The democratic reforms adopted in Tibet have been a half century-long campaign aimed at clearing away religious-political rule and liberating millions of suppressed serfs across that sacred land.
The sweeping democratic reforms, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), allowed the majority serfs of old Tibet to become their own masters and created favorable conditions for Tibetan prosperity and ethnic autonomy.
Previously, serfs were bonded to overlords and enjoyed no personal freedom. The three major estate-holders - local administrative officials, aristocrats and upper-class monastery lamas - made up five percent of Tibet's population.
However, they controlled all of the region's land and livestock, while serfs and slaves, who accounted for 90 percent of the population, held no means of production.
This theocratic rule plunged Tibetan people deep into wretched poverty.
In 1951, the central government and the local Tibet authority signed the 17-Article Agreement on Tibet's peaceful liberation.
The agreement allowed the local government of Tibet to launch self-initiated reforms without any central government intervention.
The CPC and the central government strictly abided by the agreement from May 1951 to March 1959 and helped local authorities push forward democratic reforms.
But they encountered strong opposition from Tibetan serf owners, who flew the banner of ethnicity and religion in order to cling to their privileged rule.
On March 10, 1959, the upper-class reactionary groups in Tibet, under the instigation and support of some imperialist forces, openly announced the abolition of the 17-Article Agreement and launched an all-out armed uprising aimed at splitting the motherland and permanently preserving feudal serfdom in the Himalayan region.
With the unreserved support of local people, the People's Liberation Army quickly put down the revolt and successfully safeguarded national unity.
On March 23, then premier Zhou Enlai signed a State Council decree, dismantling Tibet's local government the same day and setting up an organizing committee to prepare for the establishment of an autonomous region.
In accordance with local conditions, the central government launched a series of democratic reforms, ranging from reducing or abolishing heavy tax burdens on serfs and slaves, to allocating them long-deprived land plots and other means of production.
All these and other measures played an important role in promoting Tibet's social progress and economic development.
The two years of democratic reforms, concluded at the end of 1961, helped bring Tibet to the stage of steady development. The establishment of the individual ownership system in the wake of serfdom has brought tangible economic benefits to newly liberated serfs. In September 1965, the Tibet autonomous region was formally set up, paving the way for an all-out regional ethnic autonomy in the Himalayan region.
Ironclad facts indicate that, under the leadership of the CPC, Tibet's democratic reforms and adoption of socialist and ethnic autonomy brought unity and common prosperity.
Since the adoption of these reforms and autonomy, Party leaders Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin, Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao have consistently paid great attention to Tibet and extended great care to Tibetan people.
A series of preferential polices and flexible measures adopted by them have created favorable conditions for Tibet's stability and development and inspired the initiative and creativity of Tibetan people in building their homeland.
Remarkable economic achieve-ments have been made in Tibet since 1959.
It has set up a comparatively developed modern industrial system and a convenient communication network of roads, railways, pipelines and aviation.
The region's education system, medical care, science and technology have also benefited from increasing cooperation with the Han people and other ethnic groups.
In particular, the cultural heritage of Tibet has been well preserved in the region and local people's religious freedoms are fully respected and protected.
The great achievements made by the Tibet autonomous region can in part be attributed to the relentless support of the central government and selfless assistance of people throughout the country.
The crackdown on the March 14 riot in Lhasa last year contributed a lot to the current stability, development and unity enjoyed by Tibetan people.
The history of Tibet's development over the past 50 years proves that the CPC and its effective policies are infinitely more preferable than the exploitation and oppression of the previous overlords.
Tibet has been part of China since ancient times and anyone committed to splitting it from China's territory is doomed to fail.
The author is vice-chairman of the 11th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
(China Daily March 23, 2009)