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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Commentary: A day to remember, for Tibetans and all

January 20, 2009

Special Report: Focus on Tibet
by Xinhua writers Zhou Yan and Bai Xu
 
    BEIJING, Jan. 19, 2009 (Xinhua) -- Tibet's regional legislature decided on Monday to commemorate the end of feudal serfdom every year on March 28 -- the day the Chinese central government dissolved the aristocratic local government of Tibet and freed more than 1 million serfs.
 
    Does the "Serfs Emancipation Day" go down in history as a milestone for social progress and human rights improvement in Tibet, or, as some people claimed, a "mockery of history" and "unequalled humiliation of Tibetans"?
 
    These are some of the distinct voices heard since the proposal for the commemorative day was put on the table last week.
 
    Former Tibetan serfs danced traditional dances to heartily applaud the legislature's decision on Monday. They applauded the annual celebration as "a big event" and a move "in line with the common aspiration of the Tibetans". Nearly all of them were starved, tortured, traded and lived in constant fear of death before that landmark day in 1959.
 
    Yet Thomas Mann, of the Brussels-based European Parliament, purportedly said having such a day was an "unequalled humiliation of Tibetans", according to a report on the Deutsche Welle website.
 
File photo taken on April 30, 2008 in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region shows Tibetan undergraduates. There are six junior colleges with about 30,000 students in Tibet.
 
    Mary Beth Markey, of the "International Campaign for Tibet", lambasted the proposal as having reflected an approach the Chinese government has taken in Tibet, which "ignores Tibet's history and identity", the News Blaze reported on its website.
 
    Representatives of the Tibetan Youth Congress, one of the most active advocates of "Tibet independence", said the decision was "hype" by the Chinese government.
 
    It is noteworthy that the opposite points of view came, without exception, from outside Tibet, and none of them represented the masses of people who actually sat through those miserable old days and who celebrate the date marking a turning point in their lives.
 
    When Markey claimed the Serfs Emancipation Day "will not be taken seriously by the international community", how does she think the international community has taken her country's emancipation of slaves.
 
    Memories of Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation he endorsed in 1863 keep coming back as Barack Obama nears inauguration as the first black U.S. president.
 
    Obama himself has followed Lincoln's train route to the U.S. capital ahead of his inauguration scheduled for Tuesday.
 
    Today, the emancipation of black slaves is apparently upheld by the Americans, as well as many others in the world. But the lesson was learned in a very hard way: it took many lives -- including the lives of Lincoln himself and Martin Luther King.
 
    Some people in the world are yet to find out how much the emancipation of Tibetan serfs resembles that of American slaves. Like the two sides of one coin, both events represented human rights improvement and social progress, and both lifted multitudes out of their plight.
 
    But one big difference between the two is that slave owners are extinct in the United States, but advocates of Tibet's serfdom are not. The 14th Dalai Lama and his "government-in-exile" still cling to the medieval social system and advocate its comeback.
 
    In 1983, the Dalai Lama described the Tibetans under serfdom as living in "peace and contentment under the Buddhist light shining over our snow land". "Our serf system is different from any other serf system, because Tibet is sparsely populated, and Buddhism, which is for the happiness and benefit of the people, advises people to love each other," he said in India.
 
    The "peace and contentment" the Dalai Lama described never belonged to Migmar Dondrup, a humble serf at Parlha Manor. At 75, he considered himself "lucky" for being whipped instead of butchered for stealing barley when starving.
 
    "Peace and contentment" are the last words anyone in today's civilized society can think of when they look at those gruesome historical photos showing how Tibetan serfs were tortured and butchered by their owners, and how their remains were made into musical instruments or used as sacrifices on the Dalai Lama's birthdays.
 
    Fifty years after the serfs became free, the Dalai Lama still hasn't wavered in his claim to reverse Tibet's development and separate the plateau region from China.
 
    The Dalai Lama said he accepts Tibet is part of China, but demands "true autonomy" over "Greater Tibet", a region extending to Tibetan-inhabited areas in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. This is tantamount to an eradication of Chinese sovereignty over these areas.
 
    His preaching for a return to the "good old Tibet" is similar to calling for a restoration of slavery in the United States and to undo the civil rights development achieved over the years.
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