I was reading The Economist in bed last night, as I am wont to do before snoozing, and noticed a rather odd comment about Tibet and the UK Government’s opinion about it. It seems that the UK government’s official position was one which supported Suzerainty for Tibet.

As the newspaper admits, the term has confused diplomats ever since the position was adopted in the 19th century – but a quick Wiki shows that is means that the UK considered Tibet to be part of China – except that Tibet should have some form of autonomy in foreign affairs.

It is slightly different from a protectorate, such as for example – UK overseas territories, in the sense that those territories ask for protection. Suzerainty is where the larger country imposes protection on the smaller, without its permission. As the UK’s position for Tibet was based on Suzerainty, there was an ambiguous issue about whether the UK considered Tibet to be independent, or not.

The update, buried at the bottom of a dry note from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office states that the UK now agrees with the rest of the world – and Tibet is a part of China, and not at all independent.

My personal opinion is that historically, Tibet is part of China and should probably remain so at least in the short to medium term – but that the current Chinese government policy which could almost be described as ethnic cleansing is abhorrent in any modern civilization.

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