Home > TIBET TODAY
How was the 17-Article Agreement signed? (Ⅰ)

(2009/06/25)

    The Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local government of Tibet on Measures for Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, also known as the 17-Article Agreement, was signed 58 years ago and has passed into history as a law in China.

    However, the Dalai Lama attempts to deny the Agreement completely, in order to seek an evidence for separating Tibet from China.

    Let's review the history about how the 17-Article Agreement was signed to realize the truth:

    The 17-Article Agreement was signed following negotiations between the Central Government and the local government of Tibet.

    In late April 1951, the delegation of the local government of Tibet (Gaxag) arrived in Beijing for the peaceful settlement of the Tibet issue. On April 28, then Premier Zhou Enlai met with the members of the delegation and announced the name list of those attending the negotiations. The Central Government delegation, headed by Li Weihan, was composed of four fully empowered representatives: Li Weihan, Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua and Sun Zhiyuan.

    The fully empowered representatives of the local government of Tibet included Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei (chief representative), Kemei Soinam Wangdui, Tubdain Dainda, Tubdain Lemoin and Sangpo Tainzin Toinzhub.

    The Dalai clique often distorts the signing process of the 17-Article Agreement. On May 22, 2001, it claimed: " The signing of the 17-Article Agreement is a tragedy in Tibet's history," "it's illegal and invalid," "during the whole signing process, the Chinese representatives imposed their purpose on the Tibetan representatives by such means as discrimination, abuse and threats," "the Tibetan representatives were forced to sign the Agreement by selling their personal freedom."

    Those who didn't take part in the negotiations made such remarks. But how did those taking part remark?

    Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei, the only representative who is still alive, wrote in an article titled "Return to the warm embrace of the Motherland" published in 1981: "We held negotiations on the basis of equality and consultation," "and resolved all complicated issues according to the policy of the Chinese Communist Party on resolving issues related to domestic ethnic groups and in line with the special conditions in Tibet."

    Tubdain Dainda, the former monk official representative at that time, recalled in "Tibetan Cultural and Historical Data Anthology" published in 1982: "During the negotiations, we Tibetan representatives accepted 10 articles proposed by the central government. Then we put forward a nine-point proposal. The central government adopted the correct parts and made explanations of the irrational parts. As the monk official sent by Yig-tshang (the secretariat of the local government of Tibet), I made proposals mostly concerning the religious belief and revenues of monasteries. Most of my proposals were adopted by the central government."

    Before the negotiations, Zhou Enlai required the central delegation to respect the Tibetan representatives and to do a good job in unity in all areas. Li Weihan also consulted Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei on the negotiation time, venue and methods. The first round of negotiations on April 29 didn't involve substantial contents. The representatives of the two parties just discussed the procedures and steps in connection with the negotiations.

    The negotiations didn't go smoothly. Besides informal talks and communications, six rounds of formal talks were held, concentrating on the following three issues:

    First, the Tibetan delegation acknowledged that Tibet is part of China but refused to allow the Chinese People's Liberation Army's (PLA) to march into Tibet. However, the representatives of the Central Government held that the PLA had every reason to garrison Tibet for national defense, that the troops to be stationed in Tibet did not need financing from the local government of Tibet, hence would not increase Tibet's financial burden. After three rounds of negotiations and consultations, the Tibetan delegation accepted the article that "the local government of Tibet shall actively assist the PLA in marching into Tibet, with a view to consolidating national defense."

    Second, the Tibetan representatives were worried that the existing systems in Tibet would be reformed. The representatives of the Central Government elaborated the Chinese Communist Party's (CPC) basic policies on ethnic groups and the practice of regional autonomy in areas inhabited by the people of minority ethnic groups. They also promised not to change the existing systems in Tibet. Even changes had to be made; they were subject to the decision by the local government of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

    Third, when the central representatives proposed writing the Panchen Lama's position and authority into the Agreement, the Tibetan representatives considered it hard to accept because they were not empowered to handle this issue. It was the most controversial issue during the entire process of negotiations, almost resulting in the collapse of the negotiations.

    Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei, now in his 90s, recollected in the documentary film "Fifty Years of Tibet" played on CCTV in May 2001: "…but a few days later, Sun Zhiyuan came to me, saying we both sides ought to resume negotiations. We proposed putting it this way: 'maintain the same status and powers when the 13th Dalai Lama and the 9th Panchen Lama were on good terms.' Will that do? I told him that such wording was acceptable to us. So, our negotiations resumed."

    Phuntsok Wangyal, the former Tibetan-Han language interpreter of the central delegation, also the member of the Tibetan Working Committee of the CPC, mentioned in an article titled "Before and after the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" published in 1991: "The issue of establishing the Tibet Military and Political Committee led to a huge difference between the two parties. Though Li Weihan had talked with Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei on this point before, yet at the meetings other members of the Tibetan delegation expressed opposition. They maintained that this would amount to 'adding a person on the neck of the local government of Tibet. ' Under such circumstances, I was so anxious that I did my best to explain to the Tibetan delegation the central government's real intention to set up this committee…In the end, I told them that it was the Dalai Lama who would be the person to be added on the neck of the local government of Tibet. "

    "Minister Li Weihan stated explicitly that the central government would appoint the Dalai Lama as the chairman of the committee, the Panchen Lama and Zhang Guohua as the vice-chairmen. I asked the Kemei Soinam Wangdui and Tubdain Dainda who held the strongest opposition to this issue 'Can a man override himself?' With patient explanations after the meetings, they came to understand the position, nature and authority of the Tibet Military and Political Committee."

    Gyaincain Puntsok, Ngapoi's aide, also the former vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, witnessed the signing ceremony of 17-Article Agreement. He recalled in the article titled "Fifty Years of Tibet: " Consensus was reached on 15 of the 17 articles. As for the remaining two articles, we sent telegram to the Dalai Lama from Beijing to ask for instruction. At that time, I could use numbers to send telegrams. He replied that there was no need to station so many PLA soldiers in Tibet, and it would be enough for the Central Government to send one representative to Tibet."

    A consensus was reached following 25 days of tough negotiations. On May 23, 1951, the representatives of the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet officially signed the 17-Article Agreement at Qinzheng Hall in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of China's Central Government.



[Suggest to a Friend]
       [Print]