China National News
Friday 30th January, 2009
While announcing March 28 as the 'Serf Emancipation Day' and a permanent public holiday in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) under it, Chinese authorities are claiming that the dissolution of the Tibetan government in 1959 and the escape of the Dalai Lama from Lhasa to India had freed 95 percent of 'serfs' from the clutches of aristocracy headed by the spiritual leader.
The People's Congress (the legislative body) in TAR last week approved the permanent public holiday on March 28.
The Chinese response is to the Tibetan community in exile, largely settled in India, observing 2009-10 as the 50th year of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation. March this year will also mark the first anniversary of the rebellion inside Tibet by the local people that left scores of people dead and hundreds injured.
Communist authorities in mainland China had said that before the Communist rule in Tibet in 1959, about a million serfs lived in miserable slave conditions under the feudal society ruled by the Dalai Lama.
'Tibet under the Dalai Lama was never the Shangri-la of popular romantic fantasies. Unless you want to call a place where 95 percent of the local people were serfs and household slaves, who could be sold, bought and bequeathed like commodities, paradise on earth anyway. Next time when the Dalai Lama talks of human rights in Tibet, ask him what it was like being a serf under his reign.
'Next time when he preaches for 'freedom', ask him what freedom the serfs and slaves enjoyed in the 'good old days' he has been so passionate about... But now, Dharamsala accuses Beijing of enslaving Tibetans,' a hard-hitting editorial in the leading newspaper China Daily said last week.
The editorial advised the Dalai Lama and his sympathisers to have a 'reality check' of things, past and present, in Tibet for the sake of the credibility of 'His Holiness'.
The Tibetan government-in-exile based in north India's hill station Dharamsala was quick to respond.
'China only wants to whitewash its atrocities in Tibet after its occupation. They want to justify their subjugation of the Tibetans. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is the undisputed leader of the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. Even last year's uprising in Tibet made it clear that people wanted him to return to Tibet. No one can represent the Tibetans other than His Holiness,' the exiled government's Secretary for International Relations Sonam Dagpo told IANS from Dharamsala.
'China wants to cover up its mistakes of the last 50 years. They are trying to celebrate their occupation of Tibet by saying that they liberated 95 percent Tibetans who were slaves. Even after coming to India, the Dalai Lama introduced a completely democratic system in the exiled community,' Dagpo added.
The Tibetan government-in-exile and Tibetan non-government organisations have lined up several activities, including peaceful protests, in 2009-10 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising on March 10.