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Reform swept away desolate past of serfdom
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Tibet's initiation of democratic reforms.

Over the past 50 years, I have witnessed the final demise of the millennium-long feudal serfdom in Tibet.

As a member of the old Tibet's patriotic upper class, I have also engaged in the great revolution together with other patriots.

On March 28, 1959 then Premier Zhou Enlai signed a State Council decree, appointing me the deputy director member and secretary general of the organizing committee for the establishment of the Tibet autonomous region.

The sweeping democratic reforms Tibet has since undergone has not only helped the region realize a historical leap forward, but has also mapped out a bright direction for its future development.

Born in 1910, I possess a wealth of knowledge about Tibet before the 1959 democratic reforms.

Under the combined political and religious rule dominated by upper-class monastery lamas and aristocrats, the old Tibet had suffered backward productivity and serious material shortages.

Local administrative officials, aristocrats and upper-class monastery lamas, who accounted for just five percent of Tibet's population, controlled almost all of the region's land, pastures and the majority of its livestock. Meanwhile, serfs, 95 percent of the region's population, were the personal property of their owners, to be sold, donated, mortgaged and swapped at any time. Such backward feudal serfdom crippled Tibet's productivity and brought the region's economy and society to a standstill.

Worse, its geographical terrain further plunged the old Tibet into a state of isolation from the outside world.

Tibet's peaceful liberation has not only extricated the region from the decades-long imperialist bondage and returned it to the embrace of the motherland, but has also realized the national unity of all Chinese people, including those from Tibetan ethnicity.

The democratic initiatives launched in Tibet 50 years ago dismantled the dominance of the three major estate-holders in the vast Himalayan region and the economic foundation of feudal serfdom, and also abolished their ownership of the region's herdsmen and farmers.

The success of the democratic reforms can be attributed to a series of favorable policies and lines adopted by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPC has consistently maintained a cautious and sound approach toward pushing forward reforms of Tibet's social system. The 17-Article Agreement, signed by the central government and Tibet's local authority upon the region's peaceful liberation in 1951, explicitly states that the local government would push for self-initiated reforms without central government intervention.

The central government has abided by such a principle and finally won extensive support within Tibet for the 1959 democratic reforms. In that profound reform campaign, former serfs not only regained freedom and dignity, but also had their land and other means of production returned. Freedom of religious belief has also been fully respected.

All democratic reforms in Tibet were aimed at protecting the democratic rights of Tibetans and make them their own masters.

The 17-Article Agreement stipulates that Tibetan people enjoy a right for ethnic autonomy under the leadership of the central government.

Following nine years of tortuous development on the road to autonomy since the establishment of the organizing committee, the Tibet autonomous region was finally set up in September 1965. The same year, about 92 percent of Tibet's grassroots townships set up people's regimes with liberated serfs and slaves the only masters.

The overturn of the long-established feudal serfdom laid a solid foundation for the regions' further prosperity and progress.

As well as democratic reforms, the central government has also consistently adopted a sound ethnic and religious policy.

All troops stationed in Tibet and staff dispatched by the central government to the autonomous region to aid its development must pay respect to local customs and cultural traditions and regard local people as their brothers and sisters. Because of their considerate attitude and manner of behavior, the influence of the CPC has quickly spread to every corner of the region.

Under the wise leadership of the CPC and the substantial support of people across the nation, Tibet's economy and society have developed remarkably since the 1980s.

In 1980, the CPC Central Committee convened the first conference on Tibet's work, mapping out the prospect for a unified, prosperous, and civilized Tibet.

Since then, the central government has strengthened economic assistance to the region by adopting a series of preferential policies. So far four special conferences on Tibet's work have been held. With the help of the whole nation, great changes have taken place in Tibet's political, economic and social landscapes and a comparatively developed industrial system and transportation web has taken root.

The booming economy in Tibet has also laid a solid material foundation for its prosperity and development of other social causes.

All this progress could only have been achieved under the leadership of the CPC and its socialist road with Chinese characteristics.

However, the Dalai Lama clique has turned a blind eye to this and has done everything possible to make trouble to disturb the social order in Tibet and the comfortable life of its people.

Its "greater Tibet" ambition is essentially aimed at splitting one-fourth of China's land and seeking final "Tibet independence".

A more prosperous, stable and vigorous Tibet is within reach if we continue to adhere to the leadership of the CPC and the ethnic autonomy system.

The author is Vice-Chairman of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

(China Daily March 24, 2009)

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