At the foot of the Potala Palace, more than 20,000 farmers, herdsmen, lamas and people of various ethnic groups gathered, with the clear blue Himalayan sky filled with clouds of pigeons and balloons.
Colored flags and traditional decorative gateways adorned the streets of Lhasa. Smiling faces were everywhere as people celebrated the 40th birthday of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The people were smiling because, in many cases, they were thankful.
"In today's rural areas in Tibet, we all enjoy the guarantee of medical care. The government provides children with free education, and now all villages have roads," said Anu, a villager from Tohlung Dechen in Lhasa County.
Anu was just one person expressing his heartfelt support, saying he was proud to see farmers and herdsmen enjoying the freedom to believe in whatever religion they wanted and conduct normal religious activities, and to see their Tibetan customs, habits, history and cultural traditions being fully respected.
Jia Qinglin, head of the central government delegation, congratulated the Tibetan people on their remarkable achievements during the past four decades.
He presented regional officials with a banner of congratulations, written by President Hu Jintao, which is inscribed with the words: "Strive for common prosperity with joint unity and development."
In a jointly signed telegram of congratulations, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the Central Military Commission reaffirmed that the central government and other parts of the country will continue to support Tibet.
Tibet has entered a crucial period for the progress of its economy and long-term stability. Economic development is the focus of all work, and stability and development are two major tasks of the region, Jia told the gathering.
Jia -- also chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, China's top political advisory body -- encouraged local officials and all ethnic groups in Tibet to pursue economic and social development to fulfill the increasing needs of Tibetan people and promote social harmony.
One of the startling changes in the past four decades is Tibet's rapid growth rate in gross domestic product (GDP). It has averaged 12.7 per cent for four years in a row, with the total GDP amounting to 21 billion yuan (US$258 million) last year.
The per-capita annual income of residents living in Tibetan cities and towns was 8,058 yuan (US$994) in 2004, 4.65 times that in 1985, and the annual income of its farming population has risen to 1,691 yuan (US$208) from 317 yuan (US$39) in 1985.
Jia said safeguarding the unification of the motherland and maintaining social stability are in the fundamental interests of Tibetan people.
(China Daily September 2, 2005)