939, where he was confirmed as the soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama and given the Buddhist name Dainzin Gyamco. A sitting-in-the-bed ceremony was held in 1940 to enthrone him as the 14th Dalai Lama.
This event in the modern history of China’s Tibet found its way into the books by Xagabba and Van Praag. However, both refrain from citing many key facts and, on that basis, come to a wrong conclusion. Xagabba says in his book: “China claimed Wu Zhongxin was sent to Lhasa to preside over the sitting-in-the-bed ceremony for the Dalai Lama. Actually, however, Wu’s presence at the ceremony was no more significant than the presence of representatives from other countries.” Van Pragg says in his book that Tibet offered the Chinese representative treatment that did not differ in any major way from the treatment due to government representatives from other foreign countries,” What they describe constitutes a serious distortion of history.
The search for the reincarnated soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama was a decision made by small-scale meeting attended by Tibetan monk and lay officials, which was chaired by the Price Regent Razeng. The Living Buddha Gecang went to Qinghai together with others. When they reached Xining, Qinghai, in 1937, the Chinese Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs notified the Qinghai provincial government, asking the later to offer care and protection to the delegation, and allowing them to use Qinghai’s radio facilities to contact Lhasa. After the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) broke out in China, the Nationalist Government ordered unified security over telegraph codes. Feeling inconvenienced by this order the Living Buddha Gecang cabled Wu Zhongxin, head of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, on February 28, 1938 to ask for more help.
Upon receiving this cable, the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs advised the Qinghai provincial government on March 10 to give the Tibetan delegation more convenience in this regard. On March 13, Ma Bufang, chairman of the Qinghai provincial government, cabled the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs expressing willingness to act in accordance with the commission’s cable.
The Living Buddha Gecang was very glad to learn of the decision, which was relayed by the Qinghai provincial government to the Living Buddha Gecang upon the request of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. On April 3, he cabled his thanks to the commission. Soon after, the Ministry of Communications decided to exempt the Living Buddha from paying telegraph charges.
This segment of history shows that the work to locate the reincarnated soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama received aid and support from the Nationalist Government from the very beginning. Free use to telegraph facilities made it possible for the Living Buddha Gecang to maintain close and timely contact with the local government of Tibet.
B. The Soul Boy’s Entry into Tibet.
When the Living Buddha Gecang had located a candidate, Ma Bufang, Chairman of the Qinghai provincial government, took the situation as a chance to line his own pockets. He imposed obstacles on the boy’s entry into Tibet and openly declared that the boy would be made to stay in the Tar Monastery before being escorted to Tibet. He did so with the intention of demanding money from the local government of Tibet. The Tibetan authorities cabled the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs from January to June 1939, asking the commission to urge Ma to let the boy go and, in the meantime, pleading with the Nationalist Government to send people to supervise the matter in Xining. On April 29, the Prince Regent cabled the commission, requesting Wu Zhongxin be flown to Qinghai and travel to Tibet together with the soul boy. Chiang Kai-shek was very much concerned with the soul boy event. Considering the importance of Tibet to China, he asked about progress in the matter several times and even told the Tibetan authorities that he would take ultimate responsibility for the boy’s entrance into Tibet. The Tibetan authorities were very grateful for his efforts. By this time, Ma Bufang had extorted huge sums of money (over 400,000 silver dollars). Still, he cabled the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs on June 15, asking for a payment of 100,000 silver dollars as travel expenses. Chiang satisfied his demands in a June 19 cable.
With money extorted from both Tibet and the Nationalist Government, Ma Bufang sent people to escort the soul boy to Tibet. When the party left Xining in July, the Gaxag government of Tibet cabled Wu Zongxin on July 14: “For the soul boy to leave Qinghai for Tibet on July 1 according to the state calendar, the Central Government wired 100,000 silver dollars to Chairman Ma as travel expenses. We thank the Central Government very much for its kindness.” (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.213)
Historical facts show the soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama was able to enter Tibet only with efforts made by the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs and Chiang Kai-shek, who issued an order himself to wire the money needed for this purpose. If the local government of Tibet was left alone to deal with Ma Bufang, the soul boy would not have been able to enter Tibet.
C. Wu Zhongxin’s Entry Into Tibet and Tibet’s Reception Rituals for Wu
When the Living Buddha Gecang entered Qinghai to search for the reincarnation of the late 13th Dalai Lama, two other groups of Living Buddhas were dispatched for the same purpose. Each of the two groups located one candidate. The Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs demanded the authorities follow the Qing Dynasty method of drawing a lot from a golden urn to determine which candidate is the reincarnated master. As the lot-drawing ceremony was held under the supervision of the High Commissioner during the Qing Dynasty, a high official would be sent by the Nationalist Government to preside over the ceremony together with Prince Regent Razheng. The Prince Regent Razheng, however, preferred the candidate located by the Living Buddha Gecang in Qinghai, and therefore was unwilling to see the Nationalist Government official preside over any ceremonies. The Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs reaffirmed the set rules and historical precedence. Finally, Razheng cabled Wu Zhongxin on December 12, 1938, asking the Central Government to send a high official into Tibet to preside over the lot-drawing ceremony. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama, p.158)
The Nationalist Government issued an order on December 28, to “send Wu Zhongxi, chairman of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, to preside over the reincarnation of the late 13th Dalai Lama together with the Hotogtu Living Buddha Razheng. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.166)
The local government of Tibet expressed its acceptance of the arrangements made by the Nationalist Government on many occasions. On April 23, 1939, the Tibet Office in Chongqing told the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, in accordance with a cable from the Gaxag government of Tibet, that Chairman Wu Zhongxin was welcomed to enter Tibet. Wu Zhongxin and his party left Chongqing by air for Hong Kong on October 21, 1939. He entered Tibet via Rangoon and India.
The British and the pro-British forces in Tibet tried to block Wu’s entry into Tibet. While Wu was still on his way to Tibet, the Gaxag government of Tibet confirmed, without going through the lot-drawing ceremony, the candidate from Qinghai as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. When Chiang Kai-shek got wind of these events, he cabled the Gaxag government and asked that they wait for the arrival of Wu Zhongxin who, the cable said, would join hands with the Hotogtu Living Buddha Razheng in handling various procedures and rites for the confirmation of the soul boy so that he is trusted by all and so as to avoid possible disputes. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. pp.267,270)
Wu Zhongxin and 18 others finally reached Tibet via India and Sikkim. They arrived in Lhasa on January 15, 1940. The Gaxag government of Tibet sent troops to Yadong to greet them and guarded their safety all along the way to Lhasa. The Tibetan government asked the Yadong chief to accompany the party on their trip. When they reached the western outskirts of Lhasa, the Gaxag government organized an unprecedentedly grand welcoming party for them. The representatives of the Living Buddha Razheng, three Galoon officials and about 70 high monks and lay officials stood in great respect; the 700-member honor guard of the Tibetan army lined up to be reviewed; thousands of Tibetans took to the street to greet the delegation; and a 27-gun salute was fired. As soon as Wu Zhongxin was settled in his residence, four Galoon officials visited him. That same evening, the Gaxag government threw a feast in his honor. Basil J. Gould, the British representative who had made a special trip to Lhasa to witness the turn of events, was not given such a grand welcome. As the representatives of Nepal and Bhutan were officials stationed in Lhasa, the Gaxag government didn’t make special arrangements for them in terms of a reception.
D. Official Confirmation of the Soul Boy.
During his stay in Lhasa, Wu Zhongxin paid a visit to Razheng. Wu presented him with a certificate from the Nationalist Government that entrusted him to join Wu in presiding over the ceremony, a letter from Chiang Kai-shek as well as the certificate of appointment, a gold seal of authority, and a jade medal bestowed by the Nationalist Government to Razheng. Razheng expressed sincere thanks to Chairman Lin Seng with the Nationalist Government in a January 23 cable.
At that time, monks and lay officials of Tibet, who persisted in confirming the boy from Qinghai as the soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama, were reluctant to let Wu Zhongxin examine the authenticity of the selection. Patriotic people and the pro-British elements both did so, but for different purpose: While the pro-British elements did so with a view to negating China’s sovereignty over Tibet, patriotic people did so for fear that Wu would not accept the boy whom they had confirmed through traditional procedures and regarded as holy. The later had not the least intention of divorcing Tibet from the authority of the Central Government. Similar situation appeared in the reincarnation of the 12th Dalai Lama and the 8th Panchen Erdeni. When it came to the point of determining their soul boys, the High Commissioners filed reports with the Qing imperial court for exemption of the lot-drawing ceremony. As the Tibetan authorities reported to the Qing imperial court in the capacity of subjects to the Central Government, it approved Tibet’s request. In accordance with this historical precedence, Wu Zhongxin persisted in examining the boy on behalf of the Central Government, and Razheng finally agreed. On January 26, Razheng offered a long letter to Wu, in which he related the story of locating the Qinghai boy and reasons why he was the authentic candidate. He also asked that the Central Government exempt the lot-drawing ceremony. Wu Zhongxin, who had thus won the right to examine the boy, cabled the Nationalist Government, asking for permission for “the soul boy Lhamo Toinzhub to be enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama” and for “the enthronement ceremony” to be held in time. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.287) Wu Zhongxin inspected the five-year-old Qinghai boy on January 31 in Norbu Lingka and found something unusual in him. On February 5, the Nationalist Government issued an official order: “The Qinghai soul boy Lhamo Toinzhub, with unusual wisdom and extraordinarily intelligent signs, has been found as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and should be allowed to ascend his throne as the 14th Dalai Lama without going through the lot-drawing ceremony” (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. pp.290-291) Razheng cabled Lin Seng on February 17 expressing his sincere thanks to the Central Government for their approval.
Thus, all the procedures for the confirmation of the 14th Dalai Lama were conducted in accordance with the religious rituals and historical precedence of Tibet.
Therefore, the statements by Xagabba that Wu Zhongxin enjoyed no more respect than the representives from other countries who went to Lhasa for the ceremony is unfounded.
E. Seat of Wu Zhongxin During the Sitting-in-the-Bed Ceremony.
In February 1940, Basil J. Gould, the British Sikkim official, rushed to Lhasa. He arrived under the pretence of “viewing the ceremony.” But he was actually there to monitor Wu Zhongxin and undermine the prestige of the Chinese government in Tibet. Under his instigation, a small number of Gaxag government officials proposed Wu be seated in front of Razheng at the ceremony in a position equal with the Silun officials. This would place his seat in the same row as the seat of the British representative. This was obviously aimed at reducing the position of the Central Government’s representative. Wu Zhongxin insisted that he had come as the Central Government’s representative and was in charge of Mongolian and Tibetan affairs. He demanded that he be regarded as equal with the former Qing High Commissioners in position; in this way, he should be seated parallel with and to the left of the Dalai’s seat, facing south. With the support of Razhent, the Gaxag government eventually agreed to make arrangements in accordance with Wu’s demand.
On the morning of February 22, 1940, a grand ceremony was held in the Potala Palace to enthrone the 14th Dalai Lama. It was attended by some 500 Central Government and Tibetan government officials. Wu Zhongxin was seated to the left of the 14th Dalai Lama, facing south. Other Central Government officials were seated on the east side, facing west, while the lama officials headed by Razheng were seated on the west side, facing east, and the three Galoon officials and various lay officials were seated on the south side, facing north. (Selected Archives on the Sacrificial Rituals for the Death of the 13th Dalai Lama and the Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama. p.315) Angered by his failure, Gould did not attend the ceremonies.
F. Nationalist Government Allocation to the Enthronement Ceremony.
Ma Bufang’s extortion of more than 400,000 silver dollars from Tibet in return for the right to allow the soul boy candidate located in Qinghai to be brought by the Living Buddha Gecang into Tibet drew hatred from the Tibetans. The Gaxag government, hard put financially, intended to borrow the money from the British. When Wu Zhongxin arrived in Lhasa, he investigated the matter and found Ma Bufang had demanded a total of 439.000 silver dollars from Tibet. He sent a report to the Nationalist Government, asking for an allocation of “400.000 yuan” to finance “the enthronement ceremony for the 14th Dalai Lama.” When the Executive Yuan received the cable from Wu Zhongxin, it made a direct report to the Nationalist Government which ordered 400.000 silver dollars to be set aside to cover the expenses of the enthronement ceremony.
This took place as China was groaning under the Japanese invasion and the Nationalist Government was suffering from financial problems. Nonetheless, the Nationalist Government still set aside huge sums of money to finance the enthronement ceremony for the 14th Dalai Lama. This was indeed a decision which led to the solution of financial problems plaguing the Tibetan government. Razheng cabled his gratitude to Lin Seng, chairman of the Nationalist Government on March 7, and the Gaxag government did the same on March 8.
G. Whether Wu Zhongxin Had Presided Over the 14th Dalai Lama’s Enthronement Ceremony.
This is really a controversial issue. In accordance with the Tibetan habits and customs, no one is needed to preside over a ceremony or a meeting. However, two points are clear enough to both domestic and foreign Tibetologists:
First, the Nationalist Government decrees as well as cables exchanged between the Executive Yuan and the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs with the Tibet Office in Chongqing, the Prince Regent Razheng and the Galoon officials used the term “preside over” 38 times and stated in explicit terms that Wu Zhongxin was sent to Tibet to “preside over” the reincarnation ceremony. For instance, n his March 6, 1940, cable to Chiang Kai-shek, Galoon Pengkag thanked him for “sending Chairman Wu to Tibet to successfully preside over the 14th Dalai Lama’s enthronement ceremony at the Potala Palace.” Since “preside over” was used in Chinese, a language which was used then to communicate with the world on behalf of China, this historical fact can hardly be negated. What’s more, the word “preside over” used then means “be responsible for” and “take in charge of”.
Second, Wu Zhongxin did a great deal to make the 14th Dalai Lama’s enthronement ceremony a great success. Thanks to his efforts, the Central Government ordered the Qinghai provincial government to let the soul boy candidate enter Tibet and set aside huge sums of money to cover the enthronement ceremony. His efforts also frustrated many British plots. These moves, which were geared to defend China’s sovereignty over Tibet, show the role played by Wu Zhongxin on behalf of the Central Government. In two years, Wu handled more than 300 cables and letters. Without Wu’s work and the Central Government’s support for Wu, it would have been hard for the Tibetan side to solve so many tough problems in their religious activities.
During his stay in Tibet, Wu Zhongxin discussed with Razheng matters concerning the establishment of a Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. On April 1, 1940, the office was official inaugurated by workers left in Tibet by Huang Musong.
On April 14, when Wu Zongxin left Lhasa for China via India, the local government of Tibet held a grand farewell party for him. Moreover, in line with the Qing Dynasty precedence, the Gaxag government sent people to Chongqing to thank the Nationalist Government and vow support for the Nationalist Government’s struggle against the invading Japanese.
In a nutshell, Wu Zhongxin was crowned with great success for his work in Tibet. Even Hugh Richardson admitted that Wu Zhongxin’s presence in Tibet earned China a foothold in Lhasa and placed the Chinese government on a normal footing with Tibet. (Zhu Qiyuan and Xerab Nyima: The Relations Between the Central Government and the Local Government of Tibet During the Republic of China. P.127)
(10) Dagzha Comes to Power and the Razheng Event
The Living Buddha Razheng showed great respect and support for the Central Government in receiving Huang Musong and Wu Zhongxin during their stay in Tibet. When he became the Prince Regent, he managed to improve ties between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet. For this purpose, the British and the pro-British Tibetan separatists regarded him as the No. 1 enemy to be eradicated.
The pro-British elements spread rumors before and after Wu Zhongxin’s departure from Tibet that Razheng would die in three years if he did not resign as Prince Regent and return to sit in mediation, and that his ill fate would adversely affect the health of the 14th Dalai Lama. Razheng did plead to be allowed to resign to the Gaxag government toward the end of 1940, and suggested Sutra Teacher Dagzha Ngawang Sumrab, who maintained close ties with him, to replace him. When Razheng did quit, he intended to make a comeback some day. The Living Buddha Dagzha said he was advancing in years and could hold the post for only two or three years. By then, he said, the Living Buddha Razheng should resume his position as Prince Regent.
Razheng cabled the Nationalist Government reporting on his resignation on January 16, 1941. On February 18, Dagzha cabled the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs reporting on his elevation. On April 17, the Executive Yuan issued a decree to the effect that this change be filed on record.
When Dagzha, old and selfish, came to power, he threw himself into the lap of the British. All the officials close to Razheng in various positions were removed. He appointed pro-British Soikang Wangqen Geleg as a Galoon official and Xagabba Wangqug Dedain as Zeboin official. He also placed many pro-British people to official posts. As a result, the local government of Tibet was almost totally controlled by pro-British elements.
Under the instigation of the British, the Gaxag government of Tibet set up the “foreign affairs bureau” in July 1942, and informed the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs to contact the bureau from then on. This constituted a serious step towards treating China as a foreign country. The Nationalist Government rejected this right away, but the British Tibet Office quickly established times with Tibetan “bureau.”
When talking about the role played by the illegal “foreign affairs Bureau,” Van Praag speaks highly of its move to expand “international relations” and bolsters his view by mentioning its work on Mongolia, the Soviet Union, Nepal, the United States, Britain, Bhutan, Sikkim and Japan. Knowledgeable readers, however, find something ridiculous in this. These so-called contacts were actually sporadic deals in religious, tourism and business affairs, and negotiations concerning the British invasion of Tibet. These contacts also took place in other border areas inhabited by ethnic groups in northeast China, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Guangxi. In some places, similar contacts were numerically more than in Tibet, which was comparatively more isolated from the outside world. “International relations” would be out of the question if an area was not recognized by foreign countries as a country and to whom they appointed ambassadors. The fact is that no country in the world acknowledged Tibet as a independent state and sent an ambassador there.
The Living Buddha Razheng, seeing the pro-British forces grow in strength in Tibet, felt upset and worried about the future. He went from his resident monastery of Razheng in 1944 to the Sera Monastery in Lhasa, where he raised the possibility of becoming the Prince Regent again. But Dagzha refused to talk about a handover of power, and Razheng returned in anger.
In May 1945, the Living Buddha Razheng was elected an executive member of the 6th Kuomintang central executive committee. Next year, he was elected a deputy to the National Assembly. The Gaxag government refused to let him go on the excuse that he was not longer the Prince Regent. Razheng asked Gyaiboin Cang Toinzhub Namgyai, a good friend and a Garze deputy to the National Assembly, to carry a letter warning the Central Government of Dagzha’s move to collaborate with the British to undermine ties between the Han and the Tibetan. Razheng asked the Central Government to order Dagzha to resign.
When Hugh Richardson was informed of the news he visited Prince Regent Dagzha in February 1947 and said that Razheng had sent people to demand that the Kuomintang send troops into Tibet, and the Kuomintang was prepared to give him this military support to become Prince Regent again, and planned an air raid on Lhasa. The fact is that the Kuomintang, immersed in a civil war, had no extra forces to send to Tibet. Moreover, as it was not in a position to cross the forbidden zone in the air over the Xikang-Tibet Plateau, how could Kuomintang aircraft bomb Lhasa?
Dagzha believed Hugh Richardson’s lies, and immediately sent Soikang and some others at the head of Tibetan troops to escort Razheng to Lhasa. In the meantime, he arrested and murdered people supporting Razheng. When lamas with the Razheng Monastery rose in protest, Tibetan troops were sent to suppress them cruelly. Kampus Yexei Curchen and few others were the only persons to narrowly escape the barbarous suppression.
Lamas with the Sera Monastery, who were also on the side of Razheng, planned to rescue the Living Buddha in an ambush. When this failed, they planned armed resistance, Hugh Richardson and the Gaxag government decided on military attacks on the Sera Monastery. To aid the Tibetan troops, Reginald Fox, a British spy and radio operator, assisted the Gaxag government in setting up radios to direct the bombing of the Sera Monastery. The fighting lasted two weeks, and the Tibetan troops killed many Sera lama.
When the Living Buddha Razheng was detained in Lhasa, Xagabba led his interrogation and torture. The pro-British elements finally had him murdered in jail in May. During this period, the Nationalist Government cabled Dagzha asking him to protect Razheng’s life. Dagzha, however, turned a deaf ear to this advice, maintaining close contacts with Hugh Richardson and soliciting his advice.
The Razheng event featured a bloody suppression of patriotic forces by the British- instigated Tibetan separatists.
This event, which shocked the whole of Tibet, is not mentioned in Van Praag’s book. As a major participant, Xagabba mentions it only briefly, but refrains from mentioning British involvement. What’s more, Xagabba describes the murder of Razheng as a “sudden death,” adding that no unusual signs were found to suggest he was murdered.
According to the Concise History of Tibet, Razheng “was poisoned to death by bad eggs of the Dagzha faction when he was ill” (Qabai Cedain Puncog and Norcham Wugyain: Concise History of Tibet, Vol.2, Tibetan edition, P.724). Even Hugh Richardson held that the former Prince Regent Razheng died in the Potala Prison. Although there was no official recognition, he was undoubtedly murdered. (Hugh Richardson [Britain]: Tibet and Its History, p.149, translated by Li Youyi). It is really a shame for Van Praag and Xagabba to ignore this murder case while talking glibly about “human rights”.
(10) Tibetan Delegates at the Asian Relations Conference
At the end of 1946, Hugh Richardson, acting on instructions from the British government, urged the Tibetan government to send delegates to the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi. He said: “Sending a Tibetan a delegation to the conference, Tibet will emerge as an independent state. Judging from the current situation now should be the high time to work for the independence of Tibet.” He went on to advise the Tibetan government to keep this matter secret. (Sangpo Tenzin Toinzhub and Gongga Gyaincain: Truth of ‘Tibetan Delegation’ Attending the Asian Relations Conference, Vol. 2, p.12 Selected Materials on the History of Tibet) Dagzha agreed immediately to send a delegation.
Hugh Richardson then sent the Tibetan government a letter, in which he suggested that its delegation should bring a “national flag” with them. The Gaxag government then made a snow-mountain lion flag of the Tibetan army as the “national flag.”
Everyone knows a national flag is the symbol of a country, and making one is a solemn event. How could an army flag be used to serve as a national flag at the suggestion of a foreigner? Moreover, every country in the world hangs its national flag at the most prominent place in the capital. If Tibet was a real country, the snow-mountain lion flag should have appeared often at the Potala Palace or other eye-catching place. However, Tibet had never done so before.
The Asian Relations Conference opened in March 1947. During the meeting, the organizers had the “snow-mountain lion flag” of Tibet hung alongside the national flags of other countries. In addition, Tibet was not included within China’s boundaries on the map of Asia hanging behind the conference rostrum. The Chinese delegation lodged a serious protest, and the Chinese mass media and people throughout the country condemned the move. This forced the Indian side to say that “Nehru invites in his own name concerned delegates to attend” the conference: “there is no official delegate.” But it did revise the map of Asia.
In their books, both Van Praag and Xagabba mention the Tibetan delegation at the Asian Relations Conference. They do so with a view to using the “national flag of Tibet” and then said map of Asia as evidence for Tibet to be an independent country. Neither dare to say the map of Asia was revised after the protest lodged by the Chinese government delegation, and that the Indian side announced that various delegates were privately invited by Nehru. They are afraid that the evidence they use to support the “independence of Tibet” would not hold water if they mention these facts. And neither has the guts to say how Dagzha and the Gaxag government listened to Hugh Richardson’s suggestions, for fear that their behavior would show Tibet was a semi-colony of Britain instead of being an independent country.
(12) Visits by the Tibetan “Commercial Delegation”
From the winter of 1947 to 1948, the Tibetan government sent out a “Tibetan commercial delegation” headed by Xagabba to visit India, Europe and America with a view to soliciting support for “Tibetan independence.”
The delegation’s visits found their way into the book by Van Praag. Xagabba, as the head of the delegation, should have included the visit in his own book and described it in a detailed way. However, he plays tricks in this regard so as to hide the fact that he fails to fulfill his mission.
Here are some examples:
Xagabba says: “During their overseas trip, they used Tibetan passports and travel documents, which were recognized and accepted by the countries they visited. This built up unprecedented evidence for the independence of Tibet.”
The fact is that in accordance with a report from the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, Luo Jialun, the Chinese Ambassador to India, asked Nehru not to accept the passports issued by Tibet when the Tibetan delegation arrived in India. Nehru said Tibetans coming to India had never been requested to hold passports; Passports for visits to Britain should be stumped with visas by British official in India and the Indian government would not handle the matter. Luo Jialun cabled the Nationalist Government on January 8, 1948: “They could not have their visas done without the consent of our embassy, and, confronted with such difficulties, decided to return in China. They left Delhi on the 7th for Calcutta, where they will take a plane to Kunming and Nanjing.” (Selected Materials on the History of Tibet, p.361). When Xagabba and his party reached Nanjing, they asked the Nationalist Government to find US$2 million to facilitate their visit to Britain and the United States. As the sum was too big for the Nationalist Government to supply, the Nationalist Government, which was suffering from a foreign exchange shortage, suggested the Tibetan delegation not go alone. Xagabba and his party inspected the commodities in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and, later, told the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs they would go from Shanghai to India, via Hong Kong.
But Xagabba cheated in Nanjing. Firstly, he managed to get a license for silk export and went to Hong Kong where he sold it to an Indian businessman in return for money to cover his overseas travel expenses. Then, he got a visa from the US Consulate General for trip to the United States. When the Nationalist Government learnt this, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs queried the American Embassy in China on January 12. Embassy staff said the United States always recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and the American government had no intention to change it attitude. The US State Department told the Chinese Ambassador in the United States Gu Weijun: The US Consulate General didn’t sign the visas held by Xagabba and other Tibetans; it only marked on an extra piece of paper that they may enter the United States; such kind of visa would not damage China’s sovereignty over Tibet.
At about the same time, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs cabled Zheng Tianxi, the Chinese Ambassador in Britain, asking him to inform the British Foreign Office that, when Xagabba and his party went to apply for visas to Britain, the British side should demand passports issued by the Chinese government, otherwise it should refuse to give them visas. When an official from the Chinese Embassy in London named Duan contacted the British Foreign Office he was told that Xagabba and his party had already got their visas from the British Embassy in China when they were in Nanjing. Duan said right away that the British Embassy in China should not have done this. But he was told that according to British custom, when people with obscure nationality applied a visa, they did not need to hold passports issued by the local government; they would be given visa so long as they could produce their own written pledges. Duan refuted the British statement and said that as Tibet was part of the Chinese territory, Xagabba and other Tibetans were not people with obscure nationality. The British side could say nothing to this, other than that since this had already happened, they could only say sorry.
From the passport and visa issues, one sees both Xagabba and the American and British governments played tricks with an intention of refuting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. With the stern protest and contacts from the Chinese government, however, both the American and British governments made corrections, or declared recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, or said sorry to what had happened. How could these be used as “unprecedented evidence for the independence of Tibet”
Through representations made by the Chinese government, the US and British governments expressed the view that the Tibetan delegation led by Xagabba would visit the two countries in the capacity of a private business group. A. Tom Grunfeld, a Canadian scholar, pointed out that the US Department of Commerce regarded them as private business representatives and would negotiate with them only on matters concerning business (A. Tom Grunfeld [Canada]: The Making of Modern Tibet. p.132, translated by Wu Kunmin) In January 1948, the British government informed the American government that Britain would receive Xagabba’s delegation as a visit for “private business matters free from any official significance.” While receiving the Tibetan delegation, the British government kept the Chinese Embassy in Britain informed. When Xagabba and his party were in Switzerland, the Swiss government always arranged for a secretary with the Chinese Embassy to accompany them, and none of the local newspapers reported their visit.
As soon as Xagabba reached the United States, he delivered a speech to the local mass media, likening China, the Soviet Union, the United States and India to “foreign countries.” He brought with him the 14th Dalai Lama’s photos and a letter to the American president, and planned to visit President Truman, which constituted the Chief aim of the Tibetan delegation’s visit to the United States. The US State Department informed the Chinese Embassy of this, and the latter reported to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chinese ministry cabled Ambassador Gu Weijun instructing him to tell the American side that the Tibetan delegation’s visit to the United States failed to win the approval from the Chinese government; since the United States expressed respect for the Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, the American government should not give the delegation official treatment; the Chinese Government would not endorse the American president’ s meeting with the delegation as this would give political status to Tibet; if the American president persisted in meeting the delegation, it should be brought there by the Chinese Ambassador. On August 3, Gu Weijun made an appointment with the State Department for meeting with the president, and informed Xagabba of the appointment. Gu told him that Chinese officials intending to visit foreign authorities must go with members of the Chinese Embassy, which conforms to the international practice; if the Tibetan delegation felt this was inconvenient, it did not have to go and could ask the Chinese Embassy to forward the photos and the letter; if there was any reply to the delegation, the Chinese Embassy would be responsible for forwarding it. Xagabba was reluctant to do this, and gave up his plan to visit President Truman. This experience of his does find its way into his book, but he refrains from writing about the problems he encountered during the visits.
Such an awkward experience of Xagabba and his party shows Tibet is far from being an independent country. On the contrary, it shows Tibet is part of China. Even members of Xagabba;s delegation admitted that they failed to “seek foreign loans in trade and attempt to make Tibet independent” (Selected Material on the History of Tibet, p.366).
The Tibetan delegation’s overseas visits aimed at divorcing Tibet from the Nationalist Government, but failed. During their visit, they had to seek help from the Nationalist Government. Thanks to meticulous work of the Nationalist Government and Chinese Embassies abroad, this delegation was not regarded by the visited countries at a diplomatic delegation of the state nature.
(13) July 8 Event
In the summer of 1949, the People’s Liberation War led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) gained momentum and was crowned with one victory after another. The Gaxag government and the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs maintained ties as before. But there was a dramatic change in late June. Hugh Richardson and pro-British elements in the upper echelon of the Tibetan ruling class had frequent contacts. Hugh Richardson told Neuxer, head of the Gaxag’s “foreign affairs bureau” that there were many communists in Lhasa; they would work to being in the Communist army. Of course, Hugh Richardson was telling lies because there were neither Communist organizations nor Communist Party members in Tibet then. Neuxer was astonished, and asked him where Communists were. High Richardson told him of the people whom he considered to be Communists and their addresses. When Neuxer reported this to the Gaxag government and the Prince Regent Dagzha, the latter immediately summoned a secret meeting. All the participants agreed that the Kuomintang government was doomed and would inevitably be replaced by the Communist Party; in order to prevent the Communists from entering Tibet, all the Han then in Tibet should be expelled immediately.
The No. 6 Regiment of the Tibetan army was rushed to Lhasa from Xigaze to conduct searches in the downtown area. An atmosphere of terror reigned and culminated in major religious activities, such as “dispelling ghosts,” held by the local government of Tibet to curse the Han and the Communist Party of China. Hugh Richardson was present on these occasions. On July 8, the Gaxag government suddenly summoned Chen Xizhang, acting chief of the Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. The Chief Galoon told Chen that the Communist Party and the Kuomintang were locked in a civil war; wherever the Kuomintang officials and troops went, they were followed by the Communist Party; the Gaxag government could hardly be responsible for the safety of the members of the Tibet Office; the Gaxag government had decided to sever, temporarily, political ties with the Kuomintang government but would still maintain religious ties with it; the members of the Tibet Office and other organs should leave for India within the week; the Gaxag had designated Tibetan troops to take care of and escort them to the Indian border. Chen Xizhang told the Chief Galoon that he would cable the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs for instructions. The Chief Galoon said: “The Gaxag government has already cabled the Nationalist Government. So, you don’t have to send a cable. All the telegraph and mail services have been suspended. You have no alternate way of communication.” (Chen Xizhang: Political Life in Tibet, Vol. 79, p.114 Selected Records and Historical Materials)
As soon as Chen Xizhang returned from the Gaxag government office, he found his own office had already been surrounded by the Tibetan troops and the radio equipment sealed off. Closely following this, Tibetan troops surrounded the primary school and all the organizations under the Tibet Office.
Li Zongren, the acting president of the Kuomintang government in Guangzhou, received a cable from the Gaxag government on July 9 that members of the Tibet Office and other organizations would have to leave Tibet and the Kuomintang government “should give this decision proper understanding.” (Tibet Is an Inseparable Part of China. p.p536-537) Yan Xishan, head of the Executive Yuan, responded by sending Dagzha and the Gasag government a cable, expressing regret for the Tibetan decision to “ask all people stationed in Tibet by the Central Government to withdraw to the hinterland” and requesting that the Tibetan side “rescind the previous decision and rapidly restore the inherent relations between China and Tibet.” (Tibet Is an Inseparable Part of China, p.540) The Gaxag government paid no heed to this demand from the Kuomintang Government which was shortly to fall.
In mid-July, members of the Tibet Office of the Commission for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs and its affiliated organs left Lhasa for the hinterland via Yadong where they went home by sea.
Xagabba was, from beginning to end, involved in this serious event for “Tibetan independence,” instigated by the British on the eve of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October1, 1949. He even knew the inside stories. However, he mentions nothing about the instigative work of Hugh Richardson. Nether does Van Praag mention it. So far as Hugh Richardson is concerned, he lied in claiming that before the Gaxag government decided to expel the Han from Tibet, “the Indian delegation knew nothing beforehand.” (Hugh Richardson [Britain]: Tibet and Is History, p.155, translated by Liyouyi) A. Tom Grunfeld pointed out in explicit terms that if Hugh Richardson did not propose to the Tibetan officials the expulsion of the Han, the Tibetans would never have come up with this idea; certainly, Hugh Richardson had become involved with this event in a certain way (A. Tom Grunfeld [Canada]: The Making of Modern Tibet, p.114 and p.119, translated by Wu Kunming)
In the 22 years of the Nanjing government’s rule over China’s mainland, the local government of Tibet followed a policy of contacting both the Central Government of China and that of British India while itself sitting on the wall to feel the wind. When the 13th Dalai Lama was still alive, he took the initiative to restore ties with the Central Government and, for this purpose, had adopted certain measures. When the Prince Regent was in power, the local government of Tibet maintained closer ties with the Central Government, and the pro-British forces had less room to maneuver. When Dagzha came to power, however, the pro-British forces became rampant and conducted a series of activities for “Tibetan independence.” Even during this period of time, the Nationalist Government still maintained relations with the local government of Tibet; such ties were never severed. These point to the fact that Tibet was not “an independent political entity” during the Republic of China, although the “Tibetan independence” forces posed certain threat to China’s unification then.
In the seventh chapter of his book entitled The Status of Tibet, Van Praag leaves no stone unturned to separate Tibet from China. For this purpose, he used such terms as the protector and the protected, the suzerainty and a subject state, and the mother country and its autonomous regions, as well as listing the relationship between the protector and the protected such as the relationship between France and Morocco and between Italy and San Marino, the relationship between the suzerainty and a subject such as the relationship between imperial Turkey and Islamic countries in northern Africa, and the relationship between a mother country and its autonomous regions such as the relationship Britain and the British federal autonomous areas. But the relationship between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet was one between the Chinese empire with a minority region under the jurisdiction of the empire before the Qing Dynasty, a relationship which is unique to China; and the one between a unified country with its minority region during the Republic of China. In this colorful world, various countries have varied domestic situations. It is really improper for Van Praag to compare the Chinese situation with what happened in other parts of the world. When Van Praag does his best to impose such terms as the protector, suzerain and mother country onto China and, at the same time, win such political entity status as the protected, the subject and the autonomous region for Tibet, before working for Tibet to win the status of an independent country, he was throwing mud not only at China but also at the Tibetans.
Judging from modern international law, an independent state in the modern world must possess the four essential elements of people, territory, political power organization and sovereignty. Of the four, sovereignty is the most important. And the core of this essential element lies in the supreme power to dictate a given space and all the people and materials within the space. People, territory, political power organization and sovereignty are all based on this supreme power. Not a political organization which boasts a piece of land inhabited by people and possesses given political power is a country. Judging Tibet during the Republic of China with the above essential elements needed to form an independent country, one finds Tibet enjoyed no supreme power to handle domestic and foreign affairs. Here are two examples. The first example is the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and the enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama during the 1938-1940 period. During this period, people sent to locate the soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama had difficulties getting in touch with the Gaxag government in Lhasa; Ma Bufang in Qinghai prevented the located soul boy from going to Tibet; Wu Zhongxin persisted in examining the soul boy; and the Central Government earmarked funds to finance the enthronement ceremony for the 14th Dalai Lama. All these happenings show that it was impossible for the local government of Tibet to go further without the support from the Central Government. Even Razheng and some others in power were ready to seek judgement from the Central Government. The second example is the overseas visits by the “commercial delegation” sent by the local government of Tibet. Originally, the delegation intended to maneuver independently. But it could not solve the passport and visa and foreign exchange issues. Finally, they turned to the Kuomintang Government for settlement. During the delegation’s visit to Europe and America, it received effective restriction from the Kuomintang Government. Governments of various countries made arrangements for Chinese Embassy staff to accompany them on their visit. When the delegation intended to visit the American president without the presence of Chinese Ambassador, the American president refused to meet them. These facts, which show Tibet lacked the supreme power to dictate domestic and foreign affairs (which means a lack of sovereignty), are proof that residents in Tibet were residents of China; they were far from being “residents of the Tibet state.” Tibet is part of the Chinese territory, not the territory of the “Tibet state.” The local government of Tibet was a local political power organization within the territory of China; it is far from being the political power organization of the “Tibet state.”
As a result, the reasons created by Xagabba and Van Praag to show Tibet was an independent political entity during the period of the Republic of China do not hold water.
The This article is part of the publication The Historical Status of China’s Tibet by Wang Jiawei and Nyima Gyaincain published by the China Intercontinental Press. Permission has been granted by the Embassy of the PRC to reprint these articles here.