Villagers dance to celebrate farmers' New Year in the Chusong Village of Nyarixung Township in Xigaze City, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Jan 17, 2018. (JIGME DORJE / XINHUA)
BEIJING — China's State Council Information Office on Wednesday issued a white paper on democratic reform and the leap of development in Tibet over the past six decades.
The democratic reform in Tibet is the greatest and most profound social transformation in the history of Tibet, the white paper read
The democratic reform in Tibet is the greatest and most profound social transformation in the history of Tibet, read the white paper titled "Democratic Reform in Tibet — Sixty Years On."
"By abolishing serfdom, a grim and backward feudal system, Tibet was able to establish a new social system that liberated the people and made them the masters of the nation and society, thus ensuring their rights in all matters," the document reads.
The year 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the campaign of democratic reform in Tibet.
These 60 years have changed Tibet completely, turning the region into a beautiful home to the local people, seeing their solidarity and enterprising spirit and a great leap of social progress, the white paper read.
The leap of Tibet's development fully demonstrates that its democratic reform conformed to the historical trend of the times and the fundamental aspirations of all ethnic groups in Tibet, and met the people's real demand for social progress.
Since democratic reform, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have become the masters of the country. It has been deeply rooted in the people's minds that they must remain committed to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the socialist road, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the document stressed.
"For many years, however, the old Tibetan forces represented by the Dalai Lama have attempted to deny the achievements of democratic reform and development in Tibet, for the sake of their political interests and out of a hankering for the dark and backward days of feudal serfdom," the white paper reads. "They disregard facts, and attempt to reverse the tide of history in opposition to the interests of human civilization."
Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet are working together with the whole country to create a better life and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it noted.
"With steady progress being made towards socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, Tibet is bound to have an even brighter future," the white paper reads.
Besides a preamble and a conclusion, the white paper consists of ten sections: "Feudal Serfdom: A Dark History," "Irresistible Historical Trend," "Abolishing Feudal Serfdom," "The People Have Become Masters of Their Own Affairs," "Liberating and Developing the Productive Forces," "Promoting a Range of Undertakings," "Enhancing Ecological Progress," "Protecting the Freedom of Religious Belief," "Strengthening Ethnic Equality and Unity," and "Development of Tibet in the New Era."
14th Dalai Lama criticized for attempt to maintain feudal serfdom
The white paper exposed the dark history of Tibet's feudal serfdom, criticizing the 14th Dalai Lama and then reactionaries in Tibet's upper class for attempting to maintain the old system.
"For centuries Tibet was ruled by feudal serfdom under theocracy. Millions of serfs were subjected to cruel exploitation and oppression until democratic reform in 1959," the white paper reads.
Serfdom is the most brutal form of slavery in feudal society. It is a barbaric and backward social system in terms of economic development, political democracy or human rights protection.
Under the system, the three major estate-holders (government officials, nobles, and upper-ranking lamas in monasteries) deprived all rights of serfs, held in their hands the serfs' life and death, monopolized land, pastures and other means of production, it read.
They also owned and enslaved serfs, exploited them with exorbitant taxes and levies, and exercised strict mind control in the name of religion, it added.
"Serfdom is the most brutal form of slavery in feudal society. It is a barbaric and backward social system in terms of economic development, political democracy or human rights protection," the document reads.
"By the 1950s, the very existence of feudal serfdom had violated the development trend of human history," it reads, noting that such a system was a stain on civilization and was destined to be eradicated by history.
"Even as they were aware that feudal serfdom under theocracy was coming to an end, the 14th Dalai Lama and the reactionaries in Tibet's upper class had no wish to conduct reform," it added.
"Instead, they tried to maintain the system for fear that reform would deprive them of their political and religious privileges, together with their huge economic benefits," it reads.
This undated photo shows the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
How feudal serfdom was abolished via democratic reform
The white paper recounted the story of abolishing feudal serfdom through democratic reform in Tibet some 60 years ago.
After the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Communist Party of China (CPC) organizations in Tibet worked hard to benefit the local people through measures including giving free medical treatment, building water conservancy projects, and providing disaster rescue and relief, the white paper read.
The CPC launched a campaign against the rebellion, feudal privileges and exploitation, and dealt with matters of political persecution, class oppression, and economic exploitation, the white paper read, adding that those measures abolished feudal privileges, exploitation and the system of oppression
In July 1954, ice collapse caused disastrous floods in the upper reaches of the Nyangchu River. The floods drowned 91 people and destroyed 170 villages, affecting more than 16,000 people. In response, the central government allocated 800,000 silver dollars for disaster relief. The CPC Gyantse Working Committee and the local PLA garrison also fought the floods and provided succor to the victims, it read.
As a contrast, in March 1956, Nagchu Dzong (present-day Seni District of Nagqu City) was stricken by a catastrophic blizzard. The government of Tibet did not send relief to victims, but urged them to pay their rents without offering any reduction or exemption, according to the document.
The contrast awakened the people in Tibet and some serfs stood up to oppose oppression and exploitation, it read, adding that some members of the upper class in Tibet also began to support democratic reform and see it in a more positive light.
In rural areas, which had a population of 800,000, the central government mobilized the people in a campaign against rebellion, corvee labor, and slavery, and in favor of lower rents for land and a reduction of interest on loans. Subsequently, the central government distributed land to peasants so as to completely eradicate feudal serfdom, the document said.
In monasteries, by means of prudent and steady measures, the CPC launched a campaign against the rebellion, feudal privileges and exploitation, and dealt with matters of political persecution, class oppression, and economic exploitation, it read, adding that those measures abolished feudal privileges, exploitation and the system of oppression.
After the democratic reform, 553 monasteries housing over 7,000 monks and nuns were retained in Tibet, which fulfilled the religious needs of local believers, it added.
Tibetans are masters of their own affairs through democratic reform
According to the white paper, about one million serfs gained personal freedom and became masters of the new society due to democratic reform in Tibet.
The reform brought fundamental changes to the Tibetan social system and laid a solid foundation for the establishment of socialism in Tibet, the white paper read.
The reform brought fundamental changes to the Tibetan social system and laid a solid foundation for the establishment of socialism in Tibet, the white paper read
Tibet's democratic reform destroyed the institutional shackles which infringed serfs' rights to subsistence, marriage, migration, residence, work, personal freedom, human dignity, and education, according to the document.
Noting that people's governments were established at various levels for the people to exercise their rights after the reform, the white paper read that for the first time in the history of Tibet, local governments were elected in a democratic way through the exercise of the right to vote and to stand for election.
From Sept 1 to 9, 1965, the First Session of the First People's Congress of Tibet was held. At this session, Tibet Autonomous Region was established, and the People's Committee of the autonomous region came into being by election.
Since 1978, Tibet has held 11 elections of deputies to the people's congresses at township level, 10 at county level, and eight at the level of municipalities having subordinate districts, according to the document.
Currently, there are 35,963 deputies to the people's congresses at all levels in Tibet. Of them, deputies from the Tibetan and other minority ethnic groups account for 92.18 percent, it read.
The rights of the people of all ethnic groups to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs have been fully guaranteed, according to the document.
In addition, community-level democracy is developing and improving. At the end of 2018, there were 5,756 community-level workers' unions with 497,082 members, it added.
This undated photo from June 2017 shows a view of Qomolangma in Tibet. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
GDP grew by 191 times from 1959 to 2018
Tibet's 2018 GDP reached 147.76 billion yuan (US$22 billion), about 191 times more than the 1959 figure calculated at comparable prices, according to the white paper.
Through 60 years of hard work, the people in Tibet have seen agriculture and animal husbandry become increasingly modernized, it read.
Tibet's 2018 GDP reached 147.76 billion yuan (US$22 billion), according to the white paper
The added value of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fisheries and related service industries rose from 128 million yuan in 1959 to 13.41 billion yuan in 2018. Grain yield increased from 182,900 tonnes in 1959 to more than 1 million tonnes in 2018, it read.
Tibet's modern industry started from scratch and has grown steadily, the white paper said, adding that Tibet's industrial added value increased from 15 million yuan in 1959 to 11.45 billion yuan in 2018.
Tibet has accomplished a fundamental change and optimization in economic structure, the white paper noted, adding that the share of added value from primary industry in GDP dropped from 73.6 percent in 1959 to 8.8 percent in 2018, while the share of secondary industry rose to 42.5 percent and the share of tertiary industry increased to 48.7 percent.
The tertiary industry in Tibet is thriving and tourism is developing rapidly, the white paper read, noting that in 2018, Tibet received 33.69 million tourist visits, with a total tourism revenue of 49 billion yuan.
More than 100,000 farmers and herdsmen have earned more through tourism and Tibet has become an international tourist destination, according to the white paper.
Infrastructure has been improved in Tibet, as a comprehensive transportation network composed of highways, railways and air routes has been formed, it added.
Life expectancy rises to 68.2 years
The life expectancy of the people in Tibet increased from 35.5 years before 1959 to 68.2 years now, the white paper read.
It elaborated on the improvements Tibet has made on various fronts since the democratic reform in Tibet in 1959.
Tibet's population has grown from 1.23 million in 1959 to 3.44 million in 2018, with Tibetans accounting for over 90 percent of the total, the document read.
Life expectancy of the people in Tibet has increased from 35.5 years before 1959 to 68.2 years now
The living condition of people in Tibet has improved, it added, noting that in 2018, the average per capita disposal income of urban residents was 33,797 yuan (US$5,035), and that of rural residents was 11,450 yuan.
Before the democratic reform in Tibet, education was largely the preserve of the privileged aristocracy. The serfs who made up 95 percent of the population were not entitled to education, resulting in an illiteracy rate surpassing 95 percent among young people, according to the white paper.
In 2018, the net enrollment rate in primary school was 99.5 percent, and gross enrollment rates in junior high, senior high and higher education were 99.5 percent, 82.3 percent and 39.2 percent respectively.
Today, there are 1,547 medical institutions of various types, offering 16,787 beds and employing 19,035 medical staff. The figures increased by 24 times, 35 times and 23 times respectively compared with those before the democratic reform, according to the white paper.
The childbirth mortality rate of people in Tibet fell from 50 per 1,000 at the beginning of the reform to 1.02 per 1,000 in 2017, and the infant mortality rate from 430 per 1,000 to 10.38 per 1,000, it noted.
In January, the government of Tibet raised the minimum standard of subsistence allowance to 9,600 yuan for urban residents and 4,450 yuan for rural residents per person per year, the white paper read.
Significant progress in eco-environment protection in Tibet
Tibet has seen significant progress in restoring biodiversity, with a forest coverage rate of 12.14 percent, according to the white paper.
The population of Tibetan antelopes has grown from 60,000 in the 1990s to more than 200,000 and Tibetan wild donkeys have increased in numbers from 50,000 to 80,000, the document noted.
Currently, the autonomous region has 16.02 million ha of forests, with a forest coverage rate of 12.14% and a growing forest stock of 2.28 billion cubic meters
Since the Qomolangma Nature Reserve was established in 1988, Tibet has set up 47 nature reserves of all kinds, including 11 at state level, with the total area of nature reserves accounting for more than 34.35 percent of the total area of the autonomous region, according to the white paper.
Tibet has 22 eco-protection areas, including one at state level, 36 counties in receipt of transfer payments from central finance for their key ecological roles, four national scenic areas, nine national forest parks, 22 national wetland parks, and three national geoparks, figures showed.
READ MORE: Tibet to build five national parks
The central government has continued to increase eco-compensation for Tibet in return for its cost for protecting the eco-environment and the consequent losses in development opportunities.
The white paper read that since 2001, the central government has paid 31.6 billion yuan (US$4.71) in eco-compensation to the autonomous region for protecting forests, grassland, wetland, and key ecological reserves.
Currently, the autonomous region has 16.02 million ha of forests (including woodland, shrubland and other types of forestland), with a forest coverage rate of 12.14 percent and a growing forest stock of 2.28 billion cubic meters, according to the document.
The comprehensive vegetation coverage of natural grassland has reached 45.9 percent, the area of natural grassland is 88.93 million ha, and the area of wetland is 6.53 million ha.
The number of black-necked cranes has grown from 3,000 to 8,000, and wild yaks from 7,000 to 10,000 in Tibet, the white paper read.
Currently all the major rivers and lakes in Tibet remain in their natural state, 95.7 percent of key waters have reached the national water standards, 97.5 percent of days are rated as "excellent" or "good" in terms of air quality, and ratings of air quality in the Qomolangma region are being maintained at either "excellent" or "good," with Grade I air quality, it added.
A man throws prayer flags in the air in Xigaze, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Jan 19, 2018.(JIGME DORGE / XINHUA)
Freedom of religious belief well protected
After democratic reform, Tibet put an end to theocracy, separating government from religion and thus restoring the latter's true significance, the white paper read.
The freedom of religious belief of all ethnic groups is protected by the Constitution and the laws, with all religions and religious sects being equally respected and protected, it read.
Currently, Tibet has 1,787 sites for the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, over 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and 358 Living Buddhas, figures showed. There are four mosques and over 12,000 native Muslims, and one Catholic church and 700 believers.
Tibetan and other minority ethnic groups carry out their religious activities in accordance with native traditions
"Tibetan and other minority ethnic groups carry out their religious activities in accordance with native traditions," the white paper reads.
The Living Buddha reincarnation is a succession system unique to Tibetan Buddhism, and is respected by the state and governments at different levels of the autonomous region, it added.
The state issued the Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism in 2007 to further institutionalize the reincarnation process of Living Buddhas.
The white paper noted that by 2018, 91 incarnated Living Buddhas had been confirmed through traditional religious rituals and historical conventions.
The cultivation and training of religious personnel are being strengthened, and the rights of monasteries and monks are guaranteed, it read, adding that since the 1980s more than 1.4 billion yuan (US$208.53 million) has been spent on restoring Tibetan cultural relics and refurbishing key monasteries.
Monastery-run scripture printing houses have been conserved and developed, the document noted, saying there are 60 such printing houses at the Potala Palace and other monasteries, producing 63,000 scriptural items every year.
All the monks and nuns registered in the autonomous region have been included in the social security net, with full coverage of medical insurance, old-age insurance, subsistence allowance, and personal accident insurance, the white paper added.
Democratic reform strengthens ethnic equality, unity
Tibet has built a new type of socialist ethnic relationship featuring equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony since its democratic reform 60 years ago, according to the white paper.
With deeper reform and opening up, the economic and cultural ties between people in Tibet and those in the rest of China have become closer, with an increasing number of mixed communities and a closer emotional bond
"Tibet has fully implemented the ethnic policy of the Communist Party of China to enhance the awareness of ethnic solidarity and the sense of community of the Chinese nation, and strengthen ethnic communication and integration," reads the white paper.
Over the past 60 years, the central government and all ethnic groups have been committed to the coordinated development of Tibet and the nation, it added.
"At major historical points in Tibet's socialist construction, reform and development, the central government has mobilized and organized as many resources as possible from across the country to help Tibet to realize common prosperity," it reads.
After reform and opening up, the central government has been stepping up its assistance to Tibet. The National Symposium on Work in Tibet was held in 1980, 1984, 1994, 2001, 2010 and 2015 to improve the preferential policies applying to Tibet.
"It is estimated that financial aid from the central budget totaled 1.24 trillion yuan from 1980 to 2018, making up 91 percent of Tibet's financial expenditure," the white paper reads.
Assistance from other provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, and large and medium-sized enterprises began in the 1960s. Since the start of reform and opening up in 1978, assistance from developed provinces and cities has increased.
Since 2015, assistance by educational and medical personnel from across the country has contributed tremendously to social development in Tibet. More than 10,000 projects are receiving support, representing a total investment of over 40 billion yuan.
"With deeper reform and opening up, the economic and cultural ties between people in Tibet and those in the rest of China have become closer, with an increasing number of mixed communities and a closer emotional bond," the document reads.
People attend a ceremony marking the start of spring plowing at the Menzhonggang village in Shannan city, Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, March 16, 2019. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Development of Tibet enters new era
The general plan for governing Tibet in the new era defined by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, with Xi Jinping at the core, is consistent with the principles and policies applied to Tibet since the beginning of democratic reform, while responding to Tibet's development needs in the new era, the white paper read.
"To develop Tibet in a new era, the central authority is committed to the philosophy of people-centered development and the concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and inclusive development," reads the white paper.
In view of the current economic and social climate, the government of Tibet has been committed to coordinated and sustainable development
Considering innovation as the primary driving force, the government of Tibet has worked hard to implement the strategy of innovation-driven development, it read.
"By 2018, Tibet had established 74 entrepreneurship and innovation entities, including makerspaces, sci-tech enterprise incubators, innovation and entrepreneurship bases for college students, and bases for small and micro businesses, and these entities have attracted 1,338 entrepreneurship teams and startups," the white paper reads.
In view of the current economic and social climate, the government of Tibet has been committed to coordinated and sustainable development.
The government of Tibet firmly believes that clear waters and green mountains are invaluable assets, and that ecological protection is also a means of protecting productive forces. Bearing these ideas in mind, it prioritizes green development with ecological protection.
"Following the Belt and Road Initiative, the government of Tibet is building a policy structure that is inclusive, open and cooperative in nature, while accelerating opening-up," the document reads.
According to it, the government of Tibet works hard to enhance the sense of participation and gain for people of all ethnic groups, ensuring that the fruits of development are shared by all the people.
Since 2013, more than 273,000 new urban jobs have been created. In 2018, the registered urban unemployment rate was 2.83 percent, and per capita disposable income increased by 10.2 percent and 10.8 percent respectively for urban and rural residents.
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