|Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet
|23 May 1951
|Qinzheng Hall, Zhongnanhai, Beijing, China
|24 October 1951
|14th Dalai Lama
|The Agreement of the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful liberation of Tibet at Wikisource
|Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet
|Seventeen Point Agreement
The Seventeen Point Agreement, officially the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, was a document pertaining to the status of Tibet within the People's Republic of China. It was signed by plenipotentiaries of the Central People's Government and the Tibetan government on 23 May 1951, in Zhongnanhai, Beijing. The 14th Dalai Lama ratified the agreement in the form of a telegraph on 24 October 1951.
However, the 14th Dalai Lama repudiated the agreement nearly eight years later on 18 April 1959, when he issued a statement declaring that the agreement was made under duress. The Central Tibetan Administration, which was formed after 1960, considers the agreement invalid, while Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, who led the Tibetan delegation during the agreement's negotiations, reported that there was no duress involved. The validity of the agreement continues to be a source of controversy.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the 13th Dalai Lama declared the independence of Tibet. This de facto independence was repeatedly challenged by the Chinese government in Beijing. On 1 October 1949, the 10th Panchen Lama wrote a telegraph to congratulate the Chinese communists on the liberation of the northwest and the establishment of People's Republic of China. He also expressed his excitement at the impending liberation of Tibet. The People's Liberation Army crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October 1950 and defeated the Tibetan army by 19 October. Instead of continuing with the military campaign, China asked Tibet to send representatives to Beijing to negotiate an agreement. The Dalai Lama believes the draft agreement was written by China, and Tibetan representatives were not allowed to suggest any alterations. China did not allow the Tibetan representatives to communicate with the Tibetan government in Lhasa. The Tibetan delegation was not authorized by Lhasa to sign, but ultimately submitted to pressure from the Chinese to sign anyway, using seals which had been specifically made for the purpose.
The Tibetan delegation initially objected to point 1's reference to "invading imperialist forces" but later conceded that there may be such forces operating in Tibet that they were not aware of. Points 2 and 3 were queried for the meaning of "local government", although the meaning of "national regional autonomy" was not discussed, since the Tibetan delegation assumed that things would go on as before. Ngapoi's delegation tried to remove the guarantees of the power for the Panchen Lama in points 5 and 6, but the Chinese delegation countered that the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama should be treated in the same manner; either both have their power guaranteed, or neither does. The Tibetans conceded the point. Fundamental disagreements about point 8, the disbandment of the Tibetan army, resulted in a promise to renegotiate the issue later. The most contentious point was 15, concerning the establishment of a military and administrative committee, since Tibetan delegation felt that it contradicted point 11 about the local Tibetan government conducting reforms on its own. Most of the other points were accepted without comment, or with minor translation adjustments. In order to avoid embarrassment for the Chinese delegation, accommodations to the Tibetan delegation about issues like the maintenance of the Tibetan army were to be concluded subsequently in separate, secret agreements.
The agreement was signed by Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, who advocated Tibetan acquiescence to China, and sealed in Beijing on 23 May 1951 and confirmed by the government in Tibet a few months later. In addition, a public announcement was made by the Dalai Lama to ratify the agreement, his acceptance also being sent to Beijing in the form of a telegram on 24 October 1951:
"This year, the plenipotentiary of the Tibetan Local Government, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme and other five people, arrived in Beijing at the end of April 1951 to conduct peace talks with the plenipotentiary designated by the Central People’s Government. On the basis of friendship, representatives of the both sides signed the agreement on measures for the peaceful liberation of Tibet on 23 May 1951. The Tibet Local Government, as well as ecclesiastic and secular folk, unanimously support this agreement, and under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government, will actively support the People's Liberation Army in Tibet in consolidating national defense, drive out imperialist influences from Tibet, and safeguard the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the Motherland."
Mao Zedong replied on 24 October 1951:
Your telegraph on October 24, 1951 has already been received. I thank you for your efforts to implement the agreement on the peaceful liberation of Tibet, and I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations.
According to the Tibetan government-in-exile, some members of the Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), for example, Tibetan Prime Minister Lukhangwa, never accepted the agreement. But the National Assembly of Tibet, "while recognizing the extenuating circumstances under which the delegates had to sign the 'agreement', asked the government to accept the 'agreement' ... the Kashag told Zhang Jingwu that it would radio its acceptance of the 'agreement'."
The signing of the Seventeen-Point agreement was later contested as invalid in the Tibetan exile community, who charged that the Tibet delegates were forced to sign under duress and that the Chinese allegedly used forged Tibetan government seals. The exile community and their supporters continue to assert that the Tibetan representatives were not allowed to suggest any alterations and that the Chinese government did not allow the Tibetan representatives to communicate with Lhasa.
German legal scholar Eckart Klein considers the agreement invalid and as having been signed under duress.
According to Tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein, the agreement may still be valid even if signed under military threat by the Chinese, but not if the Tibetan negotiators did not have the powers to concede to the Chinese:
The Chinese did make new seals for the Tibetans, but these were just personal seals with each delegate's name carved on them. Other than this, there were no forged government seals. Part of the confusion derives from the fact that Ngabo had in his possession the seal of the governor of Eastern Tibet but chose not to use it. That seal, however, was not the official seal of the Tibetan government, so not using it did not lessen the validity of the agreement. In his autobiography, the Dalai Lama states that the Tibetan delegates claimed they were forced 'under duress' to sign the agreement ... Their feeling of duress derives from the general Chinese threat to use military force again in Central Tibet if an agreement was not concluded. However, according to international law, this does not invalidate an agreement. So long as there is no physical violence against the signatories, an agreement is valid. However, the validity of the agreement is premised on the signatories' full authority to finalize an agreement, and this, as we saw was clearly not the case. So in this sense, the Dalai Lama actually had grounds to disavow it.
In September 1951, the United States informed the Dalai Lama that in order to receive assistance and support from the United States, he must depart from Tibet and publicly disavow "agreements concluded under duress" between the representatives of Tibet and Chinese communists.
Eight years after the agreement was signed and ratified, on the path that was leading him into exile in India, the 14th Dalai Lama arrived 26 March 1959 at Lhuntse Dzong, where he repudiated the Seventeen Point Agreement as having been "thrust upon Tibetan Government and people by the threat of arms" and reaffirmed his government as the only legitimate representative of Tibet.[page needed][page needed] On 20 June 1959, at a press conference convened at Mussoorie, the 14th Dalai Lama repudiated the agreement once more, explaining that, "since China herself had broken the terms of her own Agreement, there could no longer be any legal basis for recognizing it."[page needed]
In his essay Hidden Tibet: History of Independence and Occupation published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives at Dharamsala, S.L. Kuzmin writes that the Agreement had critical defects. The use of newly made personal seals instead of official governmental seals was not legal. The Tibetan delegates exceeded their authority by signing the Agreement without the approval from the Dalai Lama and the Kashag. The preamble to the Agreement contained ideological cliches that do not correspond to reality. The Chinese government ordered PLA soldiers that entered Tibet to command the "local" government to send their people for negotiations with the center (i.e. central government); the contracting parties acknowledged this in the Preamble and Point 2, so the agreement was signed under a military threat. The Agreement was drawn up in such a way that a number of terms were ambiguous and allowed for different interpretations by the Chinese and the Tibetans. It also contains some internal contradictions.
Further information: Annexation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China
The most important parts of the seventeen point agreement which benefited China were the first, eighth and fourteenth points of the agreement. The first point annexed Tibet as a part of China and turned it into Chinese territory. This was heavily enforced by China whose occupation of Tibet and enforcement of China’s norms and customs were imperative towards the assimilation of Tibet into China. In addition, the fourteenth point of the agreement gave China the power to usurp external affairs from Tibet. As a result, China was able to control Tibetan international affairs, trade, borders and relationships. This effect continues to play a role as seen in the India-China border dispute. Lastly, the eighth point was crucial towards China’s further annexation and development of Tibet into China. By incorporating their military into the province they ensured continued Chinese rule and assimilation in the region.
Point 3 in the agreement defines Tibet’s status under the PRC as an autonomous region under the Chinese government, and that a policy of one country two systems would be followed with Tibet. The fourth, fifth, and sixth points in the agreement further consolidate this system, promising Tibet that China would not intervene in the Tibetan government status and politics. However, the Tibetan government holds that till date, these clauses promising regional autonomy and freedom to the Tibetan people have not been honored by the PRC government. While the Chinese occupation of Tibet led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, China has thereafter tightened security measures in Tibet. Furthermore, recent cases such as the kidnapping of the chosen Penchen Lama, the nomination of the 11th Penchen Lama by the Chinese government, and the case of monks and nuns at the Dorje Drak monastery being forced to sign banners supporting Communist Party policies are further signs of Chinese influence and intervention in Tibetan politics.
Lhasa Tibetan, the main indigenous language of Tibet, has undergone various periods of acceptance and promotion in schools to banishment and suppression. Schooling and the Chinese government's policy of establishing Mandarin as the official and common language of China has led to a decline in the use of the Tibetan language. There are now fewer contexts where it is spoken in Tibet and is not as widely taught in schools as it had been in previous decades.[page needed] Like the Tibetan language, trade and the Tibetan government’s control over it has seen great variation since 1951.[page needed] Points 10, 11, and 13 address Tibet's autonomy in deciding reforms and their economy. China's policies such as the 2019–2020 Farmer and Pastoralist Training and Labor Action Plan, which was implemented to alleviate poverty, forced Tibetan farmers to give up their land rights and relocate to urban areas to work as wage laborers. As of 2020, Tibetan officials were given quotas for the number of Tibetans that needed to be enrolled in such programs.