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BEIJING - The former Tibetan army commander who surrendered to the People's Liberation Army and went on to sign a peace accord in Beijing has died just short of his 100th birthday, the Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, the son of a Tibetan aristocrat, was commander in chief of Tibetan forces in 1950, as they sought to repel Chinese forces near what is now the border of Tibet and Sichuan. He surrendered to the People's Liberation Army after a short battle.

As head of a Tibetan delegation to Beijing in 1951, he signed the Seventeen Point Agreement, which established Chinese sovereignty over Tibet in return for guarentees of autonomy and religious freedom. Eight years later, after an abortive uprising in Lhasa, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India with tens of thousands of followers.

Ngapoi served in a variety of military and government roles in the People's Republic of China. He died on Wednesday in Beijing.

23december20093Tibetan demonstrations against Chinese rule broke out again across the Tibetan plateau in March of 2008, denting China's international image just before it hosted the Olympic Games.

China's Communist Party says Beijing has ruled Tibet since the 12th century Yuan dynasty, when Mongolians ruled China, while many Tibetans point to centuries of independence before Ngapoi's 1951 surrender.

(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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