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Tit for tat, Tibet official refutes Dalai Lama's anniversary speech

March 15, 2009

by Xinhua writers Lin Jianyang and Chang Ailing
(Xinhua is the official press agency of the Communist Party of China and
the government of PRC)

BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) -- "Hell on earth" suits perfectly the old
Tibet, a Tibet official said here Friday, refuting the Dalai Lama's
speech made 50 years after he went into exile.

Over the past 50 years, the Dalai Lama has made it a routine to deliver
a speech on the so-called "uprising" day, or, as described by the
Chinese government, the day marking his failed armed rebellion.

On March 10 this year, the "simple Buddhist monk", who has never been to
Tibet since 1959, said the Chinese government have carried out a series
of "repressive and violent" campaigns over the years and Tibetans were
"literally experienced hell on earth."

"If 'hell on earth' was used to describe the old Tibet, it would be most
appropriate," Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet regional government,
told Xinhua.

"The Dalai Lama is trying to turn black into white in an attempt to
mislead the public," he said.

Qiangba, who was born to an impoverished Tibetan family 62 years ago,
said "the old Tibet, which was under the control of the Dalai Lama, was
a feudal serfdom darker and more undeveloped than the middle ages in

The official said Tibet has enjoyed significant development over the
past 5 decades and "those who are unbiased or have been to Tibet would
be well aware of that."

Although some people claimed before 1959, ordinary Tibetan people could
enjoy milk tea as they wished and a great deal of meat and vegetables,
American Tibetologist A. Tom Grunfeld said after a 1940 survey conducted
in eastern Tibet that "there is no evidence to support the picture of
Tibet as a Utopian Shangrila."

The survey found that 38 percent of Tibetan families never had tea to
drink, 51 percent could not afford butter and 75 percent sometimes had
to eat weeds boiled with ox bones and oat or bean flour.

In his speech, the Dalai Lama defended his armed rebellion, saying that
it was because of the Communist Party of China's trial of democratic
reform that forced Tibetans to launch a "peaceful uprising."

Qiangba refuted the Dalai Lama's claim, saying that the essential cause
of the rebellion was because the upper ruling class of the Dalai Lama
group realized that the democratic reform, which was imperative under
the situation, would lead to the end of feudal serfdom and the
emancipation of serfs.

"The democratic reform, which was carried out in places outside Tibet
then, put an end to the rule and privileges of the three major feudal
lords (government officials, monasteries and nobles) there," Qiangba said.

"The reform put the feudal lords in Tibet in panic. Under that
situation, they chose to launch an armed rebellion," said he.

Feudal serfdom was overthrown in most countries in the 19th centuries
but the system remained in Tibet till the mid 20th century.

"The democratic reform carried out by the Communist Party of China aimed
to free the serfs and slaves in Tibet," said Qiangba, also a deputy to
the National People's Congress (NPC).

Since the democratic reform, Tibet has undergone significant changes.
Its GDP grew from 174 million yuan (25.6 million U.S. dollars) in 1959
to 39.591 billion yuan last year.

Looking back into history, Qiangba said Tibet did experience twists in
its development after 1959, such as the cultural revolution (1966-1976)
and communes.

But Qiangba said those problems happened at a special stage in the
Chinese history and affected the whole country. "They were not problems
only with Tibet," he said.
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