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Section E: Conclusions Regarding The Legal Status Of Tibet

Tibet was a fully independent state until the thirteenth century. It was made a separate part of the Mongol Empire in 1249 but never became a part of the Chinese portion of the Empire that was established in 1279. Tibet regained its full independence from the Mongol Empire in 1349. China did likewise in 1368. Tibet functioned as a fully independent state at least until 1720, when the Manchu Empire began to exert some influence and, for short periods in the late 18th century, a measure of control over Tibetan affairs. By 1840, Tibet was again functioning as an independent state, the Manchu influence having effectively faded. Except for a brief period of occupation by provincial Sichuan troops in the last years of the Manchu Imperium (1909-1911) when the Dalai Lama sought exile in India, the Tibetan government exercised effective control over Tibet as an independent state until Communist China invaded it in 1950.

Because Tibet was an independent state in 1950, the PRC must show convincing proof that it achieved sovereignty over Tibet through a consensual transaction. As discussed above, the so-called 'Agreement' of 1951 was not the product of a consensual transaction. On the contrary, as shown above, 'Tibet signed at pistol-point.'

Although under earlier international law, effective exercise of authority for a prolonged period of time was recognized as a mode of acquiring sovereignty, the United Nations Charter dramatically alters the legal situation:

Under classic international law, the freedom of annexation was derived from the right to wage war. In the meantime that right to wage war has been superseded by the ban on the use of force (Article 2(4), UN Charter). Thus the freedom of annexation, too, was transformed into a ban on annexation.

As a result, the overwhelming majority of States reject claims to territory based on the illegal use or threat of force as contrary to modern international law. Because Tibet was legally and functionally independent before the PRC's invasion, the invasion cannot create a foundation for a legal claim of sovereignty:

To brand as illegal the use of force against the 'territorial integrity' of a State, and yet at the same time to recognize the rape of another's territory by illegal force as being itself a root of legal title to the sovereignty over it, is surely to risk bringing the law into contempt. For it is not simply a question whether it is possible to allow a title which cannot be pleaded without incidentally exhibiting the illegality. Nor is it merely a question of the limits of the maxim ex injuria jus non oritur. The question is whether an international crime of the first order can itself be pleaded as titled because its perpetration has been attended with success.
Nor has the exercise of authority by the PRC been undisputed: The PRC admitted the existence of substantial popular opposition in 1959, it has continued to the present, and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is the embodiment of such opposition. Tibet is rightfully an independent state, and the PRC has violated Tibet's territorial integrity.

No sufficient legal grounds exist to support the contention that after 1951 the Tibetan State ceased to exist and was legally incorporated into the PRC. The State of Tibet still exists as an independent legal entity, with a legitimate Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala, to represent it. That government and the people of Tibet, consequently, have the right to resume the exercise of sovereignty over their own territory, free from the interference of other States.


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