This year marks the 50th anniversary of Tibet's Democratic Reform.
Half a century ago, Tibetan people of all ethnic groups, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), quelled an armed rebellion by Tibet's reactionary upper-class and launched the Democratic Reform to emancipate serfs and abolish theocratic rule.
As serfdom was hereditary, all serfs' births and deaths were reported to their owners. In this photo a female serf brings her newborn baby to her lord for registration and pays capitation tax. [Xinhua file photo]
In old Tibet, the three estate holders - local administrative officials, aristocrats and upper-class monastery lamas - who accounted for just 5 percent of Tibet's population, controlled almost all of the region's land and pastures, and the majority of livestock. Meanwhile, serfs, who accounted for 95 percent of the region's population, were landless.
In the old society, Tibetans were divided into three categories and nine grades, under which serf-owners could lease, mortgage and sell their serfs.
The same hierarchical system was also applied in monasteries, with low-grade lamas lacking all freedoms and being forbidden from receiving educations or studying religious codes.
In 1951, the central government and local Tibetan authorities signed the 17-Article Agreement , heralding the region's peaceful liberation.
Photo shows the representatives of the Central Government (R-L): Li Weihan, Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua and Sun Zhiyuan. The Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local government of Tibet on Measures for Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, also known as the 17-Article Agreement, was signed at the Qinzheng Hall in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of China's Central Government, on May 23, 1951. [Xinhua file photo]
However, influenced by the instigation of, and support from, some imperialist forces, some reactionary upper-class serf owners in Tibet launched an armed rebellion in flagrant violation of the 17-Article Agreement.
Through a series of democratic reforms, people's regimes at various levels were soon established, which helped liberate serfs and free them from the ideological fetters.
In addition, the return of land, livestock and other means of production to the people substantially boosted Tibet's productivity.
Under CPC leadership, Tibetan people of all ethnic groups have embarked upon a road of development.
Tibet owes its remarkable political, economic and social progress over the past 50 years to the CPC's leadership, consideration and caring. In addition, the central government and people throughout the country have supported Tibet's transformation.
The central authorities have always held special meetings when Tibet reaches a critical juncture.
The "10 Guidelines on Tibet" laid out by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in October 1989 - in the wake of continuous unrest in Lhasa - was a turning point for restoring social order.
In 1994, the central authorities worked out a policy that directed relevant central government departments, and those of China's other regions and provinces, to provide financial and personnel assistance to Tibet.
Since the 16th National Congress of the CPC, General Secretary Hu Jintao has paid special attention to Tibet's development.
The enormous manpower and financial assistance have brought earthshaking changes to Tibet's seven prefecture cities and 74 counties.
In particular, the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in 2007 heralded the realization of Tibetan people's decades-long dream of train transport through their plateau.
The highland railway - a miracle in the history of the world's railway construction - will also contribute to national unity and the consolidation of the country's border defense.
Undoubtedly, the implementation of the ethnic autonomy system has made it possible for Tibetan people to handle regional affairs as their own indisputable masters.
In 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region was founded, and Tibetan people of all ethnic groups in the region have since participated in state, regional and ethnic affairs on an equal footing.
So far, all chairpersons of the regional people's congresses and government have been ethnically Tibetan. And Tibetans and people of other ethnic minorities have comprised 77.97 percent of the region's officials at all levels.
Tibet now has 20 National People's Congress deputies, giving it the most representation in the top legislature among all ethnic groups compared with its ratio to the country's total population.
Tibetans' greatest aspiration now is to consolidate the benefits of the Democratic Reform, maintain national unity and halt activities intended to split the motherland.
However, the Dalai Lama and his followers, known as the so-called "government-in-exile" to the West, have long conducted separatist activities.
The riots in the late 1980s and the March 14, 2008, riots in Lhasa demonstrated the clique's openly confrontational approach to deal with the central government.
The Dalai clique has sought to portray theocratic serfdom in old Tibet as in a utopian "Shangri La" light and to stigmatize the Democratic Reform as something trapping Tibetans in hellish suffering.
Their so-called "Greater Tibet" and "high degree of autonomy" campaigns are nothing but pro-independence appeals in disguise.
Historical facts will prove the Dalai Lama's conspiracy to split Tibet from the motherland is doomed to failure. It is believed that under CPC leadership, a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and harmonious Tibet will achieve even greater progress.
The author is vice-chairman of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2009)