China to enforce 'celebrations'

Wednesday, 16 May 2001

China to enforce 'celebrations' of the 50th anniversary of Tibet's 'peaceful liberation'
The Seventeen Point Agreement - May 1951

China is undertaking a major propaganda drive to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Seventeen Point Agreement (23 May 2001), as illustrated by an article in the official newspaper of the Tibet Autonomous Region (Lhasa Xizang Ribao Ð see notes). "This year ... people of every ethnic group in the region will solemnly and ardently celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tibet's peaceful liberation."

The anniversary is seen as "a rare chance to carry out broad and penetrating ideological education" (see notes), which will allow cadres and 'the masses' to " further understand the important contributions of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in peacefully liberating Tibet, as well as the solid role played by the troops stationed in Tibet, armed police officers and troops, and public security cadres and police during each historical period in building the new Tibet." Readers are urged to "persistently expose and criticise the Dalai Lama, until we have achieved a complete victory in the battle against separatism."

Celebrations in Tibet will take place from April to August, says Xinhua. Highlights include a grand public rally and an exhibition on Tibet's achievements over the last 50 years. The State Post Bureau will issue a set of postcards to commemorate the occasion. Security is likely to be tight during the period. More significantly, China is taking the opportunity to promote its ambitious plans for 'economic development' Ð a strategy widely seen as consolidating political control of Tibet. "We are now faced with an important historical opportunity, as we enjoy stable social and political situations in our region and as the central government implements western expansion."The strategy includes major oil and gas extraction, for which BP's reputation has been dented through its investment in PetroChina, and the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

The Seventeen Point Agreement was signed on 23 May 1951, following the 1950 military invasion of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army, but was abrogated by the Tibetans in 1959 after numerous breaches by the Chinese government. In March 1959, following the failed National Uprising, the Dalai Lama fled into exile. He denounced the Agreement at a press conference on 20 June 1959, saying it had been signed under duress and that the Chinese authorities had not adhered to the conditions. "While I and my government did not voluntarily accept the Agreement, we were obliged to acquiesce to it and decided to abide by the terms and conditions in order to save my people and country from the danger of total destruction. It was, however, clear from the very beginning that the Chinese had no intention of carrying out the Agreement."

Notes:

1. Source - Date: 05/04/2001 Internet version of daily newspaper of the Tibet Autonomous Region CPC Committee. CPP20010407000108 Lhasa Xizang Ribao in Chinese [Article by staff commentator, "Unite as One, Exert the Utmost Effort To Create a Better Tomorrow for Tibet"] [FBIS Translated Text].

2. China's 'season of exuberance and joy' also includes the celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. The Party's first congress took place on 20th July 1921.

3. The Seventeen Point Agreement was signed on 23 May 1951. The full text and chronology of the Agreement is available here. Amongst the major points of the Agreement were the following:
The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet; the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland.
The local government of Tibet shall actively assist the PLA to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defences.
In accordance with the policy towards nationalities... the Tibetan people have the right of exercising national regional autonomy under (China's) leadership.
The central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet.
The religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people shall be respected and lama monasteries shall be protected.
In matters relating to various reforms in Tibet, there will be no compulsion on the part of the central authorities. The local government of Tibet shall carry out reforms of its own accord.

4. China is using the Anniversary to reinforce the ongoing programme of re-education, which includes the continuing penalisation of those pursuing their right to religious freedom.

For more information contact: Alison Reynolds, Director +44 20 7833 9958, Mobile +44 7711 843884