China Seizes on a Dark Chapter for Tibet

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The white fortress loomed above the fields, a crumbling but still imposing redoubt perched on a rock mound above a plain of golden rapeseed shimmering in the morning light.

A battle here in 1904 changed the course of Tibetan history. A British expedition led by Sir Francis E. Younghusband, the imperial adventurer, seized the fort and marched to Lhasa, the capital, becoming the first Western force to pry open Tibet and wrest commercial concessions from its senior lamas.

The bloody invasion made the Manchu rulers of the Qing court in Beijing realize that they had to bring Tibet under their control rather than continue to treat it as a vassal state.

So, in 1910, well after the British had departed, 2,000 Chinese soldiers occupied Lhasa. That ended in 1913, after the disintegration of the Qing dynasty, ushering in a period of de facto independence that many Tibetans cite as the modern basis for a sovereign Tibet.

The Chinese Communists seized Tibet again in 1951, perhaps influenced by the Qing emperor’s earlier decision to invade the mountain kingdom....
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