60 years of democratic reform in Tibet (updated)

The Chinese State Council has released a white paper celebrating 60 years of democratic reform in Tibet. You may find the full text in English here.

The facts speak for themselves: from 1959, Tibet (along with a number of other minority nationality areas) has been liberated from an archaic form of serfdom. Since then, the basic human right of socio-economic wellbeing has been fostered, the forces of production have been liberated (so much so that the Tibet Autonomous Region now has one of the highest growth rates in China), the common people of Tibet have taken control of their own future, the ‘third pole’ of Tibet has developed significant environmental protection policies, and Tibetan culture and religion have thrived. You can read the details for yourself.

Also, a full section of the Global Times has a series of articles on improvements in Tibet and the decline of the ‘separate’ group in India. Indeed, of the 15,000 or so in Dharamsala, 100 a year leave to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Many long to return to Tibet itself (as also the diapora community in Nepal). While life in Tibet improves year by year, the 14th Dalai Lama has less and less invitations to visit elsewhere. Watching how his reincarnation works out will be intriguing. You can be sure that the people of Tibet will find the reinicarnation there, in line with China’s policy of managing the 300 or so reinicarnations of living Buddhas, while the current Dalai Lama keeps changing his mind. Sometimes, he says he will not be reincarnated, while at other times he says his reincarnation will appear in India (for purely religious reasons, of course). Will we find ourselves with a split incarnation, where one becomes two – as Mao suggested for Chinese Marxist dialectics?

Back to the white paper, from which I would like to quote the following:

Before he was forced to flee Tibet after a failed counter-revolution in 1959 (sponsored by the CIA), the 14th Dalai Lama had the following:

Before democratic reform, the family of the 14th Dalai Lama possessed 27 manors, 30 pastures and over 6,000 serfs, and annually wrung out of them more than 462,000 kg of highland barley, 35,000 kg of butter, 2 million liang of Tibetan silver, 300 head of cattle and sheep, and 175 rolls of pulu (woolen fabric made in Tibet).

After 1959, the following was a result of the liberation of the serfs:

The serfs, who had been exploited and enslaved for generations, finally won freedom. They took ownership of more than 186,666 ha of land and other means of production. When their slave indentures and so-called IOU were burned in fire, they sang and danced to celebrate their liberation. In early 1960, about 200,000 farm households in Tibet acquired land certificates. Benefiting from policies such as the harvest of a farmland belonging to the one who sowed, lower rents for land, reduction in interest on loans, and the cancellation of old debts, the peasants gained more than 500 million kg of grain in total, over 750 kg per person.

Tsering Drolkar, a 68-year-old peasant from Khesum Shika of Nedong County said, “We had been providing corvée labor our whole lives. We never owned a single piece of land, what we worried about was how to find food for survival. Now with the land given to us by the people’s government, we will no longer go hungry.”

Perhaps the best is a new song that the liberated serfs began to sing:

The sunshine of the Dalai Lama touches only the nobles, while the sunshine of Chairman Mao showers on us poor people. The noble’s sun is setting and our sun is rising.

 

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Tibet pulling its weight as part of China

In his book on China’s ethnic minorities, Colin Mackerras writes in regard to Tibet: ‘However, what strikes me most forcefully about the period since 1980 or so is not how much the Chinese have harmed Tibetan culture, but how much they have allowed, even encouraged it to revive; not how weak it is, but how strong’. But cultural realities can never be separated from economic questions, especially in light of the Chinese Marxist emphasis on the human right to economic wellbeing.

What do Tibetans themselves have to say about all this. An insight is provided by Tibetan delegates as the two sessions of parliament this year in Beijing. As the Global Times reports:

Kelsang Drolkar, a deputy of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and a village Communist Party chief in Chengguan district of Lhasa, told the Global Times on Monday that she was glad to see Tibet has not become a forgotten area when the country is moving forward to a moderately prosperous society.

National policies, as well as support from other regions across China, have helped the region achieve tremendous changes in the medical, economic and education sectors, and made local people “live a happier and safer life,” she said.

Tibet registered 10 percent GDP growth year-on-year last year, marking the 25th straight year of double-digit growth. Its GDP reached 131.06 billion yuan ($20.5 billion) in 2017.

In 2018, Tibet set a target to achieve GDP growth of about 10 percent, with an 18 percent increase in fixed-asset investment as well as increases of more than 10 percent and 13 percent for urban and rural per capita disposable incomes respectively, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

In 2013, the average yearly income in her village was 10,540 yuan per capita. That number almost doubled last year to 19,550 yuan, Drolkar said.

The Chengguan district has implemented a 15-year compulsory education system from kindergarten to high school. Last year, 93 students from the district were admitted by universities across China, with government covering most of their tuition, Drolkar said.

Bilingual education in schools also contributes to ethnic unity in the region, as learning Putonghua helps Tibetan people understand more about the country and its policies, she said.

Other NPC deputies from Tibet praised past legislative work on national security.

“Laws on national security, counter-espionage, anti-terrorism, activities of overseas NGOs, cybersecurity and national intelligence have provided significant legal support to safeguard national security and the country’s core interests,” Sodar, an NPC deputy and head of Tibet’s higher people’s court, said at a Monday group discussion during the ongoing session of the NPC.

The legislation also provided powerful legal support to combat separatists, terrorists and the Dalai Lama clique, said Sodar.

Tibet had a prospering economy in 2017, with about 44,000 new market entities established in the region, according to local authorities.

The figure brought the total number of registered businesses in the region to 227,000, a year-on-year growth of 19.1 percent, according to Xinhua.