Speaking Truth to Power: Challenging China's Claim to Tibet

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 15:00to17:00
Chancellor Day Hall Stephen Scott Seminar Room (OCDH 16), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

Professor Ronald Niezen, Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy, welcomes Michael van Walt, Ph.D., School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, USA.


Tibet is today routinely portrayed as a part of China and the language used suggests a fait accompli in this regard. This is detrimental to the prospects of resolving the decades old international conflict that has caused and continues to cause tremendous human suffering. It is also legally incorrect.

Although Tibet was formerly acknowledged to be an occupied country and the Tibetans a people with the right to self-determination, which obliges the international community to address the situation and seek a solution to the Sino-Tibetan conflict, today our governments are by and large acting as if the situation in Tibet were a Chinese internal affair, outside of their purview. This not only negatively affects the Tibetan people; it harms all of us for it undermines the very norms of international law created to prevent war and keep us safe and free.

At the core of this change lie changing power relationships and the increasing buy-in to the PRC narrative that Tibet has always been a part of China. Michael van Walt will demonstrate the fallacy of this claim and the dangers of our willingness to ignore or compromise the truth for political or economic gain.

Michael van Walt van Praag is an expert in intrastate peace processes, professor of international law, and author. He serves as the Executive Director of KREDDA, an organization dedicated to the prevention and resolution of conflicts between population groups and the governments of states within which they live. He has served as advisor and consultant to numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations in peace talks in regions ranging from Chechnya to Papua New Guinea. He has made his passion for the need to alleviate suffering caused by injustice, violent conflict and oppression his life-long career.

He has authored and edited books and articles on a variety of topics related to intrastate conflict and to relations of peoples and minorities with states, including Mobilizing Knowledge for Post-Conflict Development at the Local Level (The Hague: RAWOO 2000); The Implementation of the Right to Self-Determination as a Contribution to Conflict Prevention (Barcelona: UNESCO Division of Human Rights, Democracy and Peace/UNESCO Centre of Catalonia 1999); ‘The Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People: an explanatory introduction to the Tibetan proposal’ in Multinational Integration, Cultural Identity and Regional Self-Government: Comparative Experiences for Tibet (R. Toniatti and J. Woelk eds., London: Routledge 2014); Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan (Silk Roads, University of Chicago Press, 2018).


Back to top