(TibetanReview.net, Jan 20, 2009) — As Tibetans opposed to the Chinese rule prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day this year with protests and mourning, especially over the killings, arrests and the follow-up repression in the aftermath of the Mar’08 uprising, China has sought to counter it by announcing an annual “Serfs Liberation Day” of festivities and holiday. By it, China, no doubt, hopes to strengthen its propaganda offensive against those calling for autonomy or freedom for Tibet.
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which already has the largest number of festival holidays among all regions of the People’s Republic of China, added one more to the list on Mar 19. On orders from Beijing, all 382 deputies to the TAR’s people’s congress rubberstamped a motion to declare Mar 28 as “Serfs Liberation Day” holiday, marking the day in 1959 when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued a decree of the State Council, the Chinese cabinet, to dissolve the “local” government of Tibet and proclaimed the start of “democratic reforms” there. The authorities in the TAR will commemorate the day every year with celebrations and a holiday.
Earlier, a bill for the motion was introduced at the 2nd annual session of the 9th TAR Regional People’s Congress on Jan 16. China’s official China Daily Newspaper Jan 16 said it was on this day in 1959 that premier Zhou issued a decree “dissolving the region’s aristocratic government and ordering the Preparatory Committee for the founding of the TAR to exercise local power.” It cited Hu Yan, a Tibetologist at the CPC Central Committee’s Party School, as saying the establishment of the Mar 28 holiday aims not only at remembering the historic event but also at educating the region’s youngsters about the significance of the day.
The “Serfs Emancipation Day” would strengthen Tibetans’ patriotism and expose the Dalai clique, China’s official Xinhua news agency Jan 15, likewise, cited Legqog, 65, director of the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress, as saying.
“The Dalai clique is still dreaming at all times to restore the system of serfdom, which was a reactionary, dark, brutal and backward clerical regime,” Reuters Jan 16 quoted Tudeng Caiwang, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress, as saying when proposing the resolution.
China’s reasons for marking the day 50 years after the event took place was not missed by the international media. China is eager to improve its international image after a riot in Lhasa last March resulted in the deployment of the army in many Tibetan regions as the unrest spread, reported Times Online (UK) Jan 17. It said the new commemoration was meant to remind the world of the feudal system that had persisted for centuries in Tibet by noting that the Dalai Lama had said he would not want to see a return to that era.
China describes the suppression of the 1959 Tibetan uprising as the start of its “landmark democratic reform” in the Tibet Autonomous Region. “Since then, millions of slaves under the feudal serfdom became masters of their own,” Xinhua Jan 10, quoting Pang Boyong, deputy secretary-general of the regional congress standing committee, as saying. He had accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of sabotaging what he had called the system of regional autonomy implemented in Tibet of engaging in splittist activities. “They are against the will of the Tibetan people and running against the historical trend of progress in this region.”
A Xinhua commentary Jan 16 said that serf owners – mostly officials, nobles and lamas – who accounted for 5 percent of the total population of the old TAR occupied all the farming land and pastures and most of the livestock. It claimed that serfs accounted for more than 90 percent of the population and were treated as private properties by their owners.