Battle of Chamdo
|Battle of Chamdo|
|Part of the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme (POW)|| Mao Zedong
|Tibetan Army: 8,500||People's Liberation Army: 40,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|180 killed or wounded||114 killed or wounded|
The Battle of Chamdo (Chinese: 昌都之战), or officially in China as the Liberation of Tibet, was a military campaign by the People's Republic of China (PRC) against a de facto independent Tibet in Chamdo after months of failed negotiations. The purpose of the campaign was to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and to thus exert enough pressure to get Tibetan representatives to agree to attend negotiations in Beijing and sign terms recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. The campaign resulted in the capture of Chamdo and further negotiations between the PRC and Tibetan representatives, eventually resulting in the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China.
On March 7, 1950, a Tibetan government delegation arrived in Kalimpong to open a dialogue with the newly declared PRC and to secure assurances that the PRC would respect Tibetan “territorial integrity”, among other things. The onset of talks was delayed by debate between the Tibetan delegation, India, Britain, and the PRC about the location of the talks.
Tibet favoured Singapore or British Hong Kong (not Beijing), Britain favored New Delhi, India (not Hong Kong or Singapore) and the PRC favored Beijing, but India and Britain preferred no talks at all.
The Tibetan delegation did eventually meet with the PRC’s ambassador General Yuan Zhongxian in Delhi on September 16, 1950. Yuan communicated a 3-point proposal that Tibet be regarded as part of China, that China be responsible for Tibet’s defense, and that China be responsible for Tibet’s trade and foreign relations. Acceptance would lead to peaceful "liberation", or otherwise war. The Tibetans undertook to maintain the relationship between China and Tibet as one of preceptor and patron, and their head delegate Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, on September 19, recommended cooperation, with some stipulations about implementation.
Chinese troops need not be stationed in Tibet, it was argued, since it was under no threat, and if attacked by India or Nepal could appeal to China for military assistance. While Lhasa deliberated, on October 7, Chinese troops advanced into eastern Tibet, crossing the de facto border at 5 places. The purpose was not to invade Tibet per se but to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and thus exert powerful pressure to send negotiators to Beijing to sign terms for a peaceful incorporation of Tibet.
On October 21, Lhasa instructed its delegation to leave immediately for Beijing for consultations with the Communist government, and to accept the first provision, if the status of the Dalai Lama could be guaranteed, while rejecting the other two conditions. It later rescinded even acceptance of the first demand, after a divination before the Six-Armed Mahākāla deities indicated that the three points could not be accepted, since Tibet would fall under foreign domination.
Invasion of Kham region
The Khampa barely opposed the initial Communist assault on Chamdo. The People's Liberation Army had occupied Kham without much opposition from the Khampas. Pandatsang Rapga, leader of the pro Kuomintang Tibet Improvement Party offered the governor of Chamdo, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, some Khampa fighters in exchange for the Tibetan government recognizing the independence of Kham. Ngabo refused the offer.
After the defeat of the Tibetan Army in Chamdo, Rapga started mediating in negotiations between the People's Liberation Army and the Tibetans.
Rapga and Topgay engaged in negotiations with the Chinese during their assault on Chamdo. Khampas were historically known for their fierceness and warlike nature. Their natural reaction was to oppose and fight foreign domination arising from the Newly formed Communist China. However, with serious lack of weapons, the Khampas were soon overwhelmed by numerically superior PLA forces. Despite being defeated at Chamdo, Khampa fighters continued their opposition to the foreign invading forces. Local warlords soon became united under a common objective and hence resulted in the formation of Chushi Gangdruk with the assistance from CIA.
The Khampa Tibetans and Lhasa Tibetans held each other in mutual contempt and dislike, with the Khampa in some cases hating Lhasa rule even more than Chinese rule, which was why the Khampa did little to resist Chinese forces as they entered Kham and subsequently took over the entire Tibet. The Qinghai (Amdo) Tibetans view the Tibetans of Central Tibet (Tibet proper, ruled by the Dalai Lamas from Lhasa) as distinct and different from themselves, and even take pride in the fact that they were not ruled by Lhasa ever since the collapse of the Tibetan Empire.
Invasion of Tibet
After months of failed negotiations, attempts by Tibet to secure foreign support and assistance, and PRC and Tibetan troop buildups, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October. Two PLA units quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces and captured the border town of Qamdo by 19 October, by which time 114 PLA soldiers and 180 Tibetan soldiers had been killed or wounded. Writing in 1962, Zhang Guohua claimed "over 5,700 enemy men were destroyed" and "more than 3,000" peacefully surrendered, though that appears to be hyperbole. Active hostilities were limited to a border area controlled by the Government of Tibet northeast of the Gyamo Ngul Chu River and east of the 96th meridian. After capturing Qamdo, the PLA ceased hostilities and sent a captured commander, Ngabo, to Lhasa to reiterate terms of negotiation, and waited for Tibetan representatives to respond through delegates to Beijing.
Tibetan prisoners of war were generally well treated. After confiscating their weapons, the PLA soldiers gave the prisoners lectures on socialism and a small amount of money, before allowing them to return to their homes. According to Tenzin Gyatso, the current as well as the Dalai Lama of the time, the PLA did not attack civilians.
The PLA sent released prisoners (among them Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, a captured Tibetan governor) to Lhasa to negotiate with the Dalai Lama on behalf of PLA. Chinese broadcasts promised that if Tibet was "peacefully liberated", the Tibetan elites could keep their positions and power. The Government of Tibet then sent representatives to Beijing to negotiate. The Seventeen Point Agreement was signed between the Chinese and the Tibetans afterwards.
- Mackerras, Colin. Yorke, Amanda. The Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China.  (1991). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38755-8. p.100.
- The Tibetan Army, Gyajong, was established according to the 29-point reform installed by the Qianlong Emperor. See Goldstein, M.C., "The Snow Lion and the Dragon", p.20
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- Shakya 1999, p.45. Shakya also quotes PRC sources reporting 5738 enemy troops "liquidated" and over 5700 "destroyed". Shakya does not provide an estimate of PRC casualties.
- Feigon 1996, p.144.
- The Exiled Tibetan Government in India calls it the "invasion of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army of China," see Tibet: Proving Truth From Facts. The Status of Tibet : "At the time of its invasion by troops of the People's Liberation Army of China in 1949, Tibet was an independent state in fact and at law."
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- W. D. Shakabpa,One hundred thousand moons, BRILL, 2010 trans. Derek F. Maher, Vol.1, pp.916–917, and ch.20 pp.928–942, esp.pp.928–33.
- Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, Vol.2, ibid.pp.41–57.
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- Shakya 1999 p.12,20,21
- Feigon 1996 p.142. Shakya 1999 p.37.
- Shakya 1999 p.32 (6 Oct). Goldstein 1997 p.45 (7 Oct).
- Survey of China Mainland Press, no. 2854 p.5,6
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- Goldstein 1997 p.45
- Shakya 1999 p.49
- Laird 2006 p.305.
- Laird, 2006 p.306.
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