An Inevitable Choice of History:Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-12-28 19:03
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The United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee

 Sixty years ago, on May 23, 1951, the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet (the 17-Article Agreement) was signed in Beijing by the Central People’s Government of China and the former local government of Tibet, formally marking the peaceful liberation of Tibet. With the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the imperialist powers were cast out of Tibet once and for all, and China’s territorial integrity and state sovereignty were maintained. Dealing a heavy blow to various separatist forces, the peaceful liberation of Tibet guaranteed the unity of the country and the solidarity of all ethnic groups in China. It also created conditions to end Tibet’s system of feudal serfdom under theocratic rule, paving the way for the liberation of about one million serfs. Thus, the peaceful liberation of Tibet marked the beginning of a bright new future for Tibet, propelling its development forward in all respects. 

 Instruments of torture displayed at the Beijing Cultural Palace of Nationalities in October 1959 (left). These instruments were once used by Tibetan serf-owners in Garze to persecute serfs.

 June 20, 2005, villagers voting to elect the director of their village committee in Nanga Village, Dongga Town, Duilungdeqen County, Lhasa (right). All 1,280 voters in the village actively took part in the election. / Photo by Xinhua reporters Li Ziqing and Jue Guo

 I. The peaceful liberation of Tibet was an inevitable choice of history 

 The peaceful liberation of Tibet was an inevitable result of the patriotic movement against imperialism carried out by the Chinese nation in modern history. During this period, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet stood alongside the people throughout the country in the struggle against Western imperialist aggressors. Sharing a common fate, they gradually became an interdependent and inseparable whole. In two wars of resistance against British aggressors, the people of Tibet demonstrated their mettle as patriots, and their struggles gained nationwide support as an important part of the patriotic movement of the Chinese nation against imperialism. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, patriotic personages in the upper echelons of Tibetan society, headed by the 9th Panchen Lama and the Living Buddha Reting, led the peoples of Tibet in a campaign of action to support the resistance effort. According to the 17-Article Agreement, “The Tibetan ethnic group is one of a number of ethnic groups with a long history within the boundaries of China. As with many other ethnic groups, it has performed its glorious duty in the course of the creation and development of our great motherland.”

 The peaceful liberation of Tibet was an important component of the people’s liberation led by the Communist Party of China. After the decisive victory in China’s War of Liberation had been achieved, the CPC Central Committee performed an in-depth analysis of Tibetan society at that time. Upon analysis, the Central Committee deemed the following: Tibetan society was ruled under a theocratic system of feudal serfdom; the ruling clique of Tibet was unpatriotic, which was the result of the discord spread by imperialist aggressors; the working people were extremely poor, and the ruling class was highly capable of leveraging religion to maintain its rule; due to ethnic barriers caused by policies of ethnic oppression in the past, it would take some time for the Tibetan people to understand the ethnic policies of the central government. Based on a comprehensive understanding of Tibet’s past and present, the Central Committee decided to adopt a policy of “peaceful liberation.” History has proved that this policy was successful in avoiding the damage which could have resulted from liberation through military means. It demonstrated that giving full consideration to the actual ethnic and religious situation in Tibet and identifying with the interests of the Tibetan people were the fundamental principles that the CPC and the central government adhered to in policy making.

 The peaceful liberation of Tibet was the inevitable outcome of a common desire shared among all ethnic groups in Tibet. As the peaceful liberation of Tibet neared, the imperialist powers engaged in a vain attempt to separate Tibet from China, sparing no effort to sow discord between the local government of Tibet and the central government. However, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet joined patriotic personages among the upper echelons of Tibetan society in voicing strong indignation and resolute opposition over imperialist aggression and the perverse acts of pro-imperialism elements. Remaining true to their glorious patriotic traditions, they played an important role in striving for the peaceful liberation of Tibet. The 10th Panchen Lama and many well-known Tibetan personages sent telegrams to the central government, held symposiums, and delivered speeches in the hope that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would enter Tibet at the earliest possible juncture and liberate its peoples. Patriotic and progressive forces in the local government of Tibet, represented by Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, clearly expressed their willingness to open peaceful negotiations with the central government. In the end, it was the influence of the central government as well as the strong demands of patriotic personages in the upper echelons of Tibetan society and common Tibetan people that compelled the local government of Tibet to accept the policy of peaceful liberation. History has proved that the peaceful liberation of Tibet reflected the strong desire and fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet. This is why it was able to win the support and endorsement of all sectors of society.

 II. The development and progress of Tibet since its peaceful liberation 60 years ago

 Tibet’s economy has achieved a historical leap forward. Since Tibet’s peaceful liberation, the central government has provided strong backing for the economic and social development of the region. In accordance with the directives of the Central Committee, the CPC Work Committee of Tibet and the Tibet Military Command set up schools and hospitals around the region, distributed farming tools, gave out interest-free loans, and sent medical teams to provide free medical care for people in agricultural and pastoral areas. These initiatives helped the peoples of Tibet to gain a better understanding of the PLA and the CPC. Moreover, the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet highway and the Sichuan-Tibet highway, projects that attracted global attention, put Tibet on the road to modernization. The Central Committee has held five successive work meetings on Tibet since the launch of China’s reform and opening up drive, leading to the formulation of a series of special policies and preferential measures aimed at rallying nationwide support behind the economic and social development of Tibet. At present, we have already established an entire set of mechanisms to provide all-round support for the modernization of Tibet, including direct state investment in construction projects, financial subsidies from the central government, and the provision of dedicated support from different regions nationwide. According to statistics, the central government provided Tibet with more than 310 billion yuan in financial subsidies and fixed asset investment during the nine years from 2001 to 2009 alone, which was used to fund a number of key projects for the economic and social development of Tibet, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. In 2010, Tibet’s GDP reached 50.746 billion yuan, 83.3 times greater than the GDP in 1959; the net income per capita of farmers and herders in the region reached 4,138.7 yuan, 118 times greater than the average income in 1959. Today, Tibet is making leaps and bounds in its efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

 Enormous changes have taken place in Tibetan society. Sixty years ago, Tibet had no modern schools or hospitals to speak of. The limited educational resources and few medical institutions practicing traditional Tibetan medicine it did have served the aristocratic class and the monasteries exclusively. At that time, less than 2% of school-age children attended school, and the rate of illiteracy among young and middle-aged people was higher than 95%. The vast numbers of serfs and slaves had very little access to medical care. In order to turn Tibet’s extremely backward social programs around, the CPC led the peoples of Tibet in completely abolishing the various social privileges enjoyed by feudal serf owners. Since then, constant efforts have been made to develop modern education, science and technology, and medical care programs for the benefit of the general public, so as to promote the overall development and progress of Tibetan society. From 1950 to 2010, the central government invested a total of 40.73 billion yuan to support education in Tibet. This has culminated in the formation of a modernized ethnic educational system encompassing pre-school education, compulsory education, secondary education, higher education, vocational education, and special needs education. At present, the rate of school attendance among school-age children in Tibet has reached 99.2%, and the rate of illiteracy among young and middle-aged people has dropped to 1.2%. The region has also established a system for the provision of free medical care in agricultural and pastoral areas, a basic medical insurance system for all urban residents, and a system that ensures medical care for all the people, with all townships having hospitals and all villages having clinics. Life expectancy has gone from 35.5 years (1951) to 67 years. The central government has also invested a total of 1.45 billion yuan into programs to protect Tibetan culture. Intangible cultural heritage, such as The Epic of King Gesar, has received timely rescue and protection, and Tibetology studies have achieved unprecedented prosperity.

 The democratic rights of all ethnic groups in Tibet have been fully guaranteed. Before the liberation, the serf owners, representing less than 5% of the total population, possessed all means of production as well as all cultural and educational resources in Tibet, monopolizing the material and cultural wealth of the entire region. Serfs and slaves, who accounted for over 95% of the population, had no means of production and absolutely no personal freedom whatsoever. They were regarded as nothing but “speaking tools.” After suppressing an all-out armed rebellion launched by the Dalai Lama clique following the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the central government introduced democratic reforms and established the Tibet Autonomous Region. On the basis of these efforts, the feudal serfdom system under theocratic rule was completely abolished, people’s democratic authorities were established at all levels, and a system of regional ethnic autonomy was implemented. The people of all ethnic groups in Tibet became their own masters, enjoying more extensive democratic political rights than ever before. At present, people of Tibetan origin and people from other minorities account for 70.42% of leading cadres serving at the provincial level in the Tibet Autonomous Region and for over 86% of leaders serving in the 74 counties, cities and city districts and 682 townships of the region. The Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region has passed more than 250 local regulations and separate regulations concerning economic, political, cultural, social and other affairs since its establishment. This has provided an important legal basis on which the vital interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet can be protected and all areas of the region’s development can be promoted.

 Socialist ethnic relations have been further consolidated and developed. The struggle between separatism and anti-separatism has never ceased in Tibet. History has taught the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet that the Han need the minorities, the minorities need the Han, and the minorities need each other, and that solidarity and stability are a blessing while separation and chaos are a calamity. More than ever before, the peoples of Tibet are feeling the warmth of the motherland and cherishing their happiness. The reality of ethnic relations in Tibet has been vividly depicted as a “common endeavor and common prosperity among all ethnic groups.”

 Massive progress has been made in the improvement of Tibet’s ecological environments. Environmental protection initiatives in Tibet began for the very first time 60 years ago. Since then, a relatively complete system for ecological protection has been put in place in the region. Environmental initiatives in Tibet have been planned in step with economic and social development. Laws and regulations such as the Land Administration Law, Water Law, and Grassland Law have been comprehensively implemented; accelerated efforts have been made to implement a plan to provide a protective screen for the ecology of Tibet; and projects to protect natural forests, reclaim forest areas occupied by farmland, reclaim grasslands occupied by grazing grounds, and to replace the use of firewood with methane have been actively promoted. Major efforts have also been devoted to preventing desertification, water loss, and soil erosion in order to build up an ecological security screen for the entire country. At present, Tibet has established 21 ecological function protection zones, 7 national forest parks, 3 geological parks, 1 national scenic spot, and 47 nature preserves of various categories. The total protected area accounts for 34.5% of Tibet’s overall land area, making it the most protected area among all of China’s provinces and autonomous regions.

 III. The valuable lessons that have been learned since the peaceful liberation of Tibet 60 years ago

 We must adhere to the leadership of the CPC. The CPC is the leading core of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and an essential force for the solidarity and unity of the Chinese nation. Over the past 60 years, Tibet has marched from the darkness into the light, from autocracy to democracy, from backwardness to progressiveness, from poverty to prosperity, and from self-containment to openness under the leadership of the Party. Without the Party, there would not be a new socialist Tibet. We must, at all times and under all circumstances, adhere to the leadership of the Party and follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as this is the most fundamental means of ensuring the development of a united, democratic, rich, civilized and harmonious new socialist Tibet.

 We must show unwavering conviction in the fight against separatism. The Dalai Lama clique is a political separatist group representing the remnants of the feudal serf owners that existed under the theocratic rule of the old Tibet. Supported and exploited by hostile foreign forces, it has made vain attempts to create an “independent Tibet” through efforts to undermine the development and stability of the region. Our fight with the Dalai Lama clique is not over religion or autonomy; it is a major political struggle for national unity and against separatism. We must be fully aware of the reactionary nature of the Dalai Lama clique, take a clear-cut stand against attempts to split the nation, and safeguard national unity in order to provide a stable social environment to underpin economic development and the wellbeing of the people in Tibet.

 We must always give due consideration to the actual conditions in Tibet whilst enacting the principles and policies of the Party. Tibet is a special ethnic minority border area in our country. During the past 60 years, the CPC has always given due consideration to the actual conditions in Tibet whilst enacting its principles and policies. By adopting policy measures that accord to local conditions, we have promoted the miraculous leap-frog development of Tibet, allowing it to progress further over the space of several decades than it has in over a millennium. In order to promote our initiatives in Tibet under new circumstances, we must commit ourselves to a path of development with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan features, adhere to an ideological approach of seeking truth from facts, and give due consideration to the actual conditions of the region whilst implementing the decisions and arrangements made by the central government to accelerate the development of Tibet. Through these efforts, we will ensure that the development of Tibet truly benefits its people, and that the policy measures of the central government are established on the solid foundation of the heartfelt endorsement of the people.

 We must always attach great importance to the United Front initiatives of the Party. The United Front is a powerful asset of the Party, helping it to unite all possible forces and claim victories in revolution, development and reform. Therefore, it is an important component of the Party’s work in Tibet. During the past 60 years, United Front initiatives have played an irreplaceable role in ensuring the development and stability of Tibet. In order to achieve leap-frog development and long-term stability in Tibet in a new period, we must continue to hold high the great banner of patriotism and socialism, through which we can win the hearts of the people and bring them together. By uniting all forces and mobilizing all positive factors, we will provide the widest possible support for the development of a new socialist Tibet. 

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.14, 2011)   

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