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

In 1952, Samling Tsering Paldron, daughter of aristocrat Yuthok, began to teach the Tibetan language to the PLA men in Tibet, heedless of opposition of the reactionaries from the local upper class. She said, “I firmly believe that one day the people in Tibet will finally shake off oppression and exploitation imposed by feudal serfdom. One day we will finally build a political power of our own under the leadership of the CPC.”
The people in Tibet began to develop a proper understanding of reform, and some people of the upper class began to see it in a more positive light. However, in an attempt to maintain their vested interests and to perpetuate feudal serfdom under theocracy, a group of Tibetans launched a rebellion in a bid to halt social progress.

In March 1959, reactionaries from the upper class working in the government of Tibet tore up the 17-Article Agreement and staged an all-out armed rebellion in Lhasa. The rebellion ran counter to the will of the people of Tibet and the current of history. In response, the central government decided to dissolve the government of Tibet and quell the rebellion, and at the same time, mobilized the people of Tibet to begin democratic reform.
Democratic reform in Tibet was a continuation of China’s New Democratic Revolution led by the CPC, and an inevitable result of the social transformation from degeneration to progress. Democratic reform was implemented progressively in the rural areas, pastoral areas, monasteries, and urban areas.

In the rural areas, which had a population of 800,000, the central government mobilized the people to take part in a campaign against rebellion, corvée 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.

As a result, the serfs, who had been exploited and enslaved for generations, finally won freedom. They took ownership of more than 186,666 ha of land and other means of production. When their slave indentures and so-called IOU were burned in fire, they sang and danced to celebrate their liberation. In early 1960, about 200,000 farm households in Tibet acquired land certificates. Benefiting from policies such as the harvest of a farmland belonging to the one who sowed, lower rents for land, reduction in interest on loans, and the cancellation of old debts, the peasants gained more than 500 million kg of grain in total, over 750 kg per person.

Tsering Drolkar, a 68-year-old peasant from Khesum Shika of Nedong County said, “We had been providing corvée labor our whole lives. We never owned a single piece of land, what we worried about was how to find food for survival. Now with the land given to us by the people’s government, we will no longer go hungry.” The freed serfs cheered, “The sunshine of the Dalai Lama touches only the nobles, while the sunshine of Chairman Mao showers on us poor people. The noble’s sun is setting and our sun is rising.”

In the pastoral areas with a population of 280,000, the central government launched a campaign against the rebellion, corvée labor and slavery, and adopted policies that were beneficial to both hired herdsmen and herd owners, but the latter were deprived of their feudal privileges. The central government confiscated the cattle and sheep of the estate-holders and herd owners who had participated in the rebellion, and distributed the livestock to their hired hands and other poor herdsmen. The central government did not discriminate against or punish herd owners who had not been involved in the rebellion, and allowed them to continue to own their cattle and sheep.

These protective measures changed feudal enslavement to an employment relationship. This motivated the hired hands to protect and grow their herds, and the herd owners to operate and develop animal husbandry. Both people and cattle were able to live in peace. Although a large number of cattle and sheep had been slaughtered by the rebels, animal husbandry in Tibet soon recovered and began to prosper. The herdsmen on the Damxung Prairie sang a ballad:
In the past, the Damxung Prairie belonged to our herdsmen,
But it was later taken by Sera Monastery.
Ever since then, we have been living in hell.
Now the people’s government has issued a new decree,
And we have elected our own leaders.
The beautiful Damxung Prairie has been returned to our herdsmen.
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