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Section B: The Seventeen-Point Agreement Of 1951 Is Absolutely Void Under International Law

The PRC claims to have 'peacefully liberated' Tibetin 1950 despite the PRC's simultaneous assertion that Tibet has always been part of China. This 'peaceful liberation,' according to the PRC, was then embodied in the Seventeen-Point Agreement concluded between Tibet and the PRC in 1951:

After the founding of new China in October 1949, it [was] the Chinese Government's responsibility as well as the shared demand of the Chinese nationalities, including the Tibetans, to liberate its own territory in Tibet, expel the imperialist forces, remove outside obstacles preventing the Tibetan people from enjoying rights of equality and freedom, and safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Under such circumstances, through the concerted efforts of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet, the two sides sent delegations and conducted friendly negotiations. Agreement was reached on various matters related to the peaceful liberation of Tibet and the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet was signed on 23 May 1951. This Agreement is an important and legally-binding document for the Government of new China to settle its domestic ethnic question.

Tibet and the PRC agree that the PLA entered what the PRC acknowledges to be Tibet in 1950 and that the Seventeen-Point Agreement was signed in 1951, while PLA troops occupied large parts of Tibet. The treaty was therefore concluded under force and the continued threat of force. There are only two situations in which a treaty may lawfully be imposed upon a party whose territory is forcibly occupied: (1)where the occupying power is using force against an unlawful aggressor and (2)pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. The Tibetans of course were not unlawful aggressors, nor has the United Nations Security Council ever enacted any resolution authorizing force against Tibet. Thus, the so-called 'Agreement' of 1951 is not a valid or binding treaty.

Debates persist over whether the Tibetan delegates to the 1950-1951 negotiations were true plenipotentiaries, whether they were threatened with personal violence, and whether the Dalai Lama's conduct in continuing to act as head of the local Tibetan government after the PRC's invasion constituted an implicit acceptance of the 'Agreement.' As a legal matter, however, these disputes need not be resolved. A treaty procured through the forcible occupation of one party's territory by the military forces of the other party is (except in the circumstances already mentioned) absolutely void. A treaty that is absolutely void can be repudiated at any time, and acceptance of such a treaty cannot be implied from the conduct of the party whose territory is occupied:

'If the treaty is tainted with relative nullity by reason of a defect of capacity, error, fraud or corruption, the injured party is free to invoke or not to invoke the invalidity of its consent, and it could agree to confirm the act expressly or impliedly. On the other hand, if a treaty has been procured by force or is in breach of a rule of jus cogens there is no question of waiver or estoppel resulting from the conduct of the state victim. This state or any other state may at any time allege the invalidity of a treaty obtained through duress or in violation of jus cogens.'

Both parties agree that the PLA had already occupied large parts of Tibet when the 'Agreement' was signed in 1951. Moreover, China threatened the negotiators with further use of force a military advance to Lhasa if they refused to sign. Therefore, the 'Agreement' is absolutely void and provides no support for any claim by the PRC to sovereignty over Tibet.

(On to II.C, Historically, Tibet Never Became Part Of China -->)

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