12 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 20, 2009
The Tibetan Autonomous Region (‘TAR’) and twelve other contiguous Tibetan autonomous areas in adjoining provinces, on the high plateau in the southwest of the country, occupy nearly a quarter of contemporary China. The international legal issues surrounding Tibet are best understood through the lens of two critical questions: first, was the Chinese occupation of Tibet legitimate or a violation of the sovereignty of an independent State (Annexation; Legitimacy; Occupation, Belligerent; Occupation, Pacific); and second, whether their rule is legitimate or not, do the Chinese incur international obligations respecting Tibetan autonomy? The latter question most occupies the parties now, though the former may have some bearing on their perceptions. Discussions between Beijing officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama, which began in 2002, have revealed the bottom line of the parties: for the Tibetans genuine autonomy and for the Chinese sovereignty. In asking for ‘genuine autonomy’ the Tibetan leaders appear to appreciate the role of autonomy as an essential step for participation in cultural, social, economic and political life, promoting both democracy and human rights (Cultural Life, Right to Participate in, International Protection; Democracy, Right to, International Protection). The Tibetans advance their proposal for genuine autonomy under a formula they have labelled the ‘middle way’ approach and the Chinese advance their policy under their national minority laws (Minorities, International Protection). A starting point for assessing Tibetan demands and Chinese policies is to consider the history of the Sino- Tibetan relationship.
Keywords: Tibet, autonomy
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