The Tibetan sovereignty debate refers to two political debates. The first is whether the various territories within the People's Republic of China (PRC) that are claimed as political Tibet should separate and become a new sovereign state. Many of the points in the debate rest on a second debate, about whether Tibet was independent or subordinate to China in certain parts of its recent history.
The nature of Tibet's relationship with China in the intervening period is a matter of debate:
The government of the Republic of China, which ruled mainland China from 1912 until 1949 and now controls Taiwan, had a cabinet-level Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in charge of the administration of Tibet and Mongolia regions from 1912. The commission retained its cabinet level status after 1949, but no longer executes that function. On 10 May 1943, Chiang Kai-shek asserted that "Tibet is part of Chinese territory... No foreign nation is allowed to interfere in our domestic affairs". He again declared in 1946 that the Tibetans were Chinese nationals. The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission was disbanded in 2017.
In the late 19th century, China adopted the Western model of nation-state diplomacy. As the government of Tibet, China concluded several treaties (1876, 1886, 1890, 1893) with British India touching on the status, boundaries and access to Tibet. Chinese government sources consider this a sign of sovereignty rather than suzerainty. However, by the 20th century British India found the treaties to be ineffective due to China's weakened control over the Tibetan local government. The British invaded Tibet in 1904 and forced the signing of a separate treaty, directly with the Tibetan government in Lhasa. In 1906, an Anglo-Chinese Convention was signed at Peking between Great Britain and China. It incorporated the 1904 Lhasa Convention (with modification), which was attached as Annex. A treaty between Britain and Russia (1907) followed. Article II of this treaty stated that "In conformity with the admitted principle of the suzerainty of China over Tibet, Great Britain and Russia engage not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese Government." China sent troops into Tibet in 1908. The result of the policy of both Great Britain and Russia has been the virtual annexation of Tibet by China. China controlled Tibet up to 1912. Thereafter, Tibet entered the period described commonly as de facto independence, though it was only recognized by independent Mongolia as enjoying de jure independence.
In the 2000s the position of the Republic of China with regard to Tibet appeared to become more nuanced as was stated in the following opening speech to the International Symposium on Human Rights in Tibet on 8 September 2007 through the pro-Taiwan independence then ROC President Chen Shui-bian who stated that his offices no longer treated exiled Tibetans as Chinese mainlanders.
The position of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which has ruled mainland China since 1949, as well as the official position of the Republic of China (ROC), which ruled mainland China before 1949 and currently controls Taiwan, is that Tibet has been an indivisible part of China de jure since the Yuan dynasty of Mongol-ruled China in the 13th century, comparable to other states such as the Kingdom of Dali and the Tangut Empire that were also incorporated into China at the time.
The PRC contends that, according to international law and the Succession of states theory, all subsequent Chinese governments have succeeded the Yuan Dynasty in exercising de jure sovereignty over Tibet, with the PRC having succeeded the ROC as the legitimate government of all China.
The ROC government had no effective control over Tibet from 1912 to 1951; however, in the opinion of the Chinese government, this condition does not represent Tibet's independence as many other parts of China also enjoyed de facto independence when the Chinese nation was torn by warlordism, Japanese invasion, and civil war. Goldstein explains what is meant by de facto independence in the following statement:
...[Britain] instead adopted a policy based on the idea of autonomy for Tibet within the context of Chinese suzerainty, that is to say, de facto independence for Tibet in the context of token subordination to China. Britain articulated this policy in the Simla Accord of 1914.
While at times the Tibetans were fiercely independent-minded at other times Tibet indicated its willingness to accept subordinate status as part of China provided that Tibetan internal systems were left untouched and China relinquished control over a number of important ethnic Tibetan groups in Kham and Amdo. The PRC insists that during this period the ROC government continued to maintain sovereignty over Tibet. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China (1912) stipulated that Tibet was a province of the Republic of China. Provisions concerning Tibet in the Constitution of the Republic of China promulgated later all stress the inseparability of Tibet from Chinese territory, and the Central Government of China exercise of sovereignty in Tibet. In 1927, the Commission in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs of the Chinese Government contained members of great influence in the Mongolian and Tibetan areas, such as the 13th Dalai Lama, the 9th Panchen Lama and other Tibetan government representatives. In 1934, on his condolence mission for the demise of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese General Huang Musong posted notices in Chinese and Tibetan throughout Lhasa that alluded to Tibet as an integral part of China while expressing the utmost reverence for the Dalai Lama and the Buddhist religion.
The 9th Panchen Lama traditionally ruled over one-third of Tibet. On 1 February 1925, the Panchen Lama attended the preparatory session of the "National Reconstruction Meeting" (Shanhou huiyi) intended to identify ways and means of unifying the Chinese nation, and gave a speech about achieving the unification of five nationalities, including Tibetans, Mongolians and Han Chinese. In 1933, he called upon the Mongols to embrace national unity and to obey the Chinese Government to resist Japanese invasion. In February 1935 the Chinese government appointed Panchen Lama "Special Cultural Commissioner for the Western Regions" and assigned him 500 Chinese troops. He spent much of his time teaching and preaching Buddhist doctrines - including the principles of unity and pacification for the border regions - extensively in inland China, outside of Tibet, from 1924 until 1 December 1937, when he died on his way back to Tibet under the protection of Chinese troops.
The Kuomintang government sought to portray itself as necessary to validate the choice of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. When the current (14th) Dalai Lama was installed in Lhasa, it was with an armed escort of Chinese troops and an attending Chinese minister The Muslim Kuomintang General Bai Chongxi said that the Tibetans suffered under British repression, and he called upon the Republic of China to assist them in expelling the British. According to Yu Shiyu, during China's resistance war against Japanese invasion, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, Governor of Qinghai (1937–1949), to repair the Yushu airport in Qinghai Province to deter Tibetan independence. In May 1943, Chiang warned that Tibet must accept and follow the instructions and orders of the Central Government, that they must agree and help to build the Chinese-India [war-supply] road, and that they must maintain direct communications with the Office of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) in Lhasa and not through the newly established "Foreign Office" of Tibet. He sternly warned that he would "send an air force to bomb Tibet immediately" should Tibet be found to be collaborating with Japan. Official Communications between Lhasa and Chiang Kai-shek's government was through MTAC, not the "Foreign Office", until July 1949 just before the Communists' final victory in the civil war. The presence of MTAC in Lhasa was viewed by both Nationalist and Communist governments as an assertion of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. Throughout the Kuomintang years, no country gave Tibet diplomatic recognition.
In 1950 after the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet, Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru stated that his country would continue the British policy with regards to Tibet in considering it to be outwardly part of China but internally autonomous.
The PRC considers all pro-independence movements aimed at ending Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, including British attempts to establish control in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the CIA's backing of Tibetan insurgents during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Government of Tibet in Exile till the turn of the 21st century, as one long campaign abetted by Western imperialism aimed at destroying Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty, or destabilizing China.
A proclamation issued by 13th Dalai Lama in 1913 states, "During the time of Genghis Khan and Altan Khan of the Mongols, the Ming dynasty of the Chinese, and the Qing Dynasty of the Manchus, Tibet and China cooperated on the basis of benefactor and priest relationship. [...] the existing relationship between Tibet and China had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other." He condemned that the "Chinese authorities in Szechuan and Yunnan endeavored to colonize our territory Chinese" in 1910–12 and stated that "We are a small, religious, and independent nation".
The Tibetan government issued passports to the first-ever Everest expedition in 1921. The Tibetan government also issued passports to subsequent British Everest expedition in 1924 and 1936. The 1938–39 German expedition to Tibet also received Tibetan passports.
In 2003, an old Tibetan passport was rediscovered in Nepal. Issued by the Kashag to Tibet's finance minister Tsepon Shakabpa for foreign travel, the passport was a single piece of pink paper, complete with photograph. It has a message in hand-written Tibetan and typed English, similar to the message by the nominal issuing officers of today's passports, stating that ""the bearer of this letter – Tsepon Shakabpa, Chief of the Finance Department of the Government of Tibet, is hereby sent to China, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries to explore and review trade possibilities between these countries and Tibet. We shall, therefore, be grateful if all the Governments concerned on his route would kindly give due recognition as such, grant necessary passport, visa, etc. without any hindrance and render assistance in all possible ways to him." The text and the photograph is sealed by a square stamp belonging to the Kashag, and is dated "26th day of the 8th month of Fire-Pig year (Tibetan)" (14 October 1947 in the gregorian calendar).
The passport has received visas and entry stamps from several countries and territories, including India, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, Pakistan, Iraq and Hong Kong, but not China. Some visa do reflect an official status, with mentions such as "Diplomatic courtesy, Service visa, Official gratis, Diplomatic visa, For government official".
However, acceptance of a passport does not indicate recognition of independence, as for example the Republic of China passport is accepted by almost all the countries of the world, even though few of them recognize the ROC as a nation.
In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and established a government in exile at Dharamsala in northern India. This group claims sovereignty over various ethnically or historically Tibetan areas now governed by China. Aside from the Tibet Autonomous Region, an area that was administered directly by the Dalai Lama's government until 1951, the group also claims Amdo (Qinghai) and eastern Kham (western Sichuan). About 45 percent of ethnic Tibetans under Chinese rule live in the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to the 2000 census. Prior to 1949, much of Amdo and eastern Kham were governed by local rulers and even warlords.
The view of the current Dalai Lama in 1989 was as follows:
During the 5th Dalai Lama's time [1617–1682], I think it was quite evident that we were a separate sovereign nation with no problems. The 6th Dalai Lama [1683–1706] was spiritually pre-eminent, but politically, he was weak and uninterested. He could not follow the 5th Dalai Lama's path. This was a great failure. So, then the Chinese influence increased. During this time, the Tibetans showed quite a deal of respect to the Chinese. But even during these times, the Tibetans never regarded Tibet as a part of China. All the documents were very clear that China, Mongolia and Tibet were all separate countries. Because the Chinese emperor was powerful and influential, the small nations accepted the Chinese power or influence. You cannot use the previous invasion as evidence that Tibet belongs to China. In the Tibetan mind, regardless of who was in power, whether it was the Manchus [the Qing dynasty], the Mongols [the Yuan dynasty] or the Chinese, the east of Tibet was simply referred to as China. In the Tibetan mind, India and China were treated the same; two separate countries.
The International Commission of Jurists concluded that from 1913 to 1950 Tibet demonstrated the conditions of statehood as generally accepted under international law. In the opinion of the commission, the government of Tibet conducted its own domestic and foreign affairs free from any outside authority, and countries with whom Tibet had foreign relations are shown by official documents to have treated Tibet in practice as an independent State.
The United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions urging respect for the rights of Tibetans in 1959, 1961 and 1965. The 1961 resolution calls for that "principle of self-determination of peoples and nations" applies to the Tibetan people.
The Tibetan Government in Exile views current PRC rule in Tibet, including neighboring provinces outside Tibet Autonomous Region, as colonial and illegitimate, motivated solely by the natural resources and strategic value of Tibet, and in gross violation of both Tibet's historical status as an independent country and the right of Tibetan people to self-determination. It also points to PRC's autocratic policies, divide-and-rule policies, and what it contends are assimilationist policies, and regard those as an example of ongoing imperialism aimed at destroying Tibet's distinct ethnic makeup, culture, and identity, thereby cementing it as an indivisible part of China. That said, the Dalai Lama stated in 2008 that he wishes only for Tibetan autonomy, and not separation from China, under certain conditions, like freedom of speech and expression, genuine self-rule, and control over ethnic makeup and migration in all areas claimed as historical Tibet.
During the rule of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907), Tibet and China were frequently at war, with parts of Tibet temporarily captured by the Chinese to become part of their territory. Around 650, the Chinese captured Lhasa. In 763, Tibet very briefly took the Chinese capital of Chang'an during the Tang civil war.[better source needed]
Most scholars outside of China say that during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Tibet was independent without even nominal Ming suzerainty. In contrast, since the mid-18th century it is agreed that China had control over Tibet reaching its maximum in the end of the 18th century. Luciano Petech, a scholar of Himalayan history, indicated that Tibet was a Qing protectorate.
The patron and priest relationship held between the Qing court and the Tibetan lamas has been subjected to varying interpretation. The 13th Dalai Lama, for example, knelt, but did not kowtow, before the Empress Dowager Cixi and the young Emperor while he delivered his petition in Beijing. Chinese sources emphasize the submission of kneeling; Tibetan sources emphasize the lack of the kowtow. Titles and commands given to Tibetans by the Chinese, likewise, are variously interpreted. The Qing authorities gave the 13th Dalai Lama the title of "Loyally Submissive Vice-Regent", and ordered to follow Qing's commands and communicate with the Emperor only through the Manchu Amban in Lhasa; but opinions vary as to whether these titles and commands reflected actual political power, or symbolic gestures ignored by Tibetans. Some authors claim that kneeling before the Emperor followed the 17th-century precedent in the case of the 5th Dalai Lama. Other historians indicate that the emperor treated the Dalai Lama as an equal Kneeling was a compromise allowed by the Qing court for foreign representatives, Western and Tibetan alike, as both parties refused to perform the kowtow.
Tibetologist Melvyn C. Goldstein writes that Britain and Russia formally acknowledged Chinese authority over Tibet in treaties of 1906 and 1907; and that the 1904 British invasion of Tibet stirred China into becoming more directly involved in Tibetan affairs and working to integrate Tibet with "the rest of China."
The status of Tibet after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution ended the Qing dynasty is also a matter of debate. After the revolution, the Chinese Republic of five races, including Tibetans, was proclaimed. Western powers recognized the Chinese Republic, however the 13th Dalai Lama proclaimed Tibet's independence. Some authors indicate that personal allegiance of the Dalai Lama to the Manchu Emperor came to an end and no new type of allegiance of Tibet to China was established, or that Tibet had relationships with the empire and not with the new nation-state of China. Barnett observes that there is no document before 1950 in which Tibet explicitly recognizes Chinese sovereignty, and considers Tibet's subordination to China during the periods when China had most authority comparable to that of a colony. Tibetologist Elliot Sperling noted that the Tibetan term for China, Rgya-nag, did not mean anything more than a country bordering Tibet from the east, and did not include Tibet. Other Tibetologists write that no country publicly accepts Tibet as an independent state, although there are several instances of government officials appealing to their superiors to do so. Treaties signed by Britain and Russia in the early years of the 20th century, and others signed by Nepal and India in the 1950s, recognized Tibet's political subordination to China. The United States presented a similar viewpoint in 1943. Goldstein also says that a 1943 British official letter "reconfirmed that Britain considered Tibet as part of China."  Nevertheless, Goldstein views Tibet as occupied. Stating that The Seventeen-Point Agreement was intended to facilitate the military occupation of Tibet.
Thomas Heberer, professor of political science and East Asian studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, wrote: "No country in the world has ever recognized the independence of Tibet or declared that Tibet is an 'occupied country'. For all countries in the world, Tibet is Chinese territory." However, newly independent Mongolia and Tibet recognized each other by a treaty signed just after the fall of the Qing dynasty, and under international law, even non-recognition by other states does not negate even a unilateral declaration of independence. During the early 1990s governmental bodies, including the European Union and United States Congress, and other international organisations declared that Tibetans lacked the enjoyment of self-determination to which they are entitled  and that it is an occupied territory.
Under the terms of the Simla Accord (1914) the British Government's position was that China held suzerainty over Tibet but not full sovereignty. By 2008 it was the only state still to hold this view. David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, described the old position as an anachronism originating in the geopolitics of the early 20th century. Britain revised this view on 29 October 2008, when it recognised Chinese sovereignty over Tibet by issuing a statement on its website. The Economist reported at that time that although the British Foreign Office's website did not use the word sovereignty, officials at the Foreign Office said "it means that, as far as Britain is concerned, 'Tibet is part of China. Full stop.'"
In 2008, European Union leader José Manuel Barroso stated that the EU recognized Tibet as integral part of China: On 1 April 2009, the French Government reaffirmed its position on the Tibet issue.
This lack of legal recognition makes it difficult for international legal experts sympathetic to the Tibetan Government in Exile to argue that Tibet formally established its independence. On the other hand, in 1959 and 1960 the International Commission of Jurists concluded that Tibet had been independent between 1913 and 1950.
While Canadian foreign policy and Canada's policy toward Tibet is strictly limited to supporting human rights, Canada has nonetheless recognized that the Tibetan people's human rights expressly include their right to self-determination.
Groups such as the Madrid-based Committee to Support Tibet claim the death toll in Tibet since the 1950 People's Liberation Army invasion of Tibet to be 1,200,000 and have filed official charges of genocide against prominent Chinese leaders and officials. This figure has been disputed by Patrick French, a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, but rather, concludes a no less devastating death toll of half a million people as a direct result of Chinese policies.
According to an ICJ (International Commission of Jurists) report released in 1960, there was no "sufficient proof of the destruction of Tibetans as a race, nation or ethnic group as such by methods that can be regarded as genocide in international law" found in Tibet.
(See Serfdom in Tibet controversy, Social classes of Tibet and Human rights in Tibet.) The PRC argues that the Tibetan authority under successive Dalai Lamas was also itself a human rights violator. The old society, the Chinese government and its supporters say, was a serfdom and, according to reports of an early English explorer, had remnants of "a very mild form of slavery" prior to the 13th Dalai Lama's reforms of 1913.
Tibetologist Robert Barnett wrote about clerical resistance to the introduction of anything Anti-Buddhist that might disturb the prevailing power structure. Clergy obstructed modernization attempts by the 13th Dalai Lama.
Old Tibet had a long history of persecuting non-Buddhist Christians. In the years 1630 and 1742, Tibetan Christian communities were suppressed by the lamas of the Gelugpa Sect, whose chief lama was the Dalai Lama. Jesuit priests were made prisoners in 1630 or attacked before they reached Tsaparang. Between 1850 and 1880, eleven fathers of the Paris Foreign Mission Society were murdered in Tibet, or killed or injured during their journeys to other missionary outposts in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. In 1881 Father Brieux was reported to have been murdered on his way to Lhasa. Qing officials later discovered that the murder cases were in fact covertly supported and even orchestrated by local lamaseries and their patrons—the native chieftains. In 1904, Qing official Feng Quan sought to curtail the influence of the Gelugpa Sect and ordered the protection of Western missionaries and their churches. Indignation over Feng Quan and the Christian presence escalated to a climax in March 1905, when thousands of the Batang lamas revolted, killing Feng, his entourage, local Manchu and Han Chinese officials, and the local French Catholic priests. The revolt soon spread to other cities in eastern Tibet, such as Chamdo, Litang and Nyarong, and at one point almost spilled over into neighboring Sichuan Province. The missionary stations and churches in these areas were burned and destroyed by the angry Gelugpa monks and local chieftains. Dozens of local Westerners, including at least four priests, were killed or fatally wounded. The scale of the rebellion was so tremendous that only when panicked Qing authorities hurriedly sent 2,000 troops from Sichuan to pacify the mobs did the revolt gradually come to an end. The lamasery authorities and local native chieftains' hostility towards the Western missionaries in Tibet lingered through the last throes of the Manchu dynasty and into the Republican period.
Three UN resolutions of 1959, 1961, and 1965 condemned human rights violation in Tibet. These resolutions were passed at a time when the PRC was not permitted to become a member and of course was not allowed to present its singular version of events in the region (however, the Republic of China on Taiwan, which the PRC also tries to claim sovereignty over, was a member of the UN at the time, and it equally claimed sovereignty over Tibet and opposed Tibetan self-determination). Professor and sinologist A. Tom Grunfeld called the resolutions impractical and justified the PRC in ignoring them.
Grunfeld questioned Human Rights Watch reports on human rights abuses in Tibet, saying they distorted the big picture.
According to Barnett, since Western powers and especially the United States used the Tibet issue in the 1950s and 1960s for cold war political purposes, the PRC is now able to get support from developing countries in defeating the last nine attempts at the United Nations to criticize China. Barnett writes that the position of the Chinese in Tibet would be more accurately characterized as a colonial occupation, and that such an approach might cause developing nations to be more supportive of the Tibetan cause.
The Chinese government ignores the issue of its alleged violations of Tibetan human rights, and prefers to argue that the invasion was about territorial integrity and unity of the State. Furthermore, Tibetan activists inside Tibet have until recently focused on independence, not human rights.
Leaders of the Tibetan Youth Congress which claims 30,000 over members  are alleged by China to advocate violence. In 1998, Barnett wrote that India's military includes 10,000 Tibetans, causing China some unease; and that "at least seven bombs exploded in Tibet between 1995 and 1997, one of them laid by a monk, and a significant number of individual Tibetans are known to be actively seeking the taking up of arms; hundreds of Chinese soldiers and police have been beaten during demonstrations in Tibet, and at least one killed in cold blood, probably several more."
Chinadaily.com reported on the discovery of weapons subsequent to the protests by peaceful Buddhists monks on March 14, 2008: "Police in Lhasa seized more than 100 guns, tens of thousands of bullets, several thousand kilograms of explosives and tens of thousands of detonators, acting on reports from lamas and ordinary people."
And on 23 March 2008, there was a bombing incident in the Qambo prefecture.
While the earliest ROC constitutional documents already claim Tibet as part of China, Chinese political leaders also acknowledged the principle of self-determination. For example, at a party conference in 1924, Kuomintang leader Sun Yat-sen issued a statement calling for the right of self-determination of all Chinese ethnic groups: "The Kuomintang can state with solemnity that it recognizes the right of self-determination of all national minorities in China and it will organize a free and united Chinese republic." In 1931, the CCP issued a constitution for the short-lived Chinese Soviet Republic which states that Tibetans and other ethnic minorities, "may either join the Union of Chinese Soviets or secede from it." It is notable that China was in a state of civil war at the time and that the "Chinese Soviets" only represents a faction. Saying that Tibet may secede from the "Chinese Soviets" does not mean that it can secede from China. The quote above is merely a statement of Tibetans' freedom to choose their political orientation. The possibility of complete secession was denied by Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1938: "They must have the right to self-determination and at the same time they should continue to unite with the Chinese people to form one nation". This policy was codified in PRC's first constitution which, in Article 3, reaffirmed China as a "single multi-national state," while the "national autonomous areas are inalienable parts". The Chinese government insists that the United Nations documents, which codifies the principle of self-determination, provides that the principle shall not be abused in disrupting territorial integrity: "Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations...."
The PRC also points to what it claims are the autocratic, oppressive and theocratic policies of the government of Tibet before 1959, its toleration of existence of serfdom and slaves, its so-called "renunciation" of (Arunachal Pradesh) and its association with India and other foreign countries, and as such claims the Government of Tibet in Exile has no legitimacy to govern Tibet and no credibility or justification in criticizing PRC's policies.
...It is often forgotten that many Tibetans, especially educated people in the larger towns, were so keen to modernize their society in the mid-20th century that they saw the Chinese communists as allies against rule by monks and serf-owning landlords. The Dalai Lama himself, in the early 1950s, was impressed by Chinese reforms and wrote poems praising Chairman Mao.
Instances have been documented when the PRC government gained support from a portion of the Tibetan population, including monastic leaders, monks, nobility and ordinary Tibetans prior to the crackdown in the 1959 uprising. The PRC government and some Tibetan leaders characterize PLA's operation as a peaceful liberation of Tibetans from a "feudal serfdom system." (和平解放西藏).
When Tibet complained to the United Nations through El Salvador about Chinese invasion in November 1950—after China captured Chamdo (or Qamdo) when Tibet failed to respond by the deadline to China's demand for negotiation-- members debated about it but refused to admit the "Tibet Question" into the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly. Key stakeholder India told the General Assembly that "the Peking Government had declared that it had not abandoned its intention to settle the difficulties by peaceful means", and that "the Indian Government was certain that the Tibet Question could still be settled by peaceful means". The Russian delegate said that "China's sovereignty over Tibet had been recognized for a long time by the United Kingdom, the United States, and the U.S.S.R." The United Nations postponed this matter on the pretext Tibet was officially an "autonomous nationality region belonging to territorial China", and because the outlook of peaceful settlement seemed good.
Subsequently, The Agreement Between the Central Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Method for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, also known as Seventeen-Point Agreement, was signed between delegates of China and Tibet on 23 May 1951. The Dalai Lama,despite the massive Chinese military presence, had ample time and opportunity to repudiate and denounce the Seventeen-Point Agreement. He was encouraged and instigated to do so with promise of public but not military support by the US, which by now had become hostile to Communist-ruled China.
On May 29, the 10th Panchen Erdeni (i.e. 10th Panchen Lama) and the Panchen Kampus Assembly made a formal statement, expressing their heartfelt support for the agreement. The statement indicated their resolution to guarantee the correct implementation of the agreement and to realize solidarity between the different ethnic groups of China and ethnic solidarity among the Tibetans; and on May 30, the 10th Panchen Erdeni telegrammed the 14th Dalai Lama, expressing his hope for unity and his vow to support the 14th Dalai Lama and the government of Tibet with the implementation of the agreement under the guidance of the Central Government and Chairman Mao.
The Agreement was finally accepted by Tibet's National Assembly, which then advised the Dalai Lama to accept it. Finally, on 24 October 1951, the Dalai Lama dispatched a telegram to Mao Zedong:
The Tibet Local Government as well as the ecclesiastic and secular People unanimously support this agreement, and under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government, will actively support the People's Liberation Army in Tibet to consolidate defence, drive out imperialist influences from Tibet and safeguard the unification of the territory and sovereignty of the Motherland.
On 28 October 1951, the Panchen Rinpoche [i.e. Panchen Lama] made a similar public statement accepting the agreement. He urged the "people of Shigatse to give active support" to carrying out the agreement.
Tsering Shakya writes about the general acceptance of the Tibetans toward the Seventeen-Point Agreement, and its legal significance:
The most vocal supporters of the agreement came from the monastic community...As a result many Tibetans were willing to accept the agreement....Finally there were strong factions in Tibet who felt that the agreement was acceptable...this section was led by the religious community...In the Tibetans' view their independence was not a question of international legal status, but as Dawa Norbu writes, "Our sense of independence was based on the independence of our way of life and culture, which was more real to the unlettered masses than law or history, canons by which the non-Tibetans decide the fate of Tibet...This was the first formal agreement between Tibet and Communist China and it established the legal basis for Chinese rule in Tibet." 
On March 28, 1959, premier Zhou Enlai signed the order of the PRC State Council on the uprising in Tibet, falsely accusing the Tibetan government of disrupting the Agreement. (see, for review). The creation of the TAR finally buried the Agreement that was discarded back in 1959.
On April 18, 1959, the Dalai Lama published a statement in Tezpur, India, that gave his reasons for escaping to India. He pointed out that the 17 Point Agreement was signed under compulsion; later the Chinese side permanently violated it. According to Michael Van Walt Van Praag, "treaties and similar agreements concluded under the use or threat of force are invalid under international law ab initio". Therefore, this Agreement is not considered legal by those who consider Tibet to have been an independent state before its signing; but it is considered legal by those who oppose Tibet's independence. In either case the PRC did not abide by the agreement.
Western countries, including Britain and the United States, did not recognize Tibet as fully independent
With the collapse of the Chinese Empire in 1911, Tibet Declared its independence.
Our ability to get our points across has sometimes been clouded by the position the UK took at the start of the 20th century on the status of Tibet, a position based on the geo-politics of the time. Our recognition of China's "special position" in Tibet developed from the outdated concept of suzerainty. Some have used this to cast doubt on the aims we are pursuing and to claim that we are denying Chinese sovereignty over a large part of its own territory. We have made clear to the Chinese Government, and publicly, that we do not support Tibetan independence. Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. Our interest is in long term stability, which can only be achieved through respect for human rights and greater autonomy for the Tibetans.— British Foreign Secretary