China contends that Tibet did not maintain international relations independently of China and that no country recognized Tibet's independence. This is not true. Although Tibet chose not to develop extensive international relations, following an isolationist policy for much of its history, it did maintain bilateral relations with countries in the region by whom it was, indeed, recognized.
A study of Tibet's history reveals that, contrary to Chinese Communist claims, Tibet at no time became an integral part of China. It is not disputed that at different times Tibet exercised influence on or came under the influence of its neighbors. It would be hard to find any state in the world today that has not been subjected to foreign domination or influence for some part of its history. Tibet, however, was never colonized or annexed through the use of force.
Thus today, despite more than 40 years of occupation, Tibet is an independent country under illegal occupation. This fact has been recognized by many, including the US Congress and the Parliament of Australia in 1992. The Tibetan people are today one of the best examples of a people with rights to self-determination. Recent prestigious international law conferences have stressed the need for early realization of the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. The Dalai Lama has called on China to agree to the holding of an internationally supervised plebiscite so Tibetans can express their wishes in accordance with their rights, through democratic means. This China has, to date, rejected.
The Invasion and Illegal Annexation of Tibet 1949-1951
The Chinese government claims the so-called "17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet," signed in 1951, after the defeat of the small Tibetan army, shows that Tibetans not only agreed to, but actually invited Chinese Communist troops to "liberate" Tibet. Facts show the Tibetan government was coerced into accepting the document drafted by China and imposed upon the Tibetan negotiators under threat of all-out military conquest. Treaties imposed by threat or the use of force upon a country are not valid under international law and cannot, therefore, serve to legitimize an otherwise illegal invasion of territory. China, in fact, believes all unequal treaties and agreements to be invalid. There can hardly be a better example of an unequal "agreement" than the 1951 Tibetan-Chinese "17-Point" treaty.