This subject seems to have provoked a good deal of interest (!) among readers. We may come back to the historical discussion later, though the comments pretty well wrap up the issue for me. But as I do like someone who can bite back, I am posting part of the very first comment, an excoriation by one Saul Midmay:
To Simon Elegant and other tediously self-righteous, your-comment-is-biased, Chinese go home, America -good-China-bad types who use history to continue arguing that Chinese should leave Tibet because China had annexed Tibet by force
See, we can waste our precious time here in endless circles arguing about history but in the end, I may not be able to convince you just as your version of history will not convince me. Exactly when and how Tibet was annexed by China is really not important, the only thing important is that Tibet is NOW a part of China that has already been officially recognized by the UN and all countries around the world. As such, it is within China’s sovereignty right to quell riots there if necessary.
Well said. My point was simply that it is blindingly clear to anyone who has been in the Tibetan areas–be it the Tibet Autonomous Region or Tibetan China–that ethnically, cultural, linguistically in fact in almost every measurable respect, Tibetans and Chinese are completely different. I then noted that our current age is at least nominally supposed to be allowing greater self-determination and self-expression of peoples and not tolerating “might is right” arguments regarding the domination of one distinct group of people over another by force. This applies to Britain in Ireland, Saddam in Kuwait, Israel in the Palestinian territories (and, yes The U.S., in Vietnam or Iraq, though that’s more imperial idiocy than anything else) and even Indonesia in East Timor and Aceh. For me, the last two examples are most relevant to Tibet. In both cases, conservative/patriotic/nationalist forces in Jakarta spent decades suppressing independence movements that genuinely reflected a desire to run their own affairs by the populations involved. Through accidents of history, one ended up an independent country, probably to its detriment, the other, Aceh, an autonomous region. I’d say those are worth thinking about–particularly the Aceh example, where no one ever thought the issue could be resolved because of the implacable bitterness on both sides– when considering the future of Tibet as I don’t think the current situation is tenable or even desirable for either Chinese or Tibetans.