As Crisis Bites, UK Changes Stance on Tibet

After a century of hedging, Britain says region is part of China
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2008 8:25 AM CST
A monk sits close to on spare altar in his small room witha framed portrait of the Dalai Lama, at the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, Tibet, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008.   (AP Photo/ Elizabeth Dalziel)
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(Newser) – Last month Gordon Brown called on China to pump more money into the International Monetary Fund, whose coffers are nearly bare as more nations succumb to the global financial crisis. Only a few days later, writes Robert Barnett in the New York Times, the British government quietly announced a change to a century-old policy: It explicitly recognized Tibet as a part of China.

Britain had ambiguously recognized China's de facto control over Tibet, but not its complete sovereignty—a view the government called a colonial "anachronism." Whether or not China demanded a tit-for-tat, Beijing has won its biggest diplomatic victory on Tibet since Nixon's day. The result is a substantial weakening of Tibet's hand as China steps up its opposition to Tibetan autonomy, and a testament that "Western powers should not rewrite history to get support in the financial crisis."