Establishing a Workable Autonomy in Tibet

Posted: 20 Oct 2011

See all articles by Michael C. Davis

Michael C. Davis

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2008


This article recommends a change in China’s policy toward Tibet to better conform to national commitments and international obligations. Since the People’s Liberation Army marched into Tibet in the 1950s China has generally imposed its will on the Tibetan people. The 1951 '17-Point Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet' reflected the view that China was liberating Tibetan territory from imperialist forces. From the Tibetan perspective such 'liberation' was imposed and promises of local self-rule were not kept. The emerging communist and totalitarian state that followed the 1949 Chinese revolution proved incapable of allowing genuine Tibetan self-rule. A harsh attitude of domination ensued. The present instrument of Chinese rule is China’s national minority policy provided in Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution and China’s Law on Regional National Autonomy (LRNA). Though this policy promises local self-rule, the habits of intervention both formally in the political system and in the mechanisms of Communist Party oversight leave Tibetans with very little of the promised legislative and administrative autonomy. Assessing this policy against the backdrop of China’s long historical relationship with Tibet and the requirements of international law, this article concludes that China’s national minority policy fails to meet its obligations to the Tibetan people. Taking account of standards articulated in the new UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this article recommends a change of course to establish a more genuine autonomy under Article 31 of the Chinese Constitution relating to the establishment of special administrative regions.

Keywords: Tibet, autonomy

Suggested Citation

Davis, Michael C., Establishing a Workable Autonomy in Tibet (March 1, 2008). Available at SSRN:

Michael C. Davis (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics