Friends of Tibet: Global

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W H A T   T H E   T I B E T AN   I S S U E   I S

Excerpts from the speech "What The Tibetan Issue Is" given by CA Kallianpur, National Coordinator of Friends of Tibet (India) at the Senior Citizen's Association, Nerul, New Bombay on June 29, 2006. He can be contacted at:

Dear friends:
To understand what the Tibetan issue is there is no better way than to understand Chinese history by comparing it to our own history during the British rule.

Like the British who were waiting in the wings while the Mughal rule was collapsing, the Manchus who were from Manchuria were also biding their time - when the ruling Chinese dynasty of Ming was on its last legs - outside the Great Wall, a wall built by the Chinese to keep out both the Manchus and the Mongols. Like we had our Mir Jafar, the Chinese also had their General Wu Sangui who opened the Shanhaiguan gate in the Great Wall to allow the Manchus to enter China. The British having consolidated themselves on the throne of Delhi moved into adjacent lands making some like Burma into province and some like Nepal and Bhutan into protectorates and proclaimed their possession as Indian Empire. The Manchus did likewise. They established themselves on the throne of Beijing as the Ching dynasty and after having consolidated themselves, conquered the adjacent territories of the Mongols and the Turkic people making their lands part of Manchu China and places like Tibet - a Manchu protectorate.

Here, I need to tell a little about the Manchus as many people are under the impression that the Manchus are Chinese or of Chinese stock. Concise Oxford dictionary defines the word Manchus as: "Member of Tartar people forming last Chinese imperial dynasty (1644-1912), their language now spoken in part of North-East China" and the word Tartar as: "Native of Central Asia East of Caspian Sea, member of a group of peoples including Turks, Mongols etc." The Chinese call themselves as Han and China proper which traditionally consists of 18 provinces is only to the south of the Great Wall of China.

Manchu China ie. China that the Manchus built, besides China proper distinctly included Manchuria (now so-called North-East China), Mongolia, East Turkestan (now so-called Sinkiang), Tibet, Yunnan and Guangxi-Zhuang which are actually all minority areas constituting 60% of China's territory. The Manchus were the paramount power ruling over the majority Hans. British India ie. India that the British built had only Burma as part but as a province, there being no Pakistan and Bangladesh as people of that generation in the audience will remember, the ruling paramount power being the British.

The only different thing that happened between Manchu China and British India was that unlike British India, there was a revolution in Manchu China in 1911-1912 and the Manchus were overthrown, one of the slogans of the revolution being "Down With The Aliens", and whatever was Manchu China came into the hands of the majority Hans, hence modern China's claims to whatever the Manchus built, which is the basis for their claim to Tibet and Taiwan currently and may be Korea etc in future.

Here we need to pause and ask ourselves whether on that same basis modern India can claim Burma. The answer is NO because Burma's relation was with British India and not modern India. It was the British who had made Burma a part of India not the Indians. Same is the case with Tibet. It is the Manchus who had made Tibet a protectorate of Manchu China. Tibet's relations were with Manchu China and the Manchus not with modern China and the Hans who succeeded them. On what basis is modern China claiming Tibet? Take the case of Nepal and Bhutan which were also British protectorates. Today both are independent countries, even members of the United Nations. But why is Tibet which was a Manchu protectorate not an independent country?

Here we need to examine what happened in Tibet after the Manchus were overthrown. The then 13th Dalai Lama who was in exile in India returned to Tibet and proclaimed Tibet's independence, but was able to expel all Manchus only from Outer Tibet. Inner Tibet came into the possession of warlords. The British tried to formalise this situation and McMahon Line as India-China boundary at the tripartite Simla Conference of 1913-14 between British India, China and Tibet. The Chinese did not sign the 1914 Simla Convention prompting the British to sign bilaterally with the Tibetans. Net outcome: McMahon Line is the Indo-Tibetan and not repeat not Sino-Indian boundary and no legal sanctity to division of Tibet into Inner and Outer Tibet.

Now let us examine whether the Tibetans have got anything in common with the Chinese:-
1) Language: The Tibetan language being phonetic has alphabets, its source being Brahmi/Sanskrit and is written horizontally ie. left to right. Some inscriptions at Kanheri Caves in Bombay which are in Brahmi, can be read by the Tibetans. The Chinese language not being phonetic has no alphabets but an ideographic script or pictograms and is written vertically ie. from top to bottom. Therefore the two languages are like chalk and cheese.

2) Race: The Tibetans belong to the Mongoloid stock. The Tibetans and the Mongols have close affinities. The IV Dalai Lama of Tibet Yonten Gyatso was a Mongol. In the institution of the Dalai Lamas, there has been a Dalai Lama born in Mongolia, a Dalai Lama born in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh which is in India, but no Dalai Lama in China proper. The Chinese belong to the yellow race same as the Japanese and the Koreans.

3) Religion: The Tibetans follow Buddhism, the Chinese follow Confucianism which is more a social code of behaviour and ancestor-worship and Taoism.

Thank you.

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Friends of Tibet (India)

Friends of Tibet, PO Box 16674, Bombay 400050, India.

Friends of Tibet is a people's movement to keep alive the issue of Tibet through direct action. Our activities are aimed at ending China's occupation of Tibet and the suffering of the Tibetan people. Friends of Tibet supports the continued struggle of the Tibetan people for independence.