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China And Tibet

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 November 1950

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what consultations have taken place with India, Pakistan and the United States of America regarding the possibilities of common action concerning the Chinese invasion of Tibet.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make on the Communist invasion of Tibet.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what diplomatic representations he has made with regard to the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet; and whether he will make a statement thereon.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the invasion of Chinese troops into Tibet.

On a point of order. In view of the very great national and international importance of Questions Nos. 60, 68 and other Questions on the same subject, is it perhaps possible, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, for the Under-Secretary to answer these now?

It is not within my power to order any Question to be answered. I would remind the House that at the beginning of Questions I told hon. Members that this was not debating time. It is their fault that they have not reached Question No. 60. I have done my best to cut down supplementaries.

On a point of order. It will be within your recollection, Sir, that on Thursday of last week I asked permission to put down a Private Notice Question about the serious position arising in the Midlands especially from electricity cuts. Unhappily, I was five minutes late in getting the Question to your office. I was advised then by you to put the Question on the Order Paper, which I have done. It is Question No. 76. As I have not had a reply, I wish to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.

I do not know if the right hon. and gallant Member wishes to raise on the Adjournment the fact that did not allow a Private Notice Question. That will not do.

Subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I am willing to answer Questions Nos. 60, 67, 68 and 71. The answer is as follows:

On the transfer of power to India in 1947, all existing treaty rights and obligations of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with regard to Tibet were assumed by the Government of India. When we informed the Tibetan Government of this change, we expressed our intention of continuing to take a friendly interest in the maintenance of Tibetan autonomy. That is still our attitude. We have over a long period recognised Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous. For many years this Chinese suzerainty has been no more than nominal, and indeed, since 1911, Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence.

There is no country which is more inaccessible or which has fewer contacts with the outside world than Tibet. It would be ludicrous to suggest that it is a threat to anyone. It has shown that it is prepared to negotiate with China for an amicable settlement of their relationship. Talks between a Tibetan Mission and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi started in September. As a result of these talks, the Mission expressed its willingness to go to Peking to continue the talks there. Indeed, it was just as the Mission was starting its journey to Peking that the Chinese Government announced that they had ordered their troops to advance into Tibet. Chinese forces are now reported to have penetrated into Tibet well beyond the areas where the boundary is in dispute.

We deplore this resort to force by the Chinese Government against a people who have no other wish than to pursue their traditional way of life free from outside interference. The House will have seen the exchange of Notes between the Indian and Chinese Governments, which have been published, and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom fully support the stand which has been taken by the Government of India. We have been, and continue to be, in close consultation with interested Governments on this issue.

Will the Government make it clear to the Chinese Communist Government that we could not support their joining the United Nations, nor continue our efforts to establish diplomatic relations with them, so long as this invasion of Tibet continues?

That is an entirely different matter, which does not arise from these Questions.

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether he considers the Chinese occupation of Tibet to be a potential threat to the security of India?

Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear to the Chinese Communist Government that they cannot expect to continue the immunities of peace-time while waging two local wars of aggression? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the quicker we can emphasise this point, the more likely we are to limit these local wars?

Clearly, if China takes action such as she has taken in this case it must influence our attitude towards her.

Are His Majesty's Government proposing to call for volunteers for Tibet?

The hon. Gentleman said that these matters are continuously under review. Has any special conference been called with the representatives of India, Pakistan, America and ourselves since the invasion of Tibet? Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that unless a common policy is devised for India and Pakistan, there is no sound basis for the defence of Eastern Asia?

I said in my original reply that we are in active consultation with those Governments, and Commonwealth and other Governments.

Is not the Security Council of the United Nations the appropriate body to discuss this matter? Is it the intention of His Majesty's Government to do anything to bring the matter before the Security Council?

That is one of the matters which are being considered in the Edit of these events.

Would not the settlement of all these matters be greatly facilitated if the United Nations could be persuaded to do what His Majesty's Government have long wanted them to do, that is to say, recognise the actual de facto Chinese Government so that they can be present at the Security Council?