Yuba Nath Lamsal
It is not only Tibetans but all 1.3 billion Chinese people are commemorating March 28 as their historic day. This day is marked and remembered as an important day in China’s modern history. It was this day in 1959 when Tibetan people were declared free and emancipated from feudal serfdom of the Dalai Lama. This day reminds of how Tibetans struggled hard to attain their much desired liberation to become free and proud Chinese citizens.
This also reminds all how the Tibetan people lived prior to their emancipation under the Dalai Lama’s serfdom and it also showcases how their life has changed in the period of 55 years since Tibet was liberated forcing the Dalai Lama and his clique to flee.
On March 28, 1959, the air in Lhasa’s sky had been filled with a new kind of freedom, optimism and jubilation. On this day the central government in Beijing announced the dissolution of the local government of Tibet and decided to replace it with a preparatory committee for establishing the Tibet Autonomous Region. This marked the beginning of a new era in Tibet. Since then, phenomenal changes have taken place in this province of China.
Chinese authorities describe the Dalai Lama’s rule in Tibet as a period of serfdom where people were treated not as citizens but as personal property. This was worse than the slavery that existed in the United States of America before Abraham Lincoln declared an end to slavery and the slave trade. Under serfdom, all properties, including the people and natural resources, belonged to the rulers, and the people had to submit to the government. While the rulers enjoyed a luxurious life, the general mass suffered hunger and lived a primitive life.
Some may take Beijing’s claims and its comparison of life then and now in Tibet as mere propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party. But anyone who has seen Tibet in recent years agrees with China’s version. Once one of the most backward regions of China, Tibet has now leapt forward in terms of economic development after the central government intervened and decided to ensure governance by the people of Tibet, which was impossible during the Dalai Lama’s rule.
According to some western propaganda that we have seen in the biased press, Tibet was an independent country which was taken over forcibly by China. They are fanning separatist activities in the name of a small group of followers of the Dalai Lama. According to them, the situation of human rights in Tibet has worsened and the Tibetan people have been denied the right to self-rule by Beijing. This is propaganda designed to create a split in China and an attempt to once again push the people of Tibet into the trap of serfdom.
So far as the question of Tibet’s status is concerned, it was never an independent country but always remained an integral part of China. All historical facts have proved this. Right from the Tang Dynasty in early 7th century, Tibet came under Beijing’s rule, and it continued to be under the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. When China became a republic in 1912, the central government declared it as a republic of five nationalities - Han, Manchu, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetans. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, serfdom was formally abolished and Tibet was declared an autonomous province of China.
Even after being declared free from Dalai Lama’s serfdom, Tibet was granted total autonomy by the central government, which has guaranteed self-rule of Tibetan people. Tibetans are responsible for all kinds of decisions and governance. The role of the central government is just to facilitate the local development. This is a good model of self-rule and autonomy, a concept that has gained currency in the modern day democratic polity everywhere in the world.
When central government in China was weak especially before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Tibet had been granted autonomous status, which was interpreted by some as an independent status of Tibet. But history does not prove this. The reality was that the central government had been so weak during that time because of foreign invasion and war and Beijing could pay much attention to have tight control over all its provinces. During this time provincial authorities exercises more power as Beijing was preoccupied in war. This situation by no means implied that Tibet was independent country. Thus, Tibet had always been the part of China.
After the 1949 revolution that established a communist government led by Mao Zedong, things changed and the central government became stronger and more assertive. The central government then asserted its power over all its territories and applied uniformed laws and rules in all provinces including Tibet. Since the communist party government was committed to abolish all kinds of feudal, repressive and exploitative systems and measures, it declared that serfdom, too, was abolished in Tibet. Moreover, the Dalai Lama was so unpopular in Tibet that the Tibetan people themselves wanted Beijing’s intervention to free the Tibetan people from the vice of serfdom. At the request of the Tibetan people and policy of the Communist Party to free its people from all forms of slavery, serfdom and exploitation, a contingent of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army marched into Lhasa along with Tibet’s common citizenry and declared an end to serfdom and the beginning of people’s rule. In the wake of popular uprising, the Dalai Lama along with a small group of his henchmen then fled to India, where he is still living.
Distorting the historical facts, the Dalai Lama’s clique being backed by some western organizations and powers, are trying to mislead the Tibetan people and they are making attempts to destabilize Tibet and China. But they have not been able to do so as Tibetan people are all aware the ill designs of this group. The other issue is related to human rights in Tibet. One thing is true that no country in the world can ensure full human rights to its people, and there are bound to be drawbacks in China as well. But there is a question - which human rights one wants first. A debate is taking place at various international forums regarding the concept and fundamentals of human rights and priority.
The western countries attach more priority to the political and civil rights, whereas economic and social rights have been areas of more concern for other countries including China. The first and the foremost right of an individual is the right to life and the conditions that help an individual to enjoy other rights, including civil and political rights. Civil and political rights are also very important rights without which an individual’s liberty and free choices cannot be guaranteed. However, in the absence of economic and social rights, civil and political rights become a mere mirage. China has focused more on ensuring a decent life for its people so that they can enjoy and exercise other rights. This is exactly the case in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Now Tibetans are richer, happier and more educated today. They have enough food to eat, decent life and good health care system and better income. What can be better human rights than this? Are serfdom, poverty and exploitation are human rights in the definition of Western powers or the emancipation from these vices is genuine definition of human rights? Now crusaders of international human rights movements need to visit Tibet and compare it with the time when Dalai Lama was in Tibet. This would help them to understand the real situation of Tibet and explain how human rights of the people have been protected in Tibet now.
Moreover, the support to the Dalai Lama is support to slavery and serfdom, which is the worst violation of human rights. In fact, slavery and serfdom are a blot on civilization. But it is only the Dalai Lama’s supporters who are backing serfdom in the name of the ‘Free Tibet movement’. They want serfdom to stage a comeback in Tibet in the name of "Free Tibet", which is being backed by some western governments.