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Full text: Democratic Reform in Tibet -- Sixty Years On
update:March 28,2019

– Feudal serfdom under theocracy seriously impeded the spread and development of modern science, technology and culture.
To consolidate its rule, the government of Tibet controlled by three major estate-holders practiced theocracy, promoted superstition, and opposed science by every possible means, which seriously hindered the spread and application of modern science and technology. Although the ruling clique sent youth from aristocratic families to study modern science and technology abroad, the purpose was mainly for the rulers’ own satisfaction, rather than to learn and apply advanced science and technology.

Thanks to the efforts of the central government, the peaceful liberation in 1951 ended Tibet’s long-lasting chaos, conflict, occlusion and stagnation. It experienced new economic and social development. Based on the 17-Article Agreement, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Tibet in October 1951, and the Tibet Military Region was established in 1952 to take up the task of defending this frontier region. The central authorities established the CPC Tibet Working Committee and its branches in Lhasa and other places to perform its functions.

Before democratic reform in 1959, Tibet had political powers with different nature: the Kashag regime and Panchen Kampus Assembly; and the Qamdo People’s Liberation Committee and the Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee. As the 17-Article Agreement stipulated, “The central government will not alter the current political system of Tibet.… In matters related to reform in Tibet, there will be no compulsion on the part of the central government. The local government of Tibet shall take initiative to carry out reform, and when the people raise demands for reform, the central government shall consult with the leading personnel to settle the issue.”

The Central People’s Government adopted a circumspect attitude and a rather lenient policy, actively persuading and winning over patriotic people from the upper class while patiently waiting for Tibet’s ruling class to carry out reform.

In the meantime, in response to the long-term influence of theocracy in Tibet, CPC-led organizations and staff at different levels carried out meticulous work among the people and conscientiously implemented the policy that no reform should be carried out in Tibet within six years, thus winning the support of the ordinary people and of patriots from the upper class.

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. 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 was through feudal serfdom under theocracy that the three major estate-holders gathered enormous wealth. Before democratic reform, the family of the 14th Dalai Lama possessed 27 manors, 30 pastures and over 6,000 serfs, and annually wrung out of them more than 462,000 kg of highland barley, 35,000 kg of butter, 2 million liang of Tibetan silver, 300 head of cattle and sheep, and 175 rolls of pulu (woolen fabric made in Tibet).

III. Abolishing Feudal Serfdom
According to the 17-Article Agreement, in the early days of the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the CPC focused on winning over the people of the upper class and endeavored to get support from the ordinary people, rather than mobilizing them immediately to launch reform. The PLA and CPC organizations in Tibet worked hard to benefit the local people, giving free medical treatment, working to eliminate infectious diseases, building water conservancy projects, roads and bridges, providing disaster rescue and relief, distributing interest-free loans, offering certified seeds and farm tools, showing films, and providing jobs instead of handouts.
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