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

In the 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. These measures abolished feudal privileges, exploitation and the system of oppression.

The CPC promoted political unity and separation of government from religion, and punished the rebels and reactionaries acting under the guise of religious beliefs. It maintained the principle of freedom of religious belief, respected and protected citizens’ civil rights in this regard, protected patriotic and law-abiding monasteries, and established a democratic management system in monasteries. The CPC adopted a buying-out policy with respect to the means of production owned by those monasteries uninvolved in the rebellion. During the campaign of democratic reform, a large number of monks and nuns voluntarily resumed secular life. After the campaign, 553 monasteries were retained in Tibet, housing over 7,000 monks and nuns, which fulfilled the religious needs of local believers.

In the urban areas, the central government launched a campaign against the rebellion, the feudal system, exploitation and privileges, and in favor of lower rents for land and a reduction of interest on loans. The central government adopted a buying-out policy with respect to land and means of production owned by those serf owners and their agents uninvolved in the rebellion. It protected industry and commerce, adopted different policies towards rebels and non-rebels among industrialists and businessmen, and protected rights and interests of those engaged in industry and commerce. It organized aid for poor citizens and vagrants, resumed commerce and free exchange of goods, secured urban supplies, and restored social and economic order. At the same time, the CPC strengthened the united front work and strove to unite all available forces. Those serf owners and their agents who were patriotic, opposed imperialism, and accepted democratic reform, were provided with appropriate employment.

IV. The People Have Become Masters of Their Own Affairs
Through democratic reform, feudal serfdom under theocracy in Tibet was abolished completely, bringing fundamental changes to the Tibetan social system. It was a historic leap. Due to democratic reform, about one million serfs were liberated. They gained personal freedom and became masters of the new society. The completion of the reform laid a solid foundation for the establishment of socialism in Tibet.

– One million serfs were liberated and gained personal freedom.
When feudal land ownership was abolished in democratic reform, serfs were no longer treated arbitrarily by serf owners as their private property, and the personal ownership of serfs by serf owners came to an end.
Tibet’s democratic reform destroyed the institutional shackles which infringed serfs’ rights to subsistence, marriage, migration, residence, work, personal freedom, human dignity, and education. Thanks to this reform, one million serfs gained true personal freedom. Anna Louise Strong, a renowned American journalist and activist, included the remarks by a serf interviewee in her book When Serfs Stood up in Tibet: “Always I wanted to send my son to school to learn to read and to have some trade like a tailor. This was impossible, but now my son has gone to study in the interior and when he comes back he will be a skilled worker for a factory. He will not be weighed down by all those things that weighed down my head."1

Through democratic reform, all feudal privileges of monasteries were annulled. Monks and nuns gained equal rights and the right to be the masters of their own destiny. Many of those who were at the bottom of the hierarchy broke free of their religious bondage and resumed secular life. In Ganden Monastery alone, more than 300 monks demanded to return home or resume secular life in the surrounding areas of the monastery. The local government granted them the fare for their journey home and a settlement allowance. It also found jobs for 13 young monks who asked for employment at the Lhasa Department Store Company, and sent some child monks to school. As to the 312 monks who wanted to stay at the monastery, the local government made arrangements to ensure their daily life. In democratic reform, the system by which monasteries assigned monk and nun quotas to counties, manors and tribes was abolished. Monasteries were prohibited from coercing people to become monks or nuns.
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