Leaving aside the obvious political truths (China is a major international power, a permanent member of UNSC with veto powers; and Israel has a broad array of countries and demographics who like to oppose anything they do); what are the formal and/or legal reasons given for never applying the same exact legal criticisms of Israel vis-à-vis the West Bank to China vs. Tibet?

For example, there are no UN resolutions condemning Chinese occupation, calling on China to grant Tibet independence, etc. (I’m not counting the 1961 resolution discussing humanitarian concerns which had zero sovereignty components as far as I could tell.)

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    So you want us to pretend that China is economically and politically equal to Israel? That is not realistic. Aug 11, 2014 at 13:23
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    In other words, when asked "Why do you insist that West Bank is an occupied territory subject to XYZ treatment, and Tibet is not", what is the response given on legal/diplomatic level (as opposed to "what's the real reason nobody goes after China")
    – user4012
    Aug 11, 2014 at 13:55
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    Because they are not equals... China has a permanent seat on the council over 1.5 billion people, and a strong economy that can affect the rest of the world,and a strong military that can challenge any other nation if need be... isreal is a tiny nation scraping by. But you want us to pretend they are equals. Aug 11, 2014 at 14:39
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    Israel is a rather special case... To some degree Israel was created by the UN and the winners of WWII, which makes them somewhat responsible. Previous the UN and Leauge of Nations had occationally asked the people in an area where they wanted to belong - like when parts of Denamrk was given to Germany. But in the case of Israel, the decition was made over the heads of the people living there (a huge non-Jewish majority). Finally Jewish settlers were "imported" from the rest of the world. Imagine if a party in the USA had granted citizenship to a few million people for their vote... Aug 14, 2014 at 10:29
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    Tibet is really just another example of a big country invading and occupying a small country - which happens all the time. And the countries which perhaps ought to object and intevene - USA, UK, France, Germany, Russia - have themselves done similar things previously (and may very well want to do it again sometime), so they're in a bit of a glass-house. They don't want to create a presidence that may come back and bite them later, when they themselves - for some reason - wants to pound some small country into the ground. Aug 14, 2014 at 10:33

5 Answers 5


One reason: Trade.

China is one of the most important countries in the world economy. Every first-world country has lots of import and export relations with China. Whole branches of the European and North-American economy are dependent on the Chinese market as a supplier, consumer or both. For that reason, it is very important for these countries to maintain friendly relations with China. A trade embargo with China could literally cripple the economy of a country.

For that reason, most countries tread very lightly when it comes to criticizing Chinese politics.

But you asked for formal and/or legal reasons. The answer is: There are none. There are never any formal and/or legal reasons for something to happen in international politics. International politics are anarchy. There is no neutral authority which enforces international laws and formalities. These are enforced by other countries, and every country's first priority is always its own interests. World peace only comes second, and that solely for the reason that world peace serves some countries interests indirectly. When no country has an interest in making and/or enforcing a UN resolution, it will not happen.

  • You mean no member of supposedly objective Western Press confronted any EU dignitaries on that hypocrisy in a press conference or interview? :)
    – user4012
    Aug 15, 2014 at 14:03
  • @DVK When someone did, he likely received a common politicians non-answer.
    – Philipp
    Aug 15, 2014 at 14:41
  • well, if they were real journalists they'd press for a real answer... but we don't live in a fantasy world.
    – user4012
    Aug 15, 2014 at 14:50

A quick googling gave http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/167/76/IMG/NR016776.pdf?OpenElement that proves there are such resolutions so the claim "There are no UN resolutions condemning Chinese occupation, calling on China to grant Tibet independence, etc..." is incorrect (yes, i noticed that you somehow think it don't count).

China claims that Tibet have been a part of China since the 13th century and that claim has at least some merits.

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    The link doesn't work. Can you copy/paste relevant text from your resolution?
    – user4012
    Aug 12, 2014 at 20:02
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    Also, if it's the one from 1961, you should re-read the question. I'm not counting 1961 resolution discussing humanitarian concerns which had zero soveregnity components as far as I could tell
    – user4012
    Aug 12, 2014 at 20:04
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    It says "right to self-determination" is violated. Not exactly the same as sovereignty.
    – Olav
    Sep 21, 2016 at 21:01
  • People upvote this for no reason whatsoever. Mar 22, 2019 at 20:28

I lived in China for many years but never visited Tibet itself, although I did visit several towns and small cities in Gansu and Sichuan provinces that are predominantly Tibetan. The Tibetans I saw were happy, had money (from breeding yaks) and had cultural & religious freedom, with many monks walking around and many monasteries. So here's my 2 cents -

1) For the past few hundred years Tibet was considered part of China, more or less. Not only that, there have been cultural relations between the Chinese and Tibet going back a thousand or more years. These relations included Chinese Emperors marrying Tibetan princesses and vice-versa, the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to as far north as Mongolia and the establishment of a major Tibetan monastery in Beijing, which is still functioning today. Tibetan people also spread into nearby Chinese provinces. The Nationalists, who governed China before they lost the civil war to the Communists in 1949, certainly would have held on to it if they had won.

2) In about 1951, many Tibetan people rose up in revolution against the Tibetan government. So obviously it had autonomy to some extent from the government of Beijing. This rising up was almost certainly inspired by the Chinese revolution of the previous decade. You need to know that the average Tibetan people at that time lived in absolute poverty and were serfs, i.e., they were slaves owned by rich land-owners. They were truly treated little better than cattle - it was one of the most extreme cases of serfdom that have ever existed. When their revolution was not going very well, they appealed to the Chinese for help, which they got and the revolution succeeded. The land-owning class mostly went into exile along with their leader, the Dalai Lama. Ever since then, and even before, the Dalai Lama has been supported by the CIA. The people in Tibet now get an education (including in the Tibetan language), healthcare, etc. etc. and are thankful that they are part of China. Yes, I think there's a small amount of resentment at the influx of Chinese moving into Tibet to live but this is necessary for strategic purposes and the people recognize that this is balanced by the benefits of being freed from serfdom, a vastly improved standard of living and being an autonomous region within China. These stories of Chinese "repression" of the Tibetan people are 99% propaganda from the West. The only ones being repressed are those being led by and working with interests from outside Tibet/China, in an attempt to weaken and split China. Britain wanted to get Tibet when it had most of the Indian subcontinent as colonies and later the U.S. took over as the major Western nation hoping to gain control over it.

So the differences between Tibet and the West Bank are that the people are treated well, they welcome being part of China and they have a certain amount of political autonomy within the nation of China. They are not trying to rise up against the Chinese as you have been led to believe.

  • 1
    This is a great answer, it's definitely interesting, the link between the US and the Dalai Lama.
    – user453441
    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:16
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    I would add to your second point that Tibetan people are legally Chinese citizens (they have the same rights that a citizen from Beiping), while Palestinians were for most of the occupation people without any citizenship and without effective rights, which the current situation being only marginally better. China may not be the best country in the way it treats its citizens, but at least it is not enforcing seggreagtion.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 17, 2016 at 18:33
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    Your are just spreading Chinese lie propaganda. By most measures the Tibetans has been treated much worse than Palestinians. Also since you went there (if you really did), the suppression has become much harder.
    – Olav
    Sep 21, 2016 at 21:13
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    @dan-klasson I won't call the situation in 1949 "serf and slave". It was probably quite old fashioned. but it is not relevant as Chinese rule was much worse at least until the 70ties.
    – Olav
    Mar 23, 2019 at 8:34
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    @dan-klasson You are just spreading evil Chinese propaganda, or at least it was a long time before 1949: 1 These punishments were common, but "serfs" were protected by rule of law. It was not like Nobels could punish their subjects at will. 2) It was quite uncommon in 1949. 3) Far worse things happened under Chinese rule. 4) The reason they used this punishment was that they didn't have capital punishment, so you can't really say they were more cruel than others. (Possibly they had a small population of real slaves, but this was long before 1949)
    – Olav
    Mar 23, 2019 at 19:38

The history of these two areas are fundamentally different and thus do not warrant being treated equally.

Tibet or parts of it has been under Chinese rule in some way or another for a significant part of the last 1200 years. The entity that is now known as China is one that came into existence in the very neighbourhood—a little bit further away by standards of the first millenium AD but definitely within range. If you want, you might ask similarly about Russia stretching its borders southwards in the Caucasus or eastwards into Siberia.

The strip of land between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Mediterranean has a slightly different recent history. After having been under Ottoman rule for a few centuries—Ottomans themselves being akin to a ‘nearby power’ like China is to Tibet—the British took control of the area as a ‘protectorate’ (the then en vogue name for a colony) after the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. The Palestinian Arab population was already there, more and more Jewish people migrated between the wars but especially after World War II and the Shoah.

Furthermore, after World War II the United Nations derived and voted on a plan on what to do with this area that both Jewish settlers and the Arab population was interested in. This is the well-known original partition plan that called for the establishment of two states: one Arabic and one Jewish. What happened after the British left the area is that a Jewish state was established (Israel), an Arabic state (Palestine) was initially not, and one of the most convoluted episodes of 20th century history began with multiple wars between the new state Israel and its neighbours.

In short:

  • China is a local neighbouring power to Tibet whatever your stance on Tibetian independence. Israel and Palestine have themselves not been independent states in the millenium before 1948.

  • China’s power over Tibet was a thing that evolved over centuries while the Israel/Palestine situation was something that bubbled up ferociously after the Second World War.

  • From before day one of the state of Israel there has been a UN resolution detailing that two independent states should exist where Israel/Palestine are; such adamant language has never been used with respect to China/Tibet because the facts were already in place.

The principal argument against a lot of things Israel does with respect to the West Bank/Palestine is that it undermines the very UN resolution that allowed Israel statehood in the first place. This obviously does not apply to China which was a state and de facto had had borders where it has them now prior to the establishment of the UN.


In my opinion the reason why the Palestinian/Israeli conflict gets such an inordinate amount of attention is down to the left wing politics taking its lead from the soviet union for so many years.

Israel was/is a US backed state, it's enemies were directly supplied with weapons and aid by the Soviets and continue to be supplied by russia. There was always large amount of left wing agitation and protest against the alleged crimes of US backed/friendly states because it suited the Soviet cause for there to be.

When the USSR collapsed their useful idiots in the west didn't just all pack up and go home, they continued protesting and agitating. They seem blissfully unaware that they are still fighting a long dead ideological war.

  • 1
    While this answers "why... in reality", the question doesn't ask that at all. It asks for formal and/or legal reasons (also, while I agree with your conclusions, the thesis is wholly unsupported in the answer).
    – user4012
    Aug 15, 2014 at 13:25
  • I dont know if you noticed, but the rumors of the Soviet Unions Demise may have been greatly exaggerated. The original country may no longer exist but the new body is basically same bosses same owners same policies new name. Aug 15, 2014 at 13:34
  • @Chad - True enough. But not exactly same exact policies. At least they didn't enforce Creationism in school in USSR (Republicans missed a great opportunity to entice Obama and co to bomb Russia into stone age with that one).
    – user4012
    Aug 15, 2014 at 14:01
  • @DVK - Only because you still believe there is any actual difference between Republican members of congress and democrats. They say different things but have the same agenda. Aug 15, 2014 at 15:10
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    @Chad - you mean to get re-elected? :)
    – user4012
    Aug 15, 2014 at 16:50

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