From The Associated Press
China marked 50 years of direct control over Tibet yesterday, raising the national flag in the regional capital and commemorating a new political holiday honoring what it calls the liberation of slaves from brutal feudal rule.
Testimonials about the misery of life in old Tibet kicked off the short ceremony – televised live from in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa – to mark the end of the Dalai Lama’s rule in Tibet.
The Tibetan government-in-exile said on its website that the new holiday, crowned “Serfs Liberation Day,” is aggravating problems in the region and would be a day of mourning for Tibetans around the world.
“Tibetans consider this observance offensive and provocative,” it said.
Hundreds of Tibetans in the northern Indian city of Dharmsala – the headquarters of Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile – and in the Nepalese capital of Katmandu held street protests against Beijing’s rule.
March 28 marks the date when Beijing ended the 1959 Tibetan uprising, sending the Dalai Lama over the Himalayas into exile and placing Tibet under its direct rule for the first time.
In China’s official version of events, Tibet in mid-century was a remote medieval backwater where most people lived in servitude to the Buddhist theocracy and nobility until the Communist government stepped in.
“Just as Europe can’t return to the medieval era and the United States can’t go back to the times before the Civil War, Tibet can never restore the old serf society era,” Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss of the region, told the crowd of more than 13,000.
The ceremony followed a host of articles in the state-run media and shows on TV extolling Communist reforms and economic development.
They have likened the end of the Dalai Lama’s rule as akin to Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves.
“Nowadays we have roads, we have televisions and telephones, children go to school and we have savings in the banks, which is all made possible by the Communist Party,” 69-year-old Tsondre, who said he was born into a serf’s family in Lhasa, said at the ceremony. Like many Tibetans, he goes by only one name.
Zhang lashed out at the Dalai Lama, vowing a long struggle against his supporters, who the government says want Tibetan independence.
China has stepped up its attacks on the Dalai Lama after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader compared life under Chinese rule to “hell on earth” earlier this month.
“Tibet belongs to China, not a few separatists or the international forces against China. Any conspiracy attempting to separate the region from China is doomed to fail,” Zhang said.
Beijing has in recent years begun enlisting its hand-picked Panchen Lama, a high-ranking Buddhist cleric, in its campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama. On Friday he was quoted as criticizing the former regime without mentioning the Dalai Lama by name. At an international Buddhist conference yesterday in eastern China, he praised the Communist government for protecting religious freedom.
“This event fully demonstrates that today’s China enjoys social harmony, stability and religious freedom, and also shows that China is a nation that safeguards and promotes world peace,” he said.