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Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Democratic Reform in Tibet

Submit Time:18-10-2019 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:CPC Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region | Source:English Edition of QiuShi Journal April-June 2019|Vol.11,No.2,Issue No.39


I. Democratic reform in Tibet was a great milestone which marked the beginning of the region’s journey toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

The year 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of democratic reform in Tibet. Before the reform, Tibet was ruled by a system of feudal serfdom in which there was no separation of religion and politics. The ruling class imposed ruthless political repression and economic exploitation upon the serfs and slaves. Merely surviving was a challenge for the suffering population, and Tibetan society fell into a state of extreme poverty and cramping isolation.

Egged on by international anti-China forces, the higher ups in Tibet’s reactionary clique stirred up armed rebellion on March 10, 1959 after a long period of meticulous planning. Meanwhile, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India. On March 28, 1959, Premier Zhou Enlai signed an order announcing the dissolution of the local Tibetan government and the transfer of governmental powers to the Preparatory Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It also called on the Tibetan people to build a new democratic and socialist Tibet. Under the leadership of the CPC, millions of serfs carried out a grand democratic reform movement, doing away with political, economic, cultural, and social institutions that protected the interests of the feudal aristocracy. This was an achievement of enduring significance that marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Tibet.

1. Millions of serfs broke free from the yoke of feudal exploitation and took charge of their own lives.

Democratic reform was the deathblow to the theocratic system of feudal serfdom. It fundamentally eliminated the bondage of serfs to their overlords, allowing people who were once considered “tools that can speak” to become free citizens with homes, jobs, and respect. Thus, millions of serfs welcomed an era in which all people were equal from birth. United and guided by the CPC, the liberated serfs put political power in the hands of the people, enabling them to participate in the management of state and local affairs and exercise their rights as masters of their own destiny. This massive leap for Tibet’s social system provided solid guarantees for economic and social development, and from this point forward people of all ethnic groups in Tibet merged with their countrymen from across the nation on the broad and brilliant path of socialism.

2. Productivity was unleashed and underwent extensive development.

With the end of feudal serfdom, millions of serfs were able to own land and the means of production for the very first time. Laborers could now work and harvest their own fields and pastures, and had the disposal right of the means of production and livelihood materials as they saw fit. Under the guidance of the CPC Central Committee and with the support of people throughout the country, Tibet’s productive forces were greatly unleashed, and the enthusiasm and creative passion of the Tibetan people which had been stifled for so long suddenly erupted like a volcano. Productivity developed rapidly as a result, and a new socialist Tibet that was thriving and prosperous sprang up before the eyes of the world.

3. Tibet’s fine cultural traditions were preserved and carried forward.

Democratic reform abolished the spiritual and cultural chains of feudalism, ended the monopoly of a minority group of high-level feudal aristocrats and monks over culture and education, and broke through the confines of the cultural tyranny in old Tibet, allowing the people to break free from ignorance and conservatism. Fine pieces of Tibetan folk art were brought together and released for public appreciation, and a great number of precious cultural artifacts were given protection. The Tibetan language was widely studied and spoken, and its writing system became China’s first ethnic minority script with international standards. There was a huge surge of literary and artistic works that explored new subject matter, celebrated local culture, and carried a pronounced contemporary flavor, greatly enriching and invigorating the cultural lives of the people. Tibetan medicine, with its unique cultural characteristics, was spread throughout China and the world, and traditional customs including activities for celebrating the Tibetan New Year and Sho Dun Festival (also known as the Yogurt Festival) were well preserved and carried forward. This created a positive situation in which there was room for new ideas and growth while past traditions were being protected and passed on.

4. The principle of religious freedom was treated with the utmost respect.

Democratic reform overthrew the corrupt and backward system of theocratic rule and instituted the separation of religious and political affairs. Monasteries saw all of their feudal privileges in economics and politics abolished, their feudal practices of possession, exploitation, and enslavement were eradicated, their internal systems of ranks and administration were eliminated, and they were all put under the democratic management of administrative committees. These efforts restored religions to their untainted form. The right of all ethnic groups to religious freedom was protected by the constitution and the law, and every religion and religious sect was granted the same level of respect and protection.

5. National unity and ethnic solidarity were upheld.

Democratic reform dissolved the former government of Tibet, struck against separatist forces both at home and abroad, and rooted out collusion between forces of imperialist aggression and a minority group of separatist elites in Tibet that conspired to set the stage for “Tibetan independence” by sowing seeds of political and social discord. Democratic reform also maintained social harmony and stability and protected the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people, and thus won the heartfelt endorsement of a million serfs. After passing through this trying ordeal, people of all ethnic groups felt a stronger inclination toward the CPC and their great nation, and were determined to uphold national unity and ethnic solidarity.

6. The CPC’s governing position in Tibet grew consistently stronger.

Through peaceful liberation, the suppression of the Dalai clique’s full-scale armed rebellion, and the implementation of democratic reform and other great social changes with far-reaching historical significance, the future of the Tibetan people was profoundly transformed. The Tibetan people started engaging with the CPC and began to understand it. They then started to follow the Party and offered it their earnest endorsement and adoration. In this process, the CPC came to enjoy a solid base of support, confirmed its governing position, and achieved full leadership over the administration of Tibet. The CPC thus became the pillar supporting people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, and the leadership core guiding the flourishing development of all undertakings in the region.

Democratic reform in Tibet took place through the CPC’s integration of core Marxist principles with the particular conditions of the Tibetan region. It was a manifestation of the outstanding political wisdom of the Communists, and a great success in the CPC’s strategy for the governance of Tibet. This was the broadest, grandest, and most profound social transformation in the history of Tibet. Democratic reform was a milestone for social development and the advancement of human rights in the region, as well as a greatly significant event in the development of human civilization and the history of human rights around the world, and it had deep and lasting effects on the Tibetan people.

II. Our undertakings in Tibet over the last 60 years have scored glorious success as the region has caught up by centuries in the space of mere decades.

In the 60 years since democratic reform, the CPC Central Committee has consistently attached great importance to work in Tibet and shown intimate solicitude for the Tibetan people. Under the leadership of the CPC and with the selfless assistance of people across China, the Tibetan people have forged ahead on the path of Chinese socialism, composing a magnificent chapter of revolution, development, and reform.

1. The economy has maintained healthy growth and the landscape of society looks better and better.

The establishment of the socialist system and the implementation of reform and opening up policies have unleashed and developed Tibet’s productive forces to a great extent. The six conferences concerning Tibet convened by the CPC Central Committee were particularly important, since these meetings witnessed the formulation of a whole series of special and preferential policies that have injected the socioeconomic development of Tibet with powerful momentum. In 1959, the region’s GDP was just 174 million yuan. In 2018 it reached 147.76 billion yuan, which represents growth by a factor of 191. The state has invested in excess of one trillion yuan on more than 800 key construction projects, and thus brought about phenomenal development of local infrastructure. The highway network has reached a total length of 97,400km, and seven high-grade roadways including the Lhasa Airport Expressway were completed and opened to traffic. The Qinghai-Tibet and Lhasa-Xigaze rail lines were completed and brought into operation, while construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has progressed smoothly. Five airports for civil aviation were built, a large number of pivotal hydropower projects including those at Manla and Pangduo were completed and put into use, and power transmission lines nicknamed “sky roads” due to their extreme elevation were put up as part of the project to link Tibet’s electrical grid with those of Qinghai and Sichuan. Traditional agricultural businesses centered on the cultivation of highland barley and the raising of yaks, including the environmentally friendly and organic processing of these products have consistently grown and expanded, while industries involved in tourism and culture, clean energy, ecological conservation, modern services, border trade and logistics, and new and advanced digital technology have developed rapidly, and resource advantages are in the process of being translated into economic advantages.

2. Living standards have risen markedly, and feelings of fulfillment and happiness among the public have grown stronger.

The CPC’s policies aimed at boosting the prosperity of the people have been put into effect, and the people of Tibet have benefitted from the most preferential policies in the country. In 2018, the average disposable income of Tibet’s urban residents reached 33,797 yuan and that of rural residents was 11,450 yuan. Compared with 1965 levels, these numbers are 72 and 104 times higher, respectively. Meanwhile, the average amount of residential space owned by urban and rural residents reached 28.6m2 and 33.9m2, respectively. Central heating projects were completed and put into use in places such as Lhasa, Nagqu, and Ngari, so that the generations-long practice of burning cow dung for heat is no longer necessary. The policy of providing room, board, and tuition to students at no cost during their compulsory education has been implemented across the board, the policy of offering 15 years of free education has been constantly enhanced, bilingual preschool education has been extended across society, and further progress has been made with reforms for the integration of urban and rural compulsory education. In 2018, gross enrollment for preschool education was 77.9%, the rate of illiteracy among young people fell to 0.52%, and the average length of schooling for the working age population reached 8.6 years. A medical and health services network covering urban and rural areas has gradually taken shape, full coverage has been achieved for the rural medical care system based on free care as well as the basic medical insurance and public medical guarantee systems for urban residents, and average life expectancy has risen from 35.5 to 68.2 years. The social security system covering urban and rural areas has improved with each passing day, and multiple policies benefitting the people such as urban and rural subsistence allowances have continuously grown. Traditional culture has thrived, and world-class cultural treasures such as the Epic of King Gesar, Tibetan paper, and classical theater called Ache Lhamo have dazzled a wide range of audiences. A network of public cultural facilities has essentially been established, and radio and television broadcasts reach 97.1% and 98.2% of the population, respectively.

3. Ethnic solidarity and progress have been consolidated and developed, and religious freedom has been treated with the utmost respect.

The CPC’s ethnic and religious policies have been fully implemented in Tibet. Extensive campaigns for fostering, and educating people on, ethnic solidarity and progress were carried out, letting people of different ethnic groups know that they can find close friends in each other, that they can be good neighbors to each other, and that they can even build loving relationships with each other. Homes and neighborhoods exemplifying ethnic solidarity can be found everywhere you look. More than 40 ethnic groups are joining hands and standing together to protect their sacred homeland and build strong and happy communities. The right of the people to hold religious beliefs has been fully respected, and normal religious activities have been protected in accordance with the law.

4. A social climate of harmony and stability has been maintained, and people of all ethnic groups are able to live and work in peace and contentment.

That solidarity and stability are blessings while separatism and unrest spell disaster is already widely understood by the public at large, and the people’s desire for stability has grown stronger. As innovation in social governance has intensified and efforts to build a peaceful Tibet have become stronger, almost all of the people feel that they are safe and satisfied.

5. The ecological environment remains sound, and Tibet is still one of the regions with the best environmental quality in the world.

We have upheld our commitment to putting environmental protection first. We have respected nature, adapted to nature, and protected nature, put the strictest environmental protection regulations in place, fully implemented the river and lake chief-responsibility systems, and taken initial steps in building a system of institutions for environmental protection. Further progress has been made in the campaign to make our land greener, with forest coverage throughout the Tibetan region rising to 12.14% and nature conservation zones covering 34.35% of Tibet’s total land area. The average rate of good air quality days in seven prefecture-level cities has risen to 95% or more.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 6, 2019)

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