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Democratic Reform in 1959

After the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, Tibet continued to follow the feudal serfdom. Since the conditions were not yet ready for excising such reform, Chairman Mao, in a report on ‘Questions Concerning Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People', fully stated the policy on Tibet of "sustaining for six years without change". The policy was, in fact, another concession to Tibet and its purpose was to await full public awareness of the targets of peaceful reform.

However, a high-level reactionary group in Tibet was against the reforms from the start. They went so far as to openly tear up the 17-Article Agreement and announced the "independence of Tibet" on March 10, 1959. They organized Tibetan forces to surround the Tibetan Military Area and the organs of the Central Government in Tibet and launched a full attack early on March 20th. In order to maintain the unity of China, the Central Government issued an order to put down the rebellion in Tibet, announcing that the Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region was to act as the local government. Tibet entered a new stage of suppressing rebellion and carrying out reform.

The Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region passed in July 1959 the ‘Resolution on Democratic Reform', deciding to completely put down the rebellion, fully arouse the masses to action and carry out Democratic Reform throughout the region. The first step of Democratic Reform was against rebellion, against the ula corvee labor system and against slavery in reduction of rents and reduction of interest (known in brief as the "3A2R" movement). The serfs and slaves, in the process of struggling against the rebellion, exposed and criticized the crimes of the rebels for their burning, killing and pillaging, for the harm they had done to the people, for their activities in undermining unity, and for their opposition to the Central Government. They denounced through their own experiences their untold suffering that the serf owners imposed on them to squeeze and destroy them ruthlessly with the ula corvee labor and slavery system. The serfs and slaves awakened in the 3A movement had their own leaders. Through selection they organized their own leadership institute, the Farmers' Association, forming their own power center. Several months later, the Farmers' Associations were founded widely in the areas where Democratic Reform was excised and they guided the work in the reduction of rents and interest.

Under the policy, the land of the estate-holders involved in the rebellion was "to be reaped by those who had planted it"; the land leased by the estate-holders (and their agents) who had not participated in the rebellion was "to be reduced in rent by 20 percent"; all the debts borne by the serfs to the three estate holders before 1958 were abolished and the debts owing to the estate-holders who didn't participate in the 1959 rebellion were reduced in interest to a rate of one percent a month. The achievement resulting from "reducing rent by 20 percent" and abolishing the old debts was considerable. According to statistics from 1959 to 1960, when the Democratic Reform was nearly completed, the usury and debts abolished in the region as a whole were about equal to 400 million kilograms of grain, which fundamentally removed the heavy chains from the serfs.

As the struggle against rebellion won an essential victory and the "3A2R" movement developed further, destroying completely the land occupation system of the three estate holders and eliminating the base of the feudal serf system had become an urgent demand for the serfs to win complete liberation. The third plenary session of the Preparatory Committee of Autonomous Regions was held in late September 1959 and passed a "Resolution on Abolition of Feudal Serf-Ownership of Land and Introduction of Farmer Land Ownership". The Resolution decided to satisfy the just demands of the million serfs by abolishing the feudal serf-ownership of land and introducing farmers' land ownership. It particularly stressed the land reform policy in farming areas and emphasized that the livestock breeding ownership in pastoral areas would remain unchanged while carrying out the "3A2B" policy (to struggle against rebellion, against ula corvee labor system and against slavery while being beneficial to hired herdsmen and beneficial to herd owners).

Most of the work for land reform in farming areas was carried out in the winter of 1959 and the spring of 1960. The first step was to confiscate the land and other means of production of serf owners and their agents involved in the rebellion; For serf owners and their agents who did not participate in the rebellion, their excessive land, livestock (limited to the countryside), houses and farm tools were to be handed over. By the end of 1960, when land reform of the whole region was nearly accomplished, the land distributed to serfs and slaves accounted to more than 2.8 million ke (about 186,000 hectares) in total, 3.5 ke (about 0.23 hectare) per capita.

According to the policy, the excessive land, livestock, farm tools and houses of the serf owners and their agents, who had not involved in the rebellion, were bought out. The farmland bought out accounted for over 900,000 ke (about 60,000 hectares) in total, livestock 82,000 head, farm tools 20,000 sets, and 64,200 houses. These were evaluated at market prices to be paid by the government within 8-13 years. In September 1961, over 2,000 households obtained their buy-out certificates and the first-stage payment was made. Progressive personages who had not been involved in the rebellion were given suitable jobs and some became leaders in the Preparatory Committee of Autonomous Regions.

The primary work of Democratic Reform was basically accomplished by the end of 1961.

The Democratic Reform completely overturned the reactionary, backward feudal serf system and enabled the million serfs to be freed from the rigid control and oppression of serf owners and obtain their rights as human beings, which changed the conditions of human rights of the people in Tibet and paved a way for social development in the region.

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