Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 1 News List

PRC celebrates 50-year rule in Tibet

AP , BEIJING

The Chinese government applauded itself yesterday for overturning Tibet's feudal hierarchy 50 years ago and bringing in economic development with a celebration of a newly created anniversary that has added to tensions in Tibetan areas.

Senior Communist Party leaders, the Panchen Lama they installed and former Tibetan serfs gathered in the Great Hall of the People on the eve of “Serfs Liberation Day” — which marks Beijing's crushing of a 1959 Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama's flight into exile.

The change in government “achieved a historic leap in Tibet's social system,” said the Panchen Lama, a high-ranking Buddhist cleric who was enthroned by Beijing and is scorned by many Tibetans.

“Serfs Liberation Day” was created by the government in the wake of last year's violent anti-Chinese uprising across Tibetan communities to highlight the progress China's rule has brought Tibet. The month of March has become a flash-point in recent decades — a time when Tibetans mourn the Dalai Lama's exile to India and tensions rise.

The new anniversary — which has been publicized on TV and state-run media — has underscored the deep, emotional chasm between the way many Chinese and Tibetans view their recent shared history.

While Chinese rule has brought economic development and infrastructure to the remote area where people traditionally eked out a living by farming and herding, Tibetans say they have lost religious and cultural freedoms and become marginalized in their homeland.

To quell last year's protests, Beijing poured paramilitary forces into Tibetan regions, and security has been tightened again in recent weeks for the volatile anniversary period.

More celebrations for the new anniversary were planned for today in Lhasa. To start the festivities, the meeting in Beijing featured a half-dozen speakers who reflected on the improvements in Tibet in the last 50 years and the crucial role of the Communist government.

Special emphasis was given to the serfs and slaves who once served Tibet's Buddhist monasteries and nobility, but who then benefited from land reform and the purging of the traditional elite.

“I began doing adult's work when I was 10 years old, sometimes I was so tired I couldn't even get up,” 73-year-old former serf Yixi Luozhui said in Chinese.

These days, he said, food is abundant and modern conveniences like cars and cellphones are common in ordinary Tibetans' homes.

“The people say 'the Communist Party's policies are like the sun on a clear day in Lhasa.' It's so good. You are rich even if you don't want to be rich,” he said.

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