Out of the Darkness and Into the Light—a New Era in Tibet

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-19 18:45
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    The Committee of the Communist Party of China of the Tibet Autonomous Region The People’s Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region


    Tibet was peacefully liberated in May 1951 when the Chinese central government and Tibet local government signed an agreement on peaceful liberation. Because of the special history of the region, however, the system of feudal serfdom continued under the theocratic rule and the society of the region remained under the dark shadow of feudal serfdom. In March 1959, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the armed rebellion of the Dalai Lama clique was defeated, marking the beginning of democratic reform that thoroughly abolished the feudal serfdom and liberated hundreds of thousands of serfs. It also marked the beginning of Tibet’s emergence out from a dark shadow and into the light as the region began to throw off backwardness on the road to progress.

Sunrise at the Potala Palace in Tibet. / Photo by Sang Ni

  The Hope of the People;the Choice of History

    With the abolition of the system of feudal serfdom under theocracy in the region, the millions of Tibetan serfs became masters of their own destiny. Before democratic reform, serf owners possessed all the means of production and owned all the serfs in Tibet. Serfs were nothing but “speaking tools.” The former Tibetan “13-Artilce Code” and “16-Article Code” divided Tibetans into three classes and each class into three ranks. The bodies of the people of the highest rank of the upper class, such as a prince, were literally worth their weight in gold, but the lives of the people of the lowest rank of lower class, such as serfs and slaves, were only worth as little as a piece of straw rope. The serf owners exercised a set of savage and ruthless rules to keep those in the lowest rank in serfdom by resorting to gouging their eyes, cutting their ears, chopping off their hands and feet, drowning them and committing other outrageous types of torture on the slaves and serfs they owned. Serfs and slaves were merely private possessions to the serf owners, who were free to use them to trade, give away, offset debts and exchange for other serfs and slaves. The democratic reform abolished the feudal hierarchy, the bondage of the serfs and slaves to their feudal masters, and the various types of savage punishment, separated religion from government and put an end to the privileges of religious leaders. Millions of former serfs and slaves were emancipated, winning the rights and freedom due to all Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws and truly becoming the masters of their own destiny.

    Abolition of the system of ownership of the means of production by feudal estate-holders emancipated and allowed development of the productive forces of society. Before democratic reform, the serf owners possessed all of the means of production and the bulk of the fruits of the serfs’ labor, while the serfs were unable to maintain even the lowest standards of living. The productive forces were seriously damaged and production remained at a very low level and carried out with extremely primitive tools and technology, resulting in very low productivity. Democratic reform brought about profound changes of labor-management relations in Tibet and strongly promoted development of the productive forces of society. Freed from the cruelty and oppression of serfdom that denied them even the most basic rights, the former serfs now owned land, farm tools and draft animals for the first time in their lives. They owned the means of production and were able to work as they wanted and to reap the fruits of their own labor. They began to show a great willingness to engage in work and strive for their own happiness, which gave a strong boost to the productive forces of society.

    Combating domestic and overseas separatist forces helps consolidate national unity. Tibet has always been an inseparable part of China’s territory since ancient times, and the future and destiny of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet are closely tied to the destiny of the motherland. Before democratic reform, the ruling class in Tibet maintained its privileges through the system of serfdom. The Dalai Lama clique, with the backing of imperialists and other overseas reactionary forces, opposed the 17-Article Agreement (the Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet). In 1959 the Dalai Lama clique colluded with imperialists and overseas reactionaries to launch an all-out armed rebellion, threatening the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of China, in order to defend the interests of the exploiting class and to separate Tibet from China and create “independent Tibet.” The Chinese central government made the important decision to put down the rebellion, introduce democratic reform and totally liberate the hundreds of thousands of Tibetan serfs from serfdom, thus safeguarding national unity and the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people. This decision won the whole-hearted support of the hundreds of thousands of serfs and slaves in Tibet. It was a trial of blood and fire that helped consolidate national unity and preserve the integrity of the country.

    Once the CPC established its position as the Party in power in Tibet, it began to put Tibet on the correct track of development and progress. Old Tibet was a paradise for the handful serf owners but “hell on earth” for the many former serfs. The CPC has always represented the most fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people, including the Tibetan people, has always considered the starting point and ultimate goal of all its work to realize, safeguard and advance the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups in China, and has always worked hard to promote economic development, carry out social programs and improve the lives of the population. Without the CPC, there would have been no New Tibet. Comparing their lives under the rule of the serf owners that brought them terrible disasters with their lives under the leadership of the CPC that does its best to bring happiness to the people of all ethnic groups, the people of Tibet recognized and chose the CPC. The CPC has won the respect and support of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. It has become the core of leadership promoting rapid social and economic development of the new socialist Tibet and a decisive factor in the struggle to uphold the unity of the country, oppose separatism and strengthen the solidarity of all ethnic groups in the country.

  Brilliant Achievements and an Everlasting


    Economic development has been proceeding by leaps and bounds. Since democratic reform was carried out in Tibet, and especially since China initiated the policy of reform and opening up, the CPC Central Committee and the central government have been adopting special flexible measures to promote development in Tibet. The Party committee and government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have taken into consideration the local conditions in applying the major policies of the central government and strongly promoted economic and social development in Tibet, resulting in marked improvement in the working and living conditions of the local people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. The Chinese central government has spent nearly a hundred billion yuan for direct investment in projects in Tibet over the last half a century. More than 400 key construction projects, such as the outstanding example of the railway from Qinghai to Tibet, have been carried out to promote local development, ushering in a new era of unprecedented social and economic development in the Tibet region. The region now has a comprehensive transport network mainly consisting of roads, complemented by air routes, rail lines and pipelines, and a comprehensive energy supply system using hydroelectric power as the main energy source complemented by geothermal, wind and solar energy. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetan farmers and ranchers now live in new safe and comfortable housing. Urban residents either live in their own affordable housing or in low– rent housing. The GDP of Tibet in 2008 reached 39.591 billion yuan, 66 times the GDP of 1959 based on comparable prices.

    The institution of democratic politics has produced excellent results. The former local government in Tibet functioned through both religious and lay officials, but the religious officials had the final say. This gave the monasteries special privileges in political, economic and social affairs and all other areas of life in Tibet. Thanks to the introduction and steady improvement of a socialist democratic political system and the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet now enjoy more extensive democratic political rights than ever before and are now able to participate in the administration of state and local affairs on the basis of equality as provided by the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy. Most of the deputies to the people’s congresses at all levels in Tibet are now members of Tibetan and other ethnic minorities. A large number of former serfs and slaves and their descendants have become local government officials or hold leading positions in various industries and trades. The voter participation reached 96.4%, and in some localities 100% in the 2007 direct and indirect elections for government leaders at the township, county, prefectural and regional level. Among the more than 34,000 deputies to the local people’s congresses at the regional, prefectural, county and township levels, over 94% are people of Tibetan and other ethnic minorities. The Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region has passed more

   than 250 local regulations and legally binding resolutions and decisions concerning economic, political, cultural, social and other affairs since its establishment. These provide important legal guarantees for the vital interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet and all areas of the region’s development.

    Cultural life has blossomed in Tibet. The system of feudal serfdom under theocracy in Old Tibet not only seriously hampered the growth of the local productive forces but also led to the isolation and withering of traditional Tibetan culture. Since the institution of democratic reform, the Party committee and government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have invested huge amounts of money, material and manpower to meet the growing intellectual and cultural needs of the local people of all ethnic groups. Thanks to efforts to protect, continue and promote fine traditional Tibetan culture and develop advanced socialist culture, cultural life in Tibet has flourished as never before. Guarantees have been instituted to protect the right of Tibetan people to receive an education and to use and develop the oral and written Tibetan language. Great progress has been made in formulating computer standards for the Tibetan language, which is the first written language among the minority ethnic groups of China to have international-standard code for use in information technology and information interchange. Effective measures have been taken to protect the Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka, Sagya Monastery, the Tibetan epic of King Gesar and many other tangible and intangible cultural heritages having unique ethnic features. Many Tibetan folk stories, dances, operas and ballads have been uncovered, sorted, renewed, and they have become important representatives of fine traditional Tibetan culture. A large number of multi-functional and well-equipped cultural and entertainment facilities such as museums, libraries and cinemas have been built in Tibet. Tibet now has 257 art galleries open to the public and community centers or community activity rooms, 10 professional theatrical ensembles and 678 amateur performance groups. Radio coverage now reaches 88.8% of the population and television coverage 89.9%.

    Progress has been made in all areas of social development. Tibet formerly had no regular schools in the modern sense because education was the monopoly of the monasteries. Less than 2% of school-aged children attended school and adult illiteracy rate was as high as 95%. There was no modern medicine and the few medical institutions practicing traditional Tibetan medicine only served the aristocratic class and the monasteries. Serfs and slaves and their dependents had very little access to medical care. There was not a single modern scientific research institute in Tibet and even the applicable technology of astronomic almanac was in the exclusive domain of the monasteries. Since democratic reform, Tibet has developed a fairly comprehensive modern educational system with preschool education, compulsory education, secondary and higher education, and vocational and special education. The region today has 1,017 schools, 68 times the number in 1959, with a combined enrollment of 547,400 students, 31 times the number in 1959, the year that democratic reform was first launched. Thanks to steady improvement in the public health system, the medical care system in rural areas based on free medical service, basic medical insurance for urban residents, and the system that ensures medical care cover all the people of Tibet now. The life expectancy of people in Tibet has grown from 35.5 years in 1959 to 67 years today. Tibet now has 1,339 hospitals and clinics, 23 times the number in 1959, with a total medical staff of 9,098, an increase of 12-fold. Steady progress has also been made in the area of science and technology, and Tibet now boasts 33 research institutes that employ 50 thousand researchers and technicians. Steady progress is being made in setting up a social security system and the registered unemployment rate has been held below 4.3% for a number of years.

    Ecological and environmental has kept pace with social and economic development. Soon after the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the central government organized a “Tibet Comprehensive Survey Team” under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The team was responsible for making extensive surveys and assessment of the land, forests, grasslands, water resources and mineral resources in Tibet and submitting proposals on their scientific use and development. The work of improving ecological conditions and environmental protection got off to a good start following establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region in September 1965. Since China began instituting the reform and opening up policy, the regional government has been paying close attention to environmental protection work and closely following plans that balance environmental protection work and social and economic development. The promulgation of Regulations for Environmental Protection and Regulations for the Management of Mineral Resources plus detailed regulations for the implementation of the Land Administration Law, Water Law, Law on Water and Soil Conservation, Grassland Law, Law on the Protection of Wildlife and other relevant laws and regulations has resulted in the formation of an effective environmental protection and pollution control oversight and regulation system that ensures effective protection of most forests, rivers, lakes, grasslands, wetlands, glaciers, snowcovered mountains and wildlife and an overall excellent condition of the natural environment in the region. A total of 21 ecological reserves, 7 national forest parks, 3 geological parks, 1 national scenic zone and 40 nature reserves have been set up in Tibet, covering a total of 408,300 square kilometers, 34.03% of the total area of Tibet, the highest among all provinces and autonomous regions in China. 

  A New Journey to a Bright Future

    Local development has consistently followed a path with Chinese characteristics that takes into account the special features of Tibet. Development is the key to all the problems in Tibet. Tibet must rely on development to change the backward conditions in the region and improve the lives of the people of all ethnic groups as well as to gain the initiative in the fight against separatist forces and consolidate stability and solidarity in the political situation. We are fully considering actual conditions in Tibet in carrying out major national policies for Tibet and will continue to follow an enlightened approach to development that results in expanded production, a better life and sound ecological and environmental conditions, so that development benefits the people and relies on the people, and the fruits of development are shared by all the people.

    Social development efforts are always focused on improving the living standards of the people. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to education, can earn a decent living, has access to medical care, is eligible to receive an old age pension, and has adequate housing. We are working to accelerate social development, focusing on improving standards of living, on the basis of economic growth so that people benefit in a substantive way and so that their lives are improved.

    We are always working to safeguard the security of the country and the stability of Tibet. The fight against separatist forces is given top priority in the effort to maintain stability. We must be fully aware of the protracted, complex and acute nature of this struggle, closely rely on the people of all ethnic groups and work hard to prevent and severely punish all separatist and destructive activities. We must fully recognize and correctly understand the characteristics of and rules governing contradictions among the people under the new circumstances, and concentrate on resolving them before they become serious. We must strengthen overall efforts to maintain security in society, improve measures for preventing social disruptions and carry out activities to make Tibet peaceful and stable to ensure overall social stability.

    We must constantly engage in the struggle to maintain the unity of all ethnic groups in Tibet and work to ensure thriving development for all. The consolidation and development of the great unity of all ethnic groups in Tibet will provide the driving force needed for development and progress in the region. We must continue to adhere to the policies of the Party regarding ethnic groups and religions, work to develop and strengthen the patriotic united front, safeguard national unity and always work to unite all ethnic groups under the banners of the CPC, the motherland and socialism with Chinese characteristics, using the great solidarity among ethnic groups to promote all areas of development.

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