HL Deb 05 May 1960 vol 223 cc466-504

5.6 p.m.

LORD BIRDWOOD rose to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the question of Tibet; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be wondered why rather late on a May afternoon we are concerned with the affairs of Tibet, a country separated from us by some 6,000 miles in distance and increasingly becoming separated from us in time, so far as the tragic events of last year are concerned. My reply would be that it is just because of that remoteness in time that perhaps now is the right moment to take a look back, objectively and without passion, and consider our own participation in the whole affair and perhaps learn a lesson for the future.

I have no idea whether the item of Tibet will again figure on the United Nations agenda this year, but if it does I should hope that our debate this afternoon might help Her Majesty's Government in determining their approach; and if it does not I would suggest that there is another service that we can perform, and that is to clear our thoughts on that most confusing of all international issues—namely, the degree to which in a modern world we are entitled to take note of what happens on somebody else's soil. "When is a domestic affair not a domestic affair?" one might term it. I fully realise that here we are on very delicate ground, and that it might be said that it would be best to leave well alone. Personally I prefer to believe that your Lordships' House is the one Parliamentary forum which can be trusted to discuss these matters and to be both discreet and constructive. It is in that belief that I am hoping that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, so far from resenting anything that may be said, will finally be grateful for our discussion this afternoon.

I want immediately to meet a possible charge. It is the charge that says that to discuss Tibet's affairs perhaps does more harm than good to the interests of the Tibetans. My Lords, I submit that nothing could be worse for the Tibetans than their present condition, and that China, in her present mood, is unlikely to step up or play down her persecutions having regard to anything that may be said in your Lordships' House. But what does matter is that we ourselves should have second thoughts on some of the points which I shall hope to present to your Lordships. You will recall that at the United Nations we voted for the inscription of the item and then abstained on the resolution. There were, I think, valid reasons for a course which normally would be regarded as rather curious. If I indicate my own doubts as to the wisdom of that course it is certainly in no spirit of hostility or fierce criticism. I fully appreciate the difficulties and I am quite prepared to hear from the noble Marquess at the end that he has merely taken note of these views and that they will be carefully looked at on any future occasion. But that much I feel justified in asking, because I feel that we are justified in believing that Her Majesty's Government's doubts about Tibet to-day could be their convictions of to-morrow.

If I am to demonstrate what I believe to be the mistake of that particular approach of the United Nations, I have to remind your Lordships for a moment of past history, and admittedly give my own interpretation. From 1720, when the Manchu Dynasty first conquered China, and thereby enabled the Chinese to label Tibet as Chinese territory, right up until 1911, when the Manchu Dynasty fell, their hold on Tibet was purely nominal—a matter merely of satisfying Chinese imperial pride. In fact, no treaty was signed between Tibet and China for a period of 700 years, from the year 1247 up to 1908. During that period Tibet signed at least two treaties within her own right with the world outside. It is true that with a Chinese Resident in Lhasa, the British Government, attempted to deal with Tibet through Peking; but the fact is that those efforts failed; and it was Chinese inability to see that our trade agreements with Tibet were implemented that led to the Young-husband Military Mission in 1904, in search of a Tibetan authority with whom to be able to deal.

The subsequent concessions were given by a Tibetan Government, and it is significant that at no time did the Chinese Government of the day protest at action which to-day would undoubtedly be presented as an invasion of Chinese territory. Nor had they anything to say on the subsequent signing of the 1904 Convention, to which they were not a party, and indeed which could be quoted as confirming China as a foreign Power. In 1911, some of your Lordships will remember, there was the Chinese revolution in which the Manchu Dynasty fell, and with that fall all vestige of Chinese authority in Tibet disappeared. By August, 1912, the last Chinese troops had been expelled by the Tibetans by way of India; thus a relationship which had always been something quite outside Western experience—a link between an Emperor and his strong guide, the Dalai Lama, was ended. Tibet then became, in fact and in law, independent.

Remembering that Czarist Russia was the traditional potential enemy in those days, and remembering also that the policy was to create buffer States around the perimeter of India, and noting that there was a certain amount of confusion and doubt on the frontier conditions along that great long Himalayan barrier, the British Government sent out separate invitations to the Chinese Government and to the Tibetans for a Conference in Simla in 1913, and the subsequent treaty was signed by Sir Henry McMahon and the Tibetan representative. The Chinese representative initialled the treaty, but it was neither signed nor ratified by his Government.

Article 2 of that Treaty is important because it introduces those evasive terms "autonomy" and "suzerainty". The Governments of Great Britain and China were to recognise Tibetan autonomy within Chinese suzerainty. Whatever our interpretations may be of those two terms, there was one most important qualification—I am quoting now from the Report of the International Commission of Jurists at Geneva: So long as the Government of China withholds its signature of the aforesaid Convention, she will be debarred from the enjoyment of all the privileges accruing therefrom. The privileges which would accrue to China were those which anyone could read into the term "suzerainty". In fact, in the treaty the only privilege mentioned was the right to keep a representative up in Lhasa with an escort of 300 men. Far more was said in the Treaty about what the Chinese could not do than about what they could do. For instance, they could not interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet; they could not turn Tibet into a Chinese province. So much then for Chinese suzerainty. But China did not even sign or ratify this Treaty; and by her refusal to do so she placed herself in a position of a foreign Power outside the Treaty. So that any subsequent entry of troops into the country, such as, for instance, that in 1950, was a common act of aggression, both in fact and in law.

For us the most important point to note is surely this: that through the non-participation of China in this Treaty it became a simple Agreement—a bilateral Agreement—between the British Government and the Tibetan Government. We have to admit that, in spite of this fact, the British Government of the day continued to play with the concept of autonomy within suzerainty. I have spoken to officers of the Indian political service at that time, and their explanation is that the British Government were all the time trying to help the Chinese to save face in some way. That general position was confirmed years later, in 1943, by a British Note to the Chinese Government which said this: This is the principle"— of autonomy within suzerainty— which has since guided the attitude of the British Government towards Tibet. They have always been prepared to recognise Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous.' My interpretation of that statement is that China, having refused the 1914 Treaty, did not regard Tibet as autonomous but claimed Tibet as a part of China; and for that very reason we did not, and could not in law, recognise Chinese suzerainty.

I think that position was confirmed seven years later when Mr. Ernest Davies, speaking in another place in November, 1950, having referred to the transfer of power to India and the inheritance by India of our obligations and rights in regard to Tibet, said this: … we expressed our intention of continuing to take a friendly interest in the maintenance of Tibet's autonomy. That is still our attitude. We have over a long period recognised China's suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous. For many years this suzerainty has been no more than nominal, and indeed since 1911 Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence. That was followed up by Mr. Kenneth Younger in the following year, 1951, in very much the same terms. After referring to the summoning by the Chinese of a Tibetan delegation against their will to Peking and the signing of a fresh Treaty as between Tibet and China, he said: This agreement purports to guarantee Tibetan autonomy and safeguard her religious freedom; but the arrangements for the entry of the Chinese Army, the setting up of a Chinese military administration headquarters in Tibet … throw considerable doubt on the value of these guarantees.


Would the noble Lord say which Mr. Younger that was?


Mr. Kenneth Younger.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon; he was the Minister of State at the Foreign Office.


Looking at all these statements, and summing them all up side by side, surely a fair assessment is that as late as 1951 we still held that Chinese suzerainty was regarded as valid only if China had signed the 1914 Agreement, which thereby would have committed us to accept full Tibetan autonomy. It would have been simpler and, in my view, far more honest, if the British Government of the day had said that as China had not signed the 1914 Agreement, and until she did so, so far as we were concerned Tibet was independent. But the war had intervened, China was an Ally, and it may have been a case of "never troubling trouble until trouble comes along". Nevertheless, that was the position. Tibet was independent until 1951 and we all knew it.

On May 23, 1951, a new Treaty was signed in Peking between Tibet and China under conditions of terrible duress. I believe that only two clauses in that Treaty could be regarded as calling for a reassessment of Tibet's international status, and I would quote Clause 1 which says: The Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the Motherland—the Peoples' Republic of China"— a privilege which they could hardly forgo in view of the fact that by then Chinese troops were all over their country; and Clause 14 which said that the Peoples' Government of China: shall have concentrated handling of all external affairs. That was followed by the usual blurb about peaceful co-existence with one's neighbours. In those two paper commitments, as I see it, with all the crude confidence of massive Chinese power politics in the background, is the concentration of our hesitations subsequently as to whether or not Tibet was a domestic affair of China.

Now we have arrived at the United Nations Resolution of October 22 of last year. In that Resolution the term "fundamental human rights" appears no fewer than four times, and answering a Question on November 11, 1959, the right honourable gentleman the Minister of State said, first, that we abstained because of our doubts concerning Article 2, subsection 7 of the United Nations Charter—which is, of course, that which deals with interference in the domestic affairs of another State—and, secondly, that we abstained because it was: our view that it was not right for the General Assembly to pass Resolutions about human rights in individual States or Territories. In regard to human rights, in my view our reservations were perfectly logical. In these days human rights can be loosely and arbitrarily interpreted as embracing anything from the complete suppression and oppression of a whole people down to a South African policeman treading, inadvertently or otherwise, on the toe of an individual. But where Article 2, subsection 7, is concerned, I hope I have shown that there was no doubt whatsoever on that until 1951; and if there was doubt subsequently surely the benefit of the doubt could have been given to support a Tibet which was independent rather than a Tibet which was part of China. Surely the accumulated weight of the evidence of centuries previous to 1951 could have figured as a factor in deciding the future of Tibet after 1951.

Here I think it is only intelligent to pause for a moment and look at Article 2, subsection 7, as the great question mark. I am giving away no secrets but merely making deductions that any man can make for himself. That subsection is in these terms: Nothing in the Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State. I am informed that if that Article had not been there, we should certainly have had no Charter, and it is obvious that if we were to play loose with this principle we could never expect this protection when others sought to evade it at our expense. Yet, as time progresses and as the world shrinks, surely it is rational to suppose that we have to move into more liberal interpretations of this principle.

It could be argued that the answer is not to play about with interpretations but to revise the Charter, and meanwhile, at all cost, support and protect it. We all know that review of the Charter is impossible so long as Soviet Russia is determined to frustrate that, so surely the only wise and rational course to take is to treat every case on its merits as it arises. In judging the merits of the Tibetan case we had grave doubts, and Sir Pierson Dixon's observation was: There must be some doubt as to whether Article 2 (7) applied in this instance. And he added: We did not take up a final or definite position in the matter. Frankly, I am hoping that Her Majesty's Government may have second thoughts, so that if Tibet comes up again at the United Nations our final position may next time be something a little more positive. What puzzled some people was the impression that there was a desire to discover that Article 2 (7) applied rather than to discover that it did not apply. To that extent, also, it seemed that we were looking for precise points of law and welcoming them for the shelter they afforded us.

International law tells us that a Treaty is not invalid because one side breaks it, and that a Treaty signed under duress is nevertheless binding. Surely, if we were really to allow such considerations to govern policy we should become the prisoners of the law; and I would submit that, paradoxically, to become the passive prisoner of the law is to become the active agent of injustice. Suppose that the great Powers, noting that China forces the Dalai Lama to sign a Treaty against his will and that China subsequently breaks the clauses of that Treaty which are inconvenient to her and finally invades Tibetan territory, somewhat complacently say that they can find no legal sanction to support a resolution of condemnation: in effect, as I see it, the green light is given all over the world to common aggression.

Legally a man, hearing the screams of a child in a house next door and suspecting that it is being beaten up by its parents, has no authority to break into the house to see what is happening. Yet he would be a most extraordinary man who did not do so. If, therefore, the individual can take a mild legal risk, surely the great Powers, in handling international affairs, sometimes have to take the mild legal risk. Perhaps even their ability to do so is a measure of their greatness.

Finally, one word about the Indian position. India signed her separate Treaty with China in April, 1954, and the preamble to that referred to Tibet as a "Region of China". In fact, the Treaty deals almost entirely with trade and pilgrim traffic, but India having recognised Tibet as a Chinese region, we could hardly have expected any other attitude from her than that of abstention at the United Nations. In the first blush of independence—and I am speaking perfectly objectively—obviously the Government which took power in 1947 under Mr. Nehru probably did not have very much interest in the Tibet and China policies that we left behind. But whatever may have been Indian views then, there is absolutely no doubt about them to-day.

In their Note to China of February 12 of this year the Government of India made it crystal clear that they now accept the 1914 Simla Treaty in the identical terms in which I have tried to interpret it this afternoon, as an Agreement (and I quote from paragraph 32): between the authorised representatives of the two parties (Tibet and British India) reached after full discussion and approved of by the Government of Tibet. In any case, there is ample evidence around to-day of Indian public opinion on this matter. We need have no fears in future that any positive position we choose to take up is going to be out of step with Indian views.

If I may sound a personal note, I would remark that year after year Englishmen would look up from the heat of the plains at that great Himalayan valley and would come to regard it as something of a mystical shield. And they, more than others, perhaps, can appreciate what it means to a sovereign and independent India to-day when they see, for the first time, a challenge emerging across that valley from Peking. While in no way wishing to interfere, or seeming to interfere, in what is entirely an affair of India and the Indian people, I am sure that Indians would only wish to know that the moral and political support of this country—and, indeed, more than that if ever the need arose—is behind them in their search for stability and peace with honour on their frontiers.

I admit that there was never any physical action which we could have taken to help Tibet. But when people pass on from that assumption to throw doubt on the value of discussing this matter, I would say that there is in the world to-day a new force, and we might call it organised international opinion. My only motive has been to indicate the lines on which, perhaps, Her Majesty's Government could, and should, play their part in organising international opinion, in relation not only to Tibet but to the many other occasions of a similar nature which may arise in the distant future. I beg to move for Papers.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, a discussion on the recent happenings in and concerned with Tibet is undoubtedly at the present moment, in many ways, a very delicate matter. None the less, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Birdwood in that some of us who are deeply interested in that part of the world have an opportunity of expressing some views on these recent happenings, and I hope with a maximum of discretion. I have never actually been in Tibet; nor have I had any direct bearings with Tibetan affairs. But I did, not so many long years ago, attempt to get up the Sutlej Valley, from Simla right up to the frontier, and only bad weather and a broken patch of a very dangerous road prevented us from getting there. But, of course, that part of the world was one in which none of us who served in India during the war times could fail to have a very deep interest.

May I just say a word, and not a very long word, as a lawyer, about the juridical position of Tibet? It is admitted, I think, by everyone that from the beginning right up to 1911 all Powers, including ourselves, in India recognised that China had a form of suzerainty over Tibet. It was a curious situation. There was a Chinese official sometimes, not always, at Lhasa. The Chinese claimed some right to take part in the election of a succeeding Dalai Lama. But, once appointed, throughout all those years the Dalai Lama administered the country completely independently, and it was only on very exceptional occasions that China ever attempted to intervene in any way by force. It so happened that just before the fall of the Manchu Dynasty in 1911 they did, in fact, send an armed expedition into Tibet, and with the fall of the Emperor the forces in Tibet had to surrender and were, as my noble friend Lord Birdwood said, evacuated through India.

Those events in 1911 were followed by the important Conferences at Simla, in 1913 and 1914, out of which came, as I understand it, two Agreements. The first one was the Agreement negotiated between His Majesty's Government (as it then was) on behalf of India, Tibet, as an independent autonomous sovereign Power, and China. That Agreement provided mainly, and with some importance, for a division of Tibet as it then was into Outer and Inner Tibet. The part of Tibet adjoining China went under China. The Outer Tibet was assured of complete independence, still under a form of suzerainty. China, however, refused to ratify that Agreement, not because she challenged the right of Tibet to negotiate the matter at all, and as she would have been justified in doing if she claimed sovereignty over Tibet, but merely because she did not agree with the boundary line between Outer and Inner Tibet. She never questioned the right of Tibet to negotiate for herself, and she never at that time, or for years, questioned the other boundary, the boundary between Outer Tibet and India. She accepted that. I should add that when China refused to sign the Tripartite Agreement, a second Agreement between Her Majesty's Government and Tibet was drawn up on very much the same lines, but leaving out some of the provisions affecting China in particular.

I think there are certain important deductions to be drawn from those negotiations. In the first place, His Majesty's Government at that time recognised Tibet throughout as an independent sovereign State with which we could negotiate. Secondly, China throughout never claimed anything except a very limited suzerainty, subject to very strict conditions, over Outer Tibet; and she never claimed sovereignty at all over any part of Tibet. Further, she never challenged the right of Tibet to sit at the same table and to negotiate. She never, as I said, challenged the boundary which was agreed at the Tripartite Conference and subsequently embodied in the Agreement between His Majesty's Government and Tibet herself.

From 1911 till 1950 Tibet was in fact completely independent, ruled by the Dalai Lama, who administered the country and who was recognised by us and by everybody else as the ruler of an independent and autonomous State. What happened then? The Communist revolution came along and immediately the Communists invaded Tibet with arms. It is suggested by the Dalai Lama, in a long statement made after he got to India, that it was a rallying cry which the Communists would all unite in carrying into effect, and Chinese troops started to pour into Tibet. In 1951 Tibet was driven to make the Agreement to which my noble friend Lord Birdwood referred, under which she acknowledged that she was really under the sovereignty of China; and China then proceeded to overrun the whole of Tibet with troops.

It was, I think, a very great misfortune that in 1956 the countries of the West were all engaged with Suez. The year 1956 was the 2,500th anniversary of the death of Buddha, and the whole of the Buddhist part of the East was celebrating that anniversary. In Tibet itself the Tibetans, who were being ground down by the Chinese, attempted a very strong, religious revival. The result was that, in addition to troops, tanks arrived in Tibet. A revolt followed: a revolt which went on in different parts of the country right up till 1958, when the Dalai Lama fled over the boundary into India.

My Lords, I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the effect which the flight of the Dalai Lama from Lhasa into India, and the details that began to come out of the way in which the Dalai Lama and his followers had been treated in Tibet by China, had on India and the Buddhist East. After all, Buddha was born in India: he was a citizen of India; he preached in India; and the Prime Minister of India, in one of his more recent speeches, used this very sentence: We may be Hindus, but Lord Buddha is the greatest Indian that ever lived, and we in India are still under the umbrella of this feeling for the Buddha. As we know, there are not so many Buddhists in India to-day as there are in Ceylon, Burma and elsewhere throughout the East, but the Hindus of India have the greatest and deepest respect for Buddha and Buddhists. The shock to them of this attitude taken by China to this small, religious, peaceful State cannot be exaggerated: and when, on top of that, there came the use of the troops that had been poured into Tibet to threaten the frontiers of India, it is not surprising that the reaction in India was as great as it was.

The meeting of the United Nations did not take place until 1959, and by that time, Tibet was completely under the forceful domination of China. Like Lord Birdwood, I regret very much that the delegation from this country was unable to support the resolution against China. But, of course, facts are facts; and by that time China had established its sovereignty, by force, over Tibet. What I am much more concerned with is the result of the treatment which China has given to Tibet, and the treatment that may be feared by any Power or any country which falls under the envy or ambition of Communist China.

It is perfectly true that the present dispute is on the frontiers of Tibet and India, and is primarily, if not entirely, India's affair. But it is a Commonwealth frontier; and within the ambit of China we have great possessions and great interests. When we look back on the history of the period since the last war, and on China's record, ending up with the events in Tibet, surely we must realise that, as a matter of policy, Communist China, so far from objecting to forceful measures, has used them continuously since the end of the last war. We have seen their methods in Korea; we have seen their methods in Indo-China; we have seen their methods in Malaya; and we have now seen this ruthless attack and the establishment of their domination in Tibet. My Lords, that seems to me a matter which we in this country—and, if I may say so with great respect, the West as a whole—have not taken with that seriousness or that knowledge which all peoples who are opposed to Communism ought to have.

My Lords, when I came back from India in 1948 I was invited to a dinner of members of my Party. I had been in India during the first twelve months after the Russian delegations appeared in India. I said then that my belief was that, while the Communists would threaten in Europe, the task of infiltrating and of establishing themselves in Europe was one of vast difficulties, and I believed that they would threaten in Europe but that they would steadily penetrate and establish their dominion in Asia. I believe that Communist China has every intention of establishing Communism throughout every part of Asia which she can reach—and we have possessions which are all too clearly within her sphere. For these reasons I should like to record my thanks to my noble friend Lord Birdwood for giving us in this House an opportunity to consider the events in Tibet—and, much more, if I may venture to say so to your Lordships, the dangers that may lie ahead for many of our fellow subjects of the Commonwealth in that part of the world.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, on the occasion of the debate on the humble Address last autumn I took the opportunity of devoting most of the speech which I then made to your Lordships to this problem of Tibet. I am very glad, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has raised it again this afternoon, so that we may have an opportunity of looking at it again and others of your Lordships can give us the advantage of your advice on these problems. On the occasion to which I have just referred, I made an attempt to put this problem into historical perspective—not very much welcomed by the noble Marquess who replied for the Government, who made no attempt to deal with the historical points which I put before the House, and whose answer to me bordered on abuse, if I may say so. But that is in the way of politics, and I took it in good part. I have therefore been very interested in the speeches which have been made this afternoon, in that we have at any rate a little bit of historical perspective into the discussion.

We have now got back at any rate as far as the Simla Conference, to which I devoted a good deal of my speech, and even to the famous battle in 1720 (which of course was just one episode in the much longer history of this Tibeto-Chinese problem) in which the Chinese decisively defeated, not the Tibetans so much as the Mongolians. A struggle between the Mongolians and the Chinese had been going on for the previous 100 or 150 years, and this was an episode in a much longer history than we have so far discussed, either in the debate this afternoon or on the previous occasion to which I have referred.

I should like to say a few words about that, but before doing so I would refer briefly to the problem of the frontiers, to which the noble Lord, Lord Spens, referred, and which at that time I urged should be brought before the International Court, if possible, or at any rate dealt with by some method of arbitration. I do not want to go into this problem this evening because I think that everyone would agree that in respect of large sections of this frontier agreement has now been reached. It is true that in Ladakh and elsewhere there is still a large area under dispute, but I think that we all welcome the reasonable attitude which both sides have displayed over a long section of this frontier, and we are glad that they have reached agreement over it. That point has not been properly noticed. There is so much hostility—venomous hostility—towards the Peoples' Government of China at present that I feel that these facts ought to be noted and welcomed.

The earliest historical facts which we have about this problem show that already in the Ninth Century, as the result of a war between the Tang State of China and the local Tibetan State an agreement was reached in 822, which, interestingly enough, was published in a bilingual edict which still exists. This was published in this country by the famous author on Chinese Tibetan problems, Bushell, in 1880. It is the first source we have of the Tibetan language, and it indicates clearly that so long ago as 822 the Chinese Government, at that time in Siang (Peking had not yet been heard of) claimed political control—exactly how far it went is not very clear—and from that day onwards political control has undoubtedly been claimed by successive Chinese Governments.

Kublai Khan, the successor of Genghis Khan, was the first of the Chinese conquerors to establish a really effective political control over Tibet. He conquered the country effectively, and for a period after that it was administered, under local leaders it is true, under the pretty effective suzerainty of the Chinese Government. This suzerainty continued under the Ming Dynasty after the Mongols had been defeated. Under the Manchus there was an attempt by the Central Asian Mongolian State to deprive the Chinese of their political control of Tibet, and throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries this battle went on, until, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, indicated, it was finally settled in 1720, after which the Chinese Government, now established at Peking, maintained what we might call Residents in Lhasa right down until the beginning of the First World War, and even after. The amount of power those Residents were able to display, of course, depended a great deal on the power that existed at Peking. It had its ups and downs, and at the time of the abortive Simla Treaty in 1912, the power at Peking was at a very low ebb.

The noble Lord, Lord Spens, has indicated that the Chinese went a long way towards admitting automony in the Western Area of Tibet, but I would point out that it was a very weak Chinese Government which did that. It was, I do not say legally abandoning, but certainly abandoning de facto, a considerable amount of the suzerainty which had not only been claimed, but had been effectively exercised during the previous two centuries. There is no question about this. It is perfectly clearly set out in all the history books. An interesting illustration of it is that throughout much of the last century Tibet was an important source of gold. Many people say that Tibet is one of the most auriferous countries in the world, and that as soon as it is opened up to metallurgical exploitation it will rival South Africa. Those placer gold mines, which were worked a good deal throughout the nineteenth century, were in the hands of the Chinese and Chinese guards used to escort the caravans which took the gold to Peking. It may be that the enormous potential mineral wealth of Tibet is not without significance in the recent entry of Chinese Government Forces into Tibet.

Thus we have a long and interesting history and the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who I think was supported a little by the noble Lord, Lord Spens, is wrong when he says that as from the time of the abortive Simla Conference Tibet had, both in law and in fact, complete sovereign independence. That was never accepted by the Chinese Government, at any rate, and Chiang Kai-shek gave the British Foreign Office a smart rap over the knuckles about this.


My Lords, of course it was not accepted by the Chinese Government, who were claiming Tibet as part of China. I have been speaking only of our own view and of Tibet's view of the situation.


My Lords, if the Chinese Government had a legal suzerainty which was never abandoned, this country certainly could not deprive China of it by unilateral statement, even if it had attempted to do so. As I was saying, when Chiang Kai-shek took a strong stand in a friendly way, the British Government did not deny the position which he then took up, and have never, I believe, denied Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.

I think that we now have a similar situation to that which we had in the case of the Soviet Union. When they had established themselves as a strong, political Power, they revived the historic claims which earlier Russian Governments made. That was evidenced in the attitude of the Soviet Government in the Far East, and is now being evi- denced in Tibet by the present People's Government in Peking. Face and prestige are of enormous importance throughout Asia, and undoubtedly this is a case of the Peking Government's attempting to re-establish an old prestige by reasserting their historic position in Tibet. I have no doubt that one element which drove them to do that was the recognition by the United States of the Formosan Government, the Taiwan Government, to which the Peking Government are naturally opposed. I am sure that the reaction towards Tibet is to a considerable extent due to what happened in Taiwan, and in Washington. We should get rid of this stupid attitude on the part of Washington and of certain other Governments towards the present Government in Peking, which, whether we approve of its ideological outlook or not, is obviously at the least a perfectly well-established de facto Government and ought to have the recognition not only of this country, as we recognise it to-day, but of all other sovereign States, to be accorded its seat on the Security Council.

All that side of the matter is the political aspect of this problem, and it seems to me that it shows perfectly clearly and beyond any doubt whatever that the Chinese claims to Tibet are very old and very well based. It would undoubtedly establish the right on the part of China not to have its domestic problems interfered with from outside. I have never taken the view that internal conditions and internal politics are so completely sacrosanct that they should not be subjected to reasoned and objective criticism from outside. I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, himself quite properly said, that the world is now too small for this sort of attitude to be any longer completely justified. But I feel that that sort of criticism ought to be objective and well-informed; and it does not seem to me that we have had objective and well-informed criticism of the situation in Tibet, because we have little authentic information as to what is going on there. We have ex parte statements by the Dalai Lama, who, after all, is in the position of the Bourbon Government expelled from France after the Revolution, which issued all sorts of statements, very few of which bore much relation to the actual facts. The Dalai Lama is fighting his own hand, and one respect the courageous way in which he is doing so; but I think it is impossible to suggest with any real claim to belief that the statements which are issued from his court, so to speak, are completely objective or well-authenticated.

It is an interesting historical fact that in 1911 the Dalai Lama left and took refuge in Delhi, in very much the same way that he did a few years ago; and that was the situation which eventually led to the Simla Conference which has been so much referred to. What we really want is some well-authenticated and well established facts as to what is happening in Tibet itself. What is happening in Tibet is that a social revolution is going on. What seems to me so unrealistic about discussions of this sort is that in the West nobody seems to give any credence to the fact that a social revolution is going on in Tibet.


My Lords, could I ask the noble Lord whether he is referring to an indigenous revolution of the Tibetan people, on whether he is referring to a revolution which is being imposed on them from outside?


I am referring to an indigenous revolution which is going on on the part of some of the inhabitants of Tibet and in respect of which they undoubtedly received a great deal of political support from Pekin. Tibet was the most out-of-date country in the world. The exceptional position of Tibet was dependent on two factors. One was religious, which everybody knows about, in that one man out of every three in Tibet within very recent times was a monk, and a so-called celibate monk, and that something like one in every ten or twelve women was a nun. The great religious houses had established a sort of grip over the country which is very reminiscent of the grip which the Roman Church had established over this country in the later Middle Ages and which led to the Reformation in this country and the reaction on the part of the Tudor monarchy in a successful attempt to smash it up. That is one of the elements which is so significant in regard to Tibet and which has been almost completely overlooked as a result of the one-sided propaganda against Communism which goes on in the West.

If you look at the article in the Encyclopœdia Britannica, written in the 1911 edition, which was before Communism came on the scene and before these ideological enthusiasts intruded into these discussions, you will find it stated quite clearly that the whole of the agricultural and commercial development of Tibet had been held up and impeded by a shortage of manpower due to this overriding religious organisation of the community, which resulted in one-third of the population being celibate and in all the more fertile parts of the country there being a great shortage of labourers and peasants. One could elaborate this side of the matter at length, but I do not propose to do so. However, it is undoubtedy a factor of basic importance in the situation.

Parallel with that, we have a similar social situation arising from the contrast between the land-owning nobility, which corresponded closely with the ancien régime in France and Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the nobility had established a complete throttle grip, and the peasantry. This is all in the Encyclopœdia Britannica and in Chambers' Encyclopœdia: it is not Communist propaganda. The peasant was tied to the land, although he was not exactly a slave. There were a substantial number of slaves in Tibet until very recently, certainly well into the present century, but the great mass of the population was a peasant population like the medieval serfs in this country who were tied to the land—ascripti glebae was the technical expression in English law at that time. No peasant could leave the estate to which he was bound without the formal consent of the landlord; he had to use a special vocabulary in addressing the superior noble who was his master; and in all sorts of other ways he was in the position of a serf or villein in this country and in France in the later Middle Ages.

But we are now in the twentieth century, and that is not the sort of situation which can continue to go on in Tibet or anywhere else in the world. That is the social revolution which I believe had the support of a large part of the population, who may have been influenced by traders from outside who had brought in news of what was going on in the world outside. Everybody knows of the attempts of the Lhasan Government to keep out people from outside in order that these wretched peasants should be isolated from the rest of the world.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but I want now to ask him a question. I will quite briefly deal with his point when I come to reply. If these conditions are true, is he suggesting that the Chinese invasion by their troops of Tibet was justified because of a Chinese ability to do something about these social conditions? In other words, is he suggesting that that validates the invasion of Tibet?


Yes, I do. A substantial element in Tibet, probably the majority of the ordinary common folk of the land, who are attempting to throw off this ecclesiastical and feudal yoke, asked for assistance. I have suggested that in the conditions of the twentieth century they are entitled to that assistance, and we, who have had the privilege and great good fortune to be able to establish our own free system as a result of wars of this kind in which from time to time foreign elements were not above giving us help, should not adopt this "dog-in-the-mangerish" attitude and suggest that these people have no right to any sort of assistance from outside.

These seem to me to be the basic and fundamental elements of this situation: the social revolution which is going on and which every attempt has been made to hide from people in Western Europe and America in order that this ideological war on Communism may be better carried out. In a sense, Communism comes into this, but it is a much finer, more open, political struggle on which these people are engaged, and I, for one, cannot blame them if they choose to have assistance from the Communists in carrying on this struggle in order to obtain economic and political freedom. Until we recognise these facts we shall go on hiding our heads in the sand like a set of ostriches, and not understanding the situation in Tibet.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will not expect me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in the general tenor of his remarks. I should, however, like to say that in one respect my information is at variance with his. I believe that at one point in his speech to your Lordships he said that one inhabitant in every three was a monk, and a celibate monk. I hope the noble Lord is not confusing the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat Order of monks, with the Red Hat Order of monks who were permitted to marry, and who in fact do marry and are largely married.


My Lords, I quite accept that, and I am well aware of it. Very close observers such as the author of the chapter in the Encyclopœdia Britannica, which is a well-known authority on this subject, make it perfectly clear that the amount of celibacy which existed in Tibet had a devastating effect on the manpower of the country and on the general economic development of it.


I will not attempt to follow my noble friends Lord Birdwood and Lord Spens in the interpretation of the controversial Article of the United Nations Charter. I am sure they are much more qualified to do that than I am. As regards the debate in the United Nations General Assembly, I should like to pay one small tribute to the attitude taken throughout the proceedings by the Government of E1 Salvador. I myself had the honour and pleasure of visiting this delightful country in Central America several years ago, when consideration was being given to the formation of an inter-Parliamentary group within the Legislative Assembly.

It was E1 Salvador who first raised the matter of Tibet in the General Assembly of the United Nations ten years ago, in 1950. At that time, the General Committee of the United Nations General Assembly accepted the view of Her Majesty's Government, vigorously supported by India, not to include on its agenda an item proposed by San Salvador entitled "Invasion of Tibet by Foreign Forces". Your Lordships are fully aware why that was not proceeded with at the time. It was because a peaceful settlement was thought possible. Now, ten years later, in 1960, Her Majesty's Government, as my noble friend Lord Birdwood said, supported a resolution in the General Committee to recommend to the General Assembly that the "Question of Tibet" should be considered by that body in plenary session. I may be allowed to say that I was proud to see that this resolution was sponsored by two countries with very close ties to our own—the Federation of Malaya and the Republic of Ireland. It is interesting that the only country to oppose the resolution was Indonesia, although six countries abstained and two countries, Czechoslovakia and the U.S.S.R., were recorded as, "Present but not voting".

On this occasion, a very moderate draft resolution was tabled and was passed without amendment by a substantial majority, even including abstentions, and the only countries who voted against the resolution were members of the Soviet bloc. I would submit, however, that it is impossible to understand the problem of Tibet without some understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and the unique position of the Dalai Lama. The history of Tibetan Buddhism is fascinating, but any exposé of it that I could make would be tedious and probably inaccurate. It is important to your Lordships' consideration of the problem to know that the spiritual authority of the Dalai Lama was paramount in Tibet even before the recognition by the Manchu Empire of the assumption of temporal power by the Dalai Lama of the day in the 17th century. It was this Dalai Lama, known to Tibetan history as "the Great Fifth", who expounded the final truth concerning the incarnation of Chenrezig. It has never been questioned by any Tibetan that the Dalai Lama governs by (to use a Western phrase) Divine Right, as he is the vehicle of the Divine compassion operating in human affairs, and in particular in the affairs of Tibet. According to the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, Chenrezig is the guardian Deity of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama is his incarnation.

I think it is important to understand that the word "incarnation" is used advisedly, and not "reincarnation". The Tibetans believe that a "presence" or aspect of Chenrezig descends to earth and enters the body of a child and thereby defers his own return to Nirvana, the Buddhist Heaven, until all living beings have attained the right to Nirvana. When a Dalai Lama dies, or, as the Tibetans say, when he departs the honourable field, this "presence" (or kundun in Tibetan) returns to earth and enters into the body of an infant who will in due course and by various processes be discovered as the next Dalai Lama. The reason for not using the word "reincarnation" is that it would imply the reincarnation of a human person or personality, whereas, as I said before, the Tibetans view the incarnation of a Dalai Lama as really a "presence" of Chenrezig. It is this "presence" which makes it impossible to look at the problem of Tibet or at the Dalai Lama in a disestablishmentarianistic sense. No Tibetan can accept any temporal sovereign other than the Dalai Lama—a title, incidentally, never used by Tibetans for their ruler except in dealings with foreigners. The Dalai Lama, as I mentioned before, is the ruling abbot of the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat Order of monks.

I apologise for wearying your Lordships for so long with sidelights of Buddhist theology, but I feel that some comprehension of the beliefs of Tibetans is necessary to any balanced picture of the problem of Tibet. I should, however, like to put one short question to Her Majesty's Government: can the noble Marquess who is to reply say whether any financial contribution has yet been made, or will be made, or might be made, to assist the extensive work being done by the Government of India on behalf of the many refugees? I understand that Her Majesty's Government in Australia has made a most princely contribution, amounting to a six-figure sum in Australian sterling. Interests in the United States have contributed in their usual and customary generous fashion, and I hope that we in this country shall not be far behind. In conclusion, I should like to say that, on the main political points raised, I heartily echo and support the arguments presented so ably by my noble friends Lord Birdwood and Lord Spens.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take any part in this debate to-day because I was going to leave all that might be said from this side of the House to my noble friend Lord Faringdon, who has himself had a good deal of personal knowledge of Tibetan history and, by his visits to the country, of its more modern situation. I am not saying at all that my noble friend Lord Faringdon would have agreed with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has laid before your Lordships. I had not intended to speak. However, having listened to the debate and the historical records of treaties, legal aspects, events between treaties and the like from the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Spens, with whom I had very close relationships in India during the transitory period in 1946, when we were trying to lay down a foundation for the advancement and original liberty of the Indian people, I should like to say a few words upon the situation.

I do not quarrel in any way with the inferences drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, from the actual treaties which have been in existence from time to time, both those that were signed and the particular one with which he made great play which was only initialled. I will not go into that at all. But I must say that, whatever the Chinese, as represented by Mr. Chou En-lai, said recently in negotiations with Mr. Nehru, the world at large must, if it approves of the idea of the United Nations Organisation, be very greatly shocked by the manner in which the native people of Tibet have been treated. It is not, to my mind, a question of whether there is some right of conquest in the past or whether there is a treaty in the past. To enforce upon the pre-1958 régime in Tibet the kind of military dictatorial domination which has arisen is altogether foreign to the ideas that my Party, at any rate, have in view in their programme and outlook upon what is to be done to secure general human advance. That is not the way to do it. We very strongly object to it.

On the other hand, there are certain dangers in the future to be taken into account. I should not like to go as far as what might be derived from what the noble Lord, Lord Spens, said about the boundary of the Commonwealth being in danger in that respect. After all, the particular boundary Lord Spens was referring to is part of the great and independent nation of India, and of Nepal as well, and in the immediate examination of these matters the first thing is for it to be dealt with by the Government of India. That is essential. Never theless, I am sure of this in my own mind: that the British people at large would be behind the Indian Government in taking a firm stand against the kind of submissions and arguments which have been made in the recent discussions, where India has objected to certain violations, in their view, of the boundaries of India.

It is a matter of great concern to those of us who right through the period of the post-war Labour Governments have taken the line that the United Nations Organisation can never be wholly comprehensive in what they do together in these matters unless such a great nation as China, at present clearly dominated by the Communist Government in China, with some 600 million people, is represented in that Organisation. You will never really get down to what I call the "brass tacks" of the international situation unless you get these people before you in the United Nations Organisation, hear their cases stated and cross-examine them in the international councils of the world. Therefore, Mr. Nehru must have been facing a very difficult situation in his endeavours to deal with the matters which have arisen since the violation of India's territorial boundaries by the incursion of the Chinese.

It may be that what my noble friend Lord Chorley says about the changed situation in Tibet being governed partly by the revolutionary ideas of some of the indigent Tibetans is true. But when I look at the latest position revealed in the reports about India, and the making of roads during the last eighteen months or more in parts of Indian territory which have never at any time been conceded as included in the Tibet which was covered by past treaties, then I must say that I cannot find much excuse for the manner in which the Chinese have been acting.

Nor can I agree, at least on behalf of my Party, that we should regard an invasion and an over-stepping of territorial boundaries by strong Communist troops as being something which is justified in the conditions in which the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, put it previously to my noble friend Lord Chorley. Perhaps Lord Chorley's answer to Lord Birdwood in that exchange could possibly be justified on the basis of what we used to refer to as the views of the Third International, but it certainly cannot be found within the views of the Second International, the International Socialist Party, who work for social democratic revolution in the world. Therefore, I could not go so far as my noble friend Lord Chorley in that particular answer. But I do say this: that it is fundamental to the present situation that all the blame for the present situation should not be put upon the Chinese Communist Government.

When one reads between the lines here and there, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood—if a charge is to be laid of a certain amount of aggression by the Chinese Government in Tibet and over the border—what is the answer of the Kuomintang? What is the situation in relation to those who take the Chinese Nationalist views of Chiang Kai-shek's Party, as compared with the Chinese Communists? Because it seems to me, at any rate, that there have been as many expressions about different parts of the world on behalf of that section of Chinese opinion which I should regard as just as aggressive as those from the Communist Government.


If I may speak perfectly objectively, my knowledge of the situation would be this: that the Chang Kai-shek Government and the Pekin Government have on the broad principle of Chinese suzerainty agreed—that they both take the same attitude in regard to Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. Where they part is that the Chiang Kai-shek Government would never accept what the Communists did in 1956—indeed they are perfectly prepared to subscribe to the whole concept of genocide on a very large scale being perpetrated by the Chinese Communists in Tibet.


I am quite sure that Lord Birdwood believes that that is their attitude. It may well be that that is the attitude which has been expressed by some of their leaders. But the evidence seems to be that expressions of opinion from that section of the great Chinese nation have been regarded, certainly in India, as as much backed by a spirit of aggression as some of the aspects of the Chinese Communists.

I am most anxious that this matter should be handled in a peaceful way. It would be quite fatal that this incident should work up to a situation in which we came to a really widespread conflict. I hope that a settlement can be obtained, first of all between Mr. Nehru and the Chinese Communist Government. But also I think that any agreement which is likely to be made should be something which commends itself as a whole to the United Nations Organisation. It is a great pity that we have to face a situation in which the largest part of the Chinese people in the world are represented by a Chinese Communist Government in their own country but are refused admission to the United Nations Organisation. I feel that the British Government ought to take all active steps towards changing the falsity of the present position in the United Nations Organisation whereby a representative of a minority of the Chinese people sits in the United Nations Organisation as being truly representative of the Chinese people. There are countries which have recognised the Chinese Communist Government de facto. There are others who have recognised them, as we have long since in this country. If that is so, it seems to me that we ought to be lending all our weight to seeing that they are properly represented in the United Nations Organisation.

In the meantime, I think that it ought to go forth, from Parliament and from the Government, to the Chinese Communist Government that we do not view with any calmness or equanimity the extent to which this aggression has taken place. We should let them know our feeling that if they are anxious, in view of the great dangers which face the world, to secure an international basis of agreement for peace, that they would do well to retreat to some extent from the position they have taken up, and if possible, as a first step, come to a real and lasting agreement with Mr. Nehru. I think that that would perhaps lead to a change in the situation in Tibet. It would ease the situation there very much. Nobody seeks peace more genuinely than does Mr. Nehru in India; and I think that China should be told quite firmly that we are behind the people of India in their resistance to any further territorial aggression by the Chinese Communist Government in India.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission may I intervene for just a few moments? I had not intended to speak, but I have great pleasure in supporting Lord Birdwood's Motion, which might well have been introduced much earlier. I was greatly shocked to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, suggest that there was a social revolution going on. I do not think that for a moment. Events there have proved that it was sheer military aggression—there is no doubt about that. I think that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that he does not follow Lord Chorley to that extent; and I would suggest also that the noble Viscount's proposal that China should be brought into the picture is a most reasonable one. If we want to have real peace in the world, we cannot leave China out of the picture. With those few words I support the Motion.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like with your Lordships' permission, to say two or three words. First of all, I apologise for having been detained by circumstances with which we are all only too familiar, and over which none of us, alas!, appears to have any control at all. I was therefore unable to get to the House as early as I hoped and expected. Whilst not following my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough in any detail, I should like to support what he has said in relation to the situation on the Sino-Indian frontier. What surely comes out from this is how profoundly and immensely undesirable is the present position, in which China is not represented at U.N.O. and where, therefore, the differences between the Member States cannot be discussed and solved. This is another example of the really appalling unreality of the situation in which the largest single political unit in the world is treated as non-existent so far as the United Nations Organisation is concerned.

I speak now at this rather late hour in your Lordships' House, not because I have any particular authority, but because I am perhaps one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who has had the privilege of visiting Tibet and also China. Largely as a result of that visit, I find myself entirely in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has said. There has been a discussion about the suzerainty of China over Tibet. Frankly, that is something which has been recognised by all States in their relations with China since the end of the eighteenth century, and I do not think it is helpful to discuss it any further. Nevertheless, I believe that all of us are bound to express most emphatically our views on anything which occurs anywhere in the world, whether it be in South Africa or in Tibet or anywhere else. If we believe that what is occurring is contrary to natural justice and to humanitarian principles, then we must speak out and bring all the spiritual weight that we can to bear against such practices. But on the other hand, if, as I am satisfied one must do, one has to recognise that China has had, during all the time which we have had diplomatic relations with China, sovereign power over Tibet, then of course it is perfectly ridiculous to talk about an invading Chinese Army.


My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord was here when I made my speech. I did point out that our recognition of Tibet's autonomy was in conflict with China, in that we said we could accept Chinese suzerainty, not sovereignty, over Tibet only on condition that China recognised Tibet's autonomy. The Treaty that spelled all that out the Chinese never signed. Therefore, the position remains one in which China claimed Tibet as part of China, and we just did not recognise that.


My Lords, I am sorry but I disagree with the noble Lord. The fact is that we did recognise, and always have recognised, this in practice. Moreover, if I may, I would go rather further than that. In so far as I am speaking to-day at all, I am speaking largely because I have a small amount of experience which most of your Lordships do not possess. When I was in Tibet there was one thing which was perfectly certain. It may be that in other respects I am out of date, but one thing is perfectly certain: it was quite clear at that time that the residual seat of power in Tibet was in the hands of the Chinese agents there. There was no question about that. Nobody questioned it for a moment. Indeed, other Europeans told one so and one was able to see it.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say to which year he is referring?


My Lords, this would be about 1932, so I do not claim that it is up to date. But certainly at that period there was no doubt that residual power lay in the hands of Chinese representatives in Tibet. They did not exercise that power in a very extensive or lively way. I might compare it to the exercise of power by a British Resident in an Indian Native State at about the same period; that is to say, they kept general overall control and brought their influence to bear when they thought Chinese interests were affected.

One thing which is absolutely certain to me, however, is that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley is perfectly right when he says there has been a social revolution in Tibet. This may have come to fruition thanks to Chinese influence, and in my view Chinese influence in Tibet has been reinforced in recent years very largely by Chinese fear of American aggression. None of us thinks of American diplomacy as being aggressive, but I ask your Lordships to try for a moment to place yourselves in the position of the Chinese Government. It seems to me inevitable that at the present time the Chinese should be profoundly anxious and fearful of what the American Government intend to do. The support given to the ridiculous little "Rump Government" in Taiwan and the attitude of the Americans on the offshore islands—Quemoy and others—seem to me to be translatable only too easily into a form of aggression.

When I was in China last year one thing the Chinese asked me about again and again was my view of the position of the Americans vis-à -vis the territories surrounding China. I was asked whether I thought that the criticism of American policy which had made itself heard in some of those States meant that they would therefore be more friendly to China, and so on. Those were questions which were put to me all the time when I was in China, and I have no doubt at all that, however unreal those fears may appear to us, they are extremely real to the Chinese and are the basic reason why the Chinese have taken a closer interest in Tibet, where they fear that an American penetration might take place to their own immense disadvantage. To all of us who know our American friends so much better, all this may seem wholly unrealistic. Nevertheless, I assure your Lordships that these fears do exist and I believe they are largely responsible for China's increased interest in Tibet.

Undoubtedly the Chinese Government wanted and tried to administer Tibet under a system which I believe we should all recognise as one of indirect rule. In 1951 they made an agreement with the Tibetan Government by which they were to be autonomous—which is the usual arrangement where another people is concerned within Chinese frontiers; and certain reforms were to be carried out under a protocol which has been referred to as the Seventeen Heads. I believe that this arrangement was agreed to and would have been carried out by the Dalai Lama himself, and it is profoundly regrettable that he and the Chinese were not successful in doing so. He has admitted the authenticity of certain letters which have been published between himself and Commander Tung in Lhasa. Unless the Dalai Lama is to be held to have grossly bad taste (which I do not think he has) those letters can bear the implication only that the Dalai Lama was perfectly prepared to try to carry out the measures which the Chinese believed to be necessary.

I would have your Lordships understand that those measures were dealing with such things as serfdom, and even slavery. Those are conditions which no civilised Power would accept. Your Lordships will remember that when we first arived in India we found there were certain local practices—such as suttee— which were too much for us, and we declared that they must be abolished. On the other hand, we condoned and allowed the continuation of practices which to some of us are hardly less desirable. The Indians themselves have reformed their practices in certain other respects, and perhaps that is the best way for that to be done. In Tibet, the Chinese Government laid down certain procedures and standards which they believed ought to obtain there; and they obtained (and I say "obtained" advisedly) the co-operation of the Dalai Lama in order to bring in those reforms. It seems to me that the only explanation of what occurred was that the Dalai Lama, though perhaps not physically carried off or abducted by his entourage, which naturally consisted very largely of the land-owning and feudal beneficiaries of the old Tibetan State, none the less may well have been in sympathy with them; though on the contrary it seemed to me that he showed quite an enlightened spirit in the terms on which he was prepared to co-operate with the Chinese. But I believe that he was overborne by his entourage, who carried him off to India, more or less willingly, and caused the outbreak of civil war in Tibet.

I have absolutely no doubt at all that the conditions of the vast majority of the Tibetans have been vastly improved by this Chinese incursion into their affairs. I do not think that that is at all open to question on the evidence of conditions as they were, and knowing what, in fact, the Chinese are now doing. That it has had to be done in that way is unfortunate, but it was brought about, I believe, by the rebellion of interested persons who had an interest in the maintenance of the old and—I say frankly and openly—bad ways in Tibet, the really bad ways, ways of which none of your Lordships could possibly approve.


My Lords, I must just correct the noble Lord on one point. He has said that the Dalai Lama was carried off by his entourage. At a Press Conference in India on June 20 last year, he was asked the question: "What made you finally decide to leave Lhasa?" and he said: On March 17 at 4 p.m. two mortar shells were fired towards my residence as evidence of Chinese intention to use military force, and although I have endeavoured to keep up friendly relations with them for the past nine years my hopes of rendering any service in the interests of my people by remaining in Tibet were finally shattered. Therefore I and my Government had to leave for India secretly at 10 p.m. on March 17 with a view to rendering more beneficial service to my people.


My Lords, I have, of course, seen that statement. I think that perhaps the Dalai Lama is not in a position where he can now make statements which would be too much at variance with the views of those who are with him and around him. So I say, with great respect, that I consider that the statement which has just been read is not necessarily the whole of the truth. But undoubtedly he went with this Government, and it is just exactly that Government that I am criticising, in that they belonged to the old feudatory families and with people interested in the maintenance of a truly shocking state of affairs. I therefore believe that we should not regard this as something imposed on Tibet.

I believe, on the contrary, that the Chinese will have had the support of the majority of the Tibetan people, who now for the first time are probably being allowed to manage their own affairs and to enjoy the fruits of their own labour, which in the past they were not, as was perfectly clear even to a superficial observer like myself at the time I was there. I admit that my visit is now a long time in the past, and I may well be out of date. On the other hand, things do not move very quickly in Tibet, and I should be surprised—in fact, I know I am not wrong in believing this—if things had changed fundamentally. Change was immensely necessary. Therefore, I suggest that we should not allow our very natural feelings of sympathy for people who have found it necessary to flee from their homes to overweigh the situation.

As to the people who have fled, the refugees who have fled to India, I have some little experience of working with refugees, and I sincerely hope that these Tibetan refugees may receive the best possible treatment that foreign Powers can give. I am delighted to hear that the Australian Government has apparently donated generously to the fund for their assistance, and I hope they will receive all help and comfort in this respect. The reception, the care and re-distribution of refugees is a moral duty on the modern world where these things can happen for reasons with which we may not all necessarily agree. I do not myself find it necessary to have political sympathies with refugees in order to have humanitarian sympathy. So, although I believe that the refugees from Tibet are those Tibetans who had exploited their fellows in Tibet, and therefore had to leave, I hope they will, none the less, receive the greatest possible help and assistance in their present sad predicament.

But, my Lords, I believe that in the end it will be found that a new and better Tibet will emerge from the present unhappy situation—is, indeed, probably at this very date emerging. The figures of Tibetan production have increased quite appreciably in the last few years. It may be that they are not wholly acceptable, but I think it is to be expected that a people who have been freed, and given control and use of their own land, will probably be more productive than one which is in a state of serfdom and is working for the great manorial landlords. I apologise to your Lordships for arriving late this afternoon, and I appreciate that what experience I have of Tibet is now rather out of date. But I believe that probably there has been so little change that what I have been able to say to your Lordships is as true now as it was when I was there. We should not allow ourselves to be carried away by propaganda—and I think it has been propaganda to a very large extent—aimed at denigrating the Chinese Government and giving support to a Government which none of your Lordships on any side of this House could possibly, if he knew its nature, really approve of or support.


My Lords, I wonder whether if, before the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, replies he will allow me just to refute this picture of the noble Lord who has just sat down of the coming paradise for Tibet. The Statesman of India is about as reliable a newspaper as there is in India to-day, and I am going to read him an account which has been written in it by an Indian who came out of Tibet quite recently. It says: On December 24, while most of the world was preparing to celebrate Christmas, a group of Tibetan lamas were being flogged in the streets of Yatung. … I was horrified. I felt sick. He goes on to say: Lamas who refused to toe the Party line are subjected to the grossest indecencies, torture and public floggings such as the Indian saw on Christmas Eve in Yatung. These public floggings are diabolically designed to heap fear and humiliation on a broken people rather than only to punish a few. In the case of Tibetan officials and landlords the floggings are administered by their servants and serfs. There can be no question of reluctance on the part of the executors; their own lives would be forfeit. Several cases are known of Tibetan officials … being flogged and stoned to death. A fortunate few have managed to forestall humiliation by suicide; others have been mercifully killed by devoted servants.


My Lords, the noble Lord will of course be aware that that comes from a highly prejudiced source—


It comes from India.


—because all the external trade of Tibet used to be in Indian hands.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, as my right honourable friend has more than once stated, and I have, too, in your Lordships' House, Her Majesty's Government have been profoundly shocked by the reports that have been received of events in Tibet. The British people have perhaps been particularly distressed because of the long, the close and friendly relationships which have existed between the United Kingdom and Tibet, and also because of our high respect for the Dalai Lama. As my right honourable friend said in September of last year—and I hope that, with very few exceptions, my right honourable friend was expressing the opinion of the average British person when he said it: We have been greatly grieved to hear of massive repression by Communist China, of the suppression of national liberties and ruthless assaults upon the historic life of a sturdy and friendly people. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, chooses to describe this as the closer interest in Tibet of China. I myself, quite recently, met some of these people on a mountain track above Katmandu. They were a little group of fugitives from Lhasa, 400 miles away on the other side of the heights of the Himalayas. They were simple people, as I saw it, who were honest, straightforward people. So they were described to me by the interpreter with me, and I think that even the noble Lords, Lord Faringdon and Lord Chorley, could hardly have failed to be affected by the anxious inquiries of these men and women immediately on meeting us as to the whereabouts of their spiritual leader.

The reports of brutal repression in Tibet, the ruthless destruction of the fabric of an ancient civilisation by Chinese military might, this dreadful human tragedy that has been enacted in the name of progress—these matters are surely of the gravest concern to all. It was for this reason that Her Majesty's Government thought it right that the United Nations should be given the opportunity to take cognizance of what has happened in Tibet. It was for this reason that we supported the inscription on the agenda of an item on the question of Tibet.

I know full well that the noble Lord the mover of this Motion decided to initiate this debate only after the most careful consideration; and I should like, in all humility, to commend him for his careful and moderate words. But I must make it perfectly clear, my Lords, that Her Majesty's Government have no reason to reconsider their approach to this tragic problem. Nor, in my opinion, has anything been said during the debate this afternoon to persuade me that the attitude of the United Kingdom representative at the United Nations should have been modified. We were glad to see that the Assembly, by a substantial majority, decided to inscribe the question of Tibet on its agenda, but we had carefully to consider how the Assembly should then proceed. It was our hope that, in the expression of our concern and that of other Governments, some influence might be brought to bear upon the Government of Communist China. Had there been no resolution, this expression of horror of the Members of the United Nations Assembly would still have been heard all over the world. We could not, however, support a resolution which dealt with human rights in a particular territory and which, moreover, rested on a juridical assumption about the status of Tibet a bout which there are contradictory interpretations.

Now the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has very fairly stated the great difficulties that are involved in the handling of questions of human rights. It is certainly my view that if the United Nations were allowed on any and every occasion to interfere in the domestic affairs of any State, the United Nations could never have existed at all. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has said about the risks of becoming a prisoner of the law, I am quite sure that he will be the first to agree that rules are not made to be broken.

The noble Viscount, Lord Furness, and, I am glad to say, the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred to the plight of the Tibetan refugees. Indeed, my Lords, we are all aware of the needs of these refugees; and I am thankful to be able to tell your Lordships that, due to the efforts of the Government of India, we understand that they are not at present short either of food or of shelter, as unfortunately is the case of other refugees in other parts of the world. None the less, I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, that Her Majesty's Government will watch the situation with the most sympathetic eye.

I am sure that we were all deeply grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for his timely intervention—an intervention which, if I may be allowed to say so, showed the deep humanity that I know is his. The noble Viscount referred in the course of his remarks to the absence of China from the United Nations. My Lords, we have often talked about this matter in your Lordships' House, and the noble Viscount is well aware, I think, that it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that, in view of the very deep division of opinion in the United Nations on the subject of Chinese representation, it would not be in the best interests of that organisation to press this issue, although I fully appreciate what the noble Viscount is driving at.

I have said that it is claimed that the action in Tibet was taken in the name of progress—progress as the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will see it. It is possible that some may concede that change was necessary, and even inevitable: but I am sure that, if we think and consider carefully, none of us can accept that change should be imposed by military might, by the infliction of deep human suffering, and with a complete disregard for the traditions and beliefs of a deeply religious people.


Has the noble Lord really any evidence of that?


If the noble Lord will forgive me, I will not give way. I am sure that we were all grateful for the forthright and practical speech of the noble Lord, Lord Spens. Both he and the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition warned us, quietly and without emotion, of the dangers that may lie in Communist China, and I am certain that those who have been present during this debate, and those who read the OFFICIAL REPORT of it to-morrow, will take note of those warnings.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Marquess for the very sympathetic hearing which he has given to our views. On the juridical question, I am perhaps slightly disappointed in one respect. The noble Marquess referred to the fact that, of course, rules are not there to be broken; but, in the speech of our representative at the United Nations, as I see it, he inferred that we were in doubt whether there was a rule or not. He said: … while not taking up any definite or final position on the matter … That is why I was still hoping that, perhaps, those views might yet be considered. Otherwise, I am extremely grateful for the support which he has given to the general concept of meeting in some way, and condemning, the terrible things that have happened in Tibet.

I would draw the attention of the noble Lords, Lord Faringdon and Lord Chorley, to the Report of the International Commission of Jurists—a Report of 208 pages in which a very prominent and distinguished Indian lawyer, Mr. Purshottam Trikamdas, took a very large part. He was, in fact, instrumental in initiating this Report. That Indian lawyer was not of a type who would have been unsympathetic to China. On the contrary, he spent some five years, I think, in prison under the old British régime in India. At one time he was private secretary to Mahatma Gandhi. My Lords, this Report is a complete and utter refutation of practically everything that the noble Lords opposite have presented as being the conditions in Tibet.

Finally, I should like to thank all your Lordships who have taken part in this debate. It has been extremely interesting and, I hope, useful. I should also like to thank those of your Lordships who have not taken part in the debate for waiting Ito the end to hear this issue out. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.