Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

Are We Worrying Too Much?

In this article Paul Harris invites us to judge for ourselves whether human rights activists are worrying too much.

Some of the "pro-China" and "pro-business" spokespersons in Hong Kong and elsewhere regularly assert that human rights activists are wrong to be worried about the prospects for human rights in Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty. Some even go so far as to suggest that politicians who are seen publicly as standing for human rights have a vested interest in the transfer of sovereignty going badly as it justifies their role, the suggestion being that if they only kept quiet everything would be fine. An influential American exponent of this view is William Overholt, author of the popular book "China, the next economic superpower". In his book, which has sold widely in the United States and Hong Kong, Mr. Overholt takes the view that China can and should be trusted to maintain "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong, in accordance with the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The main reason given for this conclusion is that China "has an excellent record in honouring international agreements".

So that readers can judge for themselves whether or not Mr. Overholt is right we are printing in full in this edition an agreement signed by the Chinese Government which seems to us to bear considerable resemblance to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is the 17 point Agreement relating to the Tibet Special Autonomous Region, signed by China and Tibetan representatives in 1950. We leave our readers to judge whether this agreement has been honoured and whether in the light of what has happened to it concerns about future adherence to the Joint Declaration are justified.

1. The Tibetan people shall be united and drive out the imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet; that the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the motherland -- the People's Republic of China.

2. The Local Government of Tibet shall actively assist the People's Liberation Army to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defences.

3. In accordance with the policy towards nationalities laid down in the Common Programme of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Tibetan people have the right of exercising national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Central People's Government.

4. The Central Authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The Central Authorities also will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama. Officials of various ranks shall hold office as usual.

5. The established status, functions, and powers of the Panchen Ngoerhtehni shall be maintained.

6. By the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama and of the Panchen Ngoerhtehni is meant the status functions and powers of the 13th Dalai Lama and of the 9th Panchen Ngoerhtehni when they were in friendly and amicable relations with each other.

7. The policy of freedom of religious belief laid down in the Common Programme of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference will be protected. The Central Authorities will not effect any change in the income of the monasteries.

8. The Tibetan troops will be reorganised step by step into the People's Liberation Army, and become a part of the national defence forces of the Central People's Government.

9. The spoken and written language and school education of the Tibetan nationality will be developed step by step in accordance with the actual conditions in Tibet.

10. Tibetan agriculture, livestock raising, industry and commerce will be developed step by step, and the people's livelihood shall be improved step by step in accordance with the actual conditions in Tibet.

11. In matters related to various reforms in Tibet, there will be no compulsion on the part of the Central Authorities. The Local Government of Tibet should carry out reforms of its own accord, and when the people raise demands for reform, they must be settled through consultation with the leading personnel of Tibet.

12. In so far as former pro-imperialist and pro-KMT officials resolutely sever relations with imperialism and the KMT and do not engage in sabotage or resistance, they may continue to hold office irrespective of their past.

13. The People's Liberation Army entering Tibet will abide by the above-mentioned policies and will also be fair in all buying and selling and will not arbitrarily take even a needle or a thread from the people.

14. The Central People's Government will handle all external affairs of the area of Tibet; and there will be peaceful co-existence with neighbouring countries and the establishment and development of fair commercial and trading relations with them on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect for territory and sovereignty.

15. In order to ensure the implementation of this agreement, the Central People's Government will set up a military and administrative committee and a military area headquarters in Tibet, and apart from the personnel sent there by the Central People's Government it will absorb as many local Tibetan personnel as possible to take part in the work. Local Tibetan personnel taking part in the military and administrative committee may include patriotic elements from the Local Government of Tibet, various district and various principal monasteries; the namelist is to be prepared after consultation between the representatives designated by the Central People's Government and various quarters concerned, and is to be submitted to the Central People's Government for approval.

16. Funds needed by the military and administrative committee, the military area headquarters and the People's liberation Army entering Tibet will be provided by the Central People's Government. The Local Government of Tibet should assist the People's Liberation Army in the purchases and transportation of food, fodder, and other daily necessities.

17. The agreement shall come into force immediately after signatures and seals are affixed to it.

Paul Harris


1996/1997 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor