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Real joys of Tibet captured on TV
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A three-part TV documentary featuring Tibet 50 years after democratic reforms is eliciting strong reaction from viewers after its screening on China Central Television (CCTV). With many oral accounts by witnesses and mounds of valuable first-hand material, the TV feature vividly recaptured Tibet's historical evolution from poverty to affluence, autocracy to democracy and isolation to openness. The film accurately depicted both past and present Tibet, and the actual events that have unfolded on the snow-clad plateau.

History tells us the old Tibet was not a Shangri-La as some people imagine. Fifty years ago, Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, was only inhabited by 20,000 permanent residents, with more than 1,000 impoverished and begging households living under tents in surrounding areas. Elderly Tibetans recalled how hungry wanderers competed with stray dogs for food scraps all across the region southwest of the Lhasa Jokhang Temple.

The old Tibetan statute classified Tibetan people into three ranks and nine grades. It stipulated that families of Tibetan people in the upper stratum would receive their loved one's weight in gold if he or she were killed, while those in the lowest-stratum ones would receive little more than a string of straw rope if the same fate befell them.

It is well known that during the period of old Tibet, which was characterized by feudal serfdom and the Dalai Lama clique's combination of church and state rule, Tibetan serfs suffered barbaric repression and were even deprived of the minimum right of subsistence.

Sweeping democratic reforms in Tibet brought great joys to most Tibetans. On March 28, 1959, a large-scale campaign was launched across the vast land aimed at eliminating serfdom. The sweeping democratic reforms awakened and emancipated the million Tibetan serfs and turned them overnight from the past "animals that can speak" into free citizens possessing their own family, job and dignity. At that moment, serfs and slaves, who accounted for more than 95 percent of Tibet's entire population, became the real masters of their own lives in their own land. They were also extended much-needed land ownership certificates, something they had never dreamed of in the past. Also, shortly after their liberation, the previously repressed Tibetan people were immediately conferred with political privileges to take part in public affairs and play their role in establishing a new regime of their own.

Since its peaceful liberation in 1959, farmers and herdsmen in Tibet have enjoyed free medical care and since 1985, their children have enjoyed free lodging and education. Statistics show that Tibetan farmers and herdsmen's annual average net income accounted for 3,176 yuan last year. Tibet is a place "as beautiful as paradise", as a Swedish photographer who recently traveled to Tibet put it.

Great changes have taken place in Tibet over the past 50 years. In the sunshine of the 21st century, Tibet's development once again embarks on a new starting point. An open Tibet has already embraced the modern world tightly and will inevitably bring more vigor and joy to the world's roof.

The article is a translated version of the People's Daily Commentary published on Saturday.

(China Daily March 9, 2009)

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