|Seventeen Point Agreement|
|Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet|
The Seventeen Point Agreement, also called the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, or the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet for short, is the document by which the delegates of the 14th Dalai Lama, sovereign of the de facto state of Tibet, reached an agreement in 1951 with the Central People's Government of the newly established People's Republic of China on affirming Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
Chinese sources regard the document as a legal contract that was mutually welcomed by both governments as well as by the Tibetan people. The Central Tibetan Administration which was formed after 1960 and international law expert Eckart Klein consider it invalid and as having been signed under duress.
The United States informed the Dalai Lama in 1951 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 China.
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.
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The Tibetan delegation initially objected to point #1's reference to "imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet", but later conceded that there might be such forces operating 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, the following letter purportedly written by the Dalai Lama indicating his acceptance was also sent to Beijing in the form of a telegram on 24 October:
"The Tibet Local Government as well as the ecclesiastic and secular people 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 to consolidate national defence, drive out imperialist influences from Tibet and safeguard the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the Motherland."
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'."
Signed and sealed by delegates of the Central People's Government with full powers: Chief Delegate:
Delegates with full powers of the Local Government of Tibet:
The Tibetan delegates, two officials from Dromo and two from Lhasa, were chosen by the Dalai Lama to accompany Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme.
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.
However, Tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein, who interviewed at least two negotiators and the only interpreter (the Dalai Lama's brother-in-law) from the Tibetan side, provides a different account:
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.
And, as a Tibetan negotiator recalled, instances indeed exist when the Tibetan delegates, with the Dalai Lama's authorization,were free to suggest alteration.
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 "17-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. On 20 June 1959, at a press conference convened at Mussoorie, the 14th Dalai Lama repudiated the agreement once more. He explained that, "since China herself had broken the terms of her own 'Agreement', there could no longer be any legal basis for recognising it."
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 Centre; 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.
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Your Holiness will understand, of course, that the readiness of the United States to render you the assistance and support outlined above is conditional upon your departure from Tibet, upon your public disavowal of agreements concluded under duress between the representatives of Tibet and those of the Chinese Communist aggression.
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Seventeen Point Agreement