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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: April 23, 2008  
Tibet -- Its Ownership And Human Rights Situation

Making use of written or common law, the serf-owners set up penitentiaries or private jails. Local governments had law courts and prisons, as had large monasteries. Estate-holders could build private prisons on their own manor ground. Punishments were extremely savage and cruel, and included gouging out the eyes; cutting off ears, hands and feet; pulling out tendons; and throwing people into water. In the Gandan Monastery, one of the largest in Tibet, there were many handcuffs, fetters, clubs and other cruel instruments of torture used for gouging out eyes and ripping out tendons. Many materials and photos showing limbs of serfs mutilated by serf-owners in those years are kept in the hall housing the Tibetan Social and Historical Relics Exhibition in the Beijing Cultural Palace of Nationalities.

Under the centuries-long feudal serfdom, the Tibetan serfs were politically oppressed, economically exploited and frequently persecuted. A saying circulated among serfs, "All a serf can carry away is his own shadow, and all he can leave behind is his footprints." Old Tibet can be said to have been one of the world's regions witnessing the most serious violations of human rights.

Despite the cruel rule of the feudal serfdom, Tibetan laboring people never ceased their resistance struggles. They strove for their personal rights by making petitions, fleeing, resisting rent and corvee and even waging armed struggle. However, they were subjected to ruthless suppression by the three big estate-holders. The law of old Tibet stated, "All civilians who rebel all commit felonies." In such incidences not only the rebel himself would be killed, but his family property would be confiscated and his wife be made a slave. The 5th Dalai Lama once issued the order, "Commoners of Lhari Ziba listen to my order: .... I have authorized Lhari Ziba to chop off your hands and feet, gouge out your eyes, and beat and kill you if you again attempt to look for freedom and comfort." This order was reiterated on many occasions by his successors in power.

V. The People Gain Personal


The central people's government and the local government of Tibet signed in 1951 the 17-Article Agreement on measures for the peaceful liberation of Tibet, and Tibet was peacefully liberated. This brought hope to the Tibetan people in their struggle for equal personal rights. After the quelling of the armed rebellion in 1959, the central people's government, in compliance with the wishes of the Tibetan people, conducted the Democratic Reform in Tibet and abolished the extremely decadent and dark feudal serfdom. The million serfs and slaves were emancipated. They were no longer regarded as the personal property of serf-owners who could use them for transactions, transfer, mortgage for a debt or exchange or exact their toil. From that time on they gained the right to personal freedom. This was a great, epoch-making change in Tibetan history.

Now old Tibet's codes have been abrogated. Citizens are no longer divided into three classes and nine ranks. All sorts of barbarous punishments are prohibited and privately established prisons have all been dismantled. New China's Constitution and laws guarantee that every Tibetan enjoys the right to subsistence and personal safety.

The Democratic Reform abolished the ownership of the means of production by serf-owners. The farmland originally occupied by those serf-owners involved in the armed rebellion was distributed free to landless serfs and slaves. In Kesong Manor, Nedong County in Shannan Prefecture, 443 peasants were given 1,696 ke of land. When the title deeds for land and debt contracts were thrown into the fire, the former serfs danced around the blaze. The 75-year-old Soinam said, "I used to till the land of my master, and I belonged to him day and night. When asked to do corvee at midnight, I dared not wait till dawn the next day. Now I have received land. I feel I can sleep well and have a good appetite. I really want to live several years longer so that I can see the happy future." A policy of redemption was introduced with regard to the land and other means of production of serf-owners who did not participate in the rebellion. The 900,000 ke of land and over 820,000 head of livestock of the 1,300 serf-owners and their agents, who did not participate in the rebellion, were redeemed by the state at a cost topping 45 million yuan.

The Tibetan laboring people no longer suffer from the heavy corvee taxes and usurious exploitation by the serf-owners. The fruits of their labor all belong to themselves, and the enthusiasm of the Tibetan people for production became unprecedentedly high. The region's grain output in 1960 increased by 12.6 percent over 1959 and the number of livestock by 10 percent. The Tibetan people began to enjoy the right to subsistence, along with adequate food and clothing.

VI. The People Enjoy Political


Under the political system combining religion with politics and despotic rule by feudal estate-holders in old Tibet, the Dalai Lama was one of the leaders of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism and also head of the Tibetan local government. He held both political and religious power. The official system of the former Tibetan local government was a dual one of monk and lay officials. In the administrative organs, there were both monk and lay officials, with the former higher than the latter in rank. But there were monk officials in some organizations. Monasteries enjoyed special jurisdiction in handling political affairs. Abbots of the three major monasteries (Gandan, Sera and Zhaibung) and the four large ones (Gundeling, Dangyailing, Cemoinling and Cejoiling) participated in all "enlarged meetings of officials" to discuss important events. Resolutions adopted at the meetings became effective only when they bore the stamps of the local government and the three major monasteries.

The Democratic Reform in 1959 put an end to the political system of combining religious with political rule and introduced the new political system of people's democracy. Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Tibetan people, like the people of various nationalities throughout the country, have become masters of the country and enjoy full political rights provided for by the law.

Citizens of the Tibet Autonomous Region who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and to stand for election, regardless of their ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence. They can directly vote for deputies to the people's congresses of counties, districts, townships and towns. These deputies can in turn elect deputies to the national, autonomous regional and municipal people's congresses. The people exercise the power of managing the state and local affairs through the people's congresses at all levels. The political enthusiasm of the Tibetan people is high because they have obtained the right to be masters of their own affairs. They have actively exercised their rights. Statistics of Lhasa, Nagqu, Xigaze, Nyingchi and Shannan on the elections for deputies to the Fifth People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1988 show that 93.88 percent of the people there voted. To enable illiterates to participate, beans were used in place of ballots in many places. Voters placed beans in the bowls behind the back of the candidates of their choice. Those with the most beans went into office. Currently, deputies of the local ethnic minorities, with Tibetans as the main force, account for over 95 percent of the total local deputies to the people's congresses at the district and county levels and the figure is over 82 percent for those to the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Most of the current chairmen of the Standing Committees of the people's congresses of the 75 counties (cities and districts) in the autonomous region used to be serfs or slaves in old Tibet.

The Tibetan Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was set up in Tibet in 1959 to ensure that people of all social strata and of all walks of life can fully voice their opinions and play their roles in social and political life. The CPPCC, an organization of the broadest patriotic united front under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, is an important political organization conducting political consultation, implementing mutual supervision and developing socialist democracy. Its role has been brought into full play in Tibet. The CPPCC Tibetan Committee has drawn on the participation of the people of all social strata from Tibetan and other ethnic groups. Many of them were patriotic monk and secular officials of the former local government of Tibet and upper-class religious figures. They include Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai, the Great Living Buddha of Qamdo Prefecture, who is now vice-chairman of the CPPCC National Committee and vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region; and Lhalu Cewang Doje, a former Tibetan noble man and a Galoin of the Tibetan local government, who is currently vice-chairman of the CPPCC Tibetan Committee. Through the political consultative conferences, these people have participated in the discussion and management of state affairs and helped the government in making decisions. Their motions raised at past conferences have involved ethnic groups, religion, culture and education, science and technology, public health, agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, urban and rural construction and environmental protection. They have played an important role in safeguarding the unification of the motherland, strengthening national unity, opposing national separation, inheriting and developing traditional national culture, speeding up development of Tibetan economy, and promoting reform and opening up.

Tibet practices regional national autonomy in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. In March 1955, the central government decided to set up the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region. In September 1965, the First Session of the First People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region was held in Lhasa and the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region was officially announced. Most deputies of the Tibetan nationality to the congress were emancipated serfs and slaves, as well as patriots from the upper strata and religious figures. At the congress, Ngapoi Nagwang Jigme was elected chairman of the People's Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Having smashed the yoke of the feudal serfdom, the broad masses of serfs and slaves obtained political and national equal rights.

The Law of the People's Republic of China Governing Regional National Autonomy stipulates, "People's congresses in the areas of national autonomy have the right to formulate regulations on the exercise of autonomy or specific regulations in accordance with the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the local nationalities." In accordance with the rights bestowed by the Law Governing Regional National Autonomy, the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region has since 1965 formulated more than 60 local rules and regulations, decrees, decisions and resolutions, involving political, economic, cultural and educational aspects, which conform to the reality of Tibet and maintain the interests of Tibetan people. They include the Rules of Procedures of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Procedures on Formulating Local Laws and Regulations for the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Measures for the Management of Mining by Collective Mining Enterprises and Individuals in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Resolutions on Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Protection and Management of Cultural Relics, and the Accommodation Rules for the Implementation of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China. The formulation and implementation of these local rules and regulations have furnished an important legal guarantee to the realization of democratic rights for the Tibetan people and to the development of local social, economic and cultural undertakings.

To enable the Tibetan people to better perform the right to manage state and local affairs, the central government has attached great weight to the training of cadres of Tibetan nationality. Currently, there are 37,000 cadres of Tibetan nationality in the Tibet Autonomous Region. All the main leading posts in the people's congresses, governments and people's political consultative conferences at various levels are filled by Tibetans. Cadres of Tibetan nationality account for 66.6 percent of the total in Tibet, 71.7 percent at the regional level and 74.8 percent at the county level. Tibetan women were in the lowest echelon of society in old Tibet. Today, many of them hold leading posts, accounting for upwards of 30 percent of the cadres in the autonomous region in 1986. At present, five have become cadres at the regional level, 38 at the prefectural level and 232 at the county level. Most Tibetan cadres are emancipated serfs and slaves. There are also some patriots from the upper class. Appropriate arrangements have also been made even for those serf-owners and their agents who participated in the rebellion, giving them the chance to contribute to the state and people if they renounce their reactionary stand and possess real skills.

In judicial activities, in addition to enjoying equal legal rights with the people in other parts of the country, the Tibetan people have also been granted special rights stipulated in the Law of the People's Republic of China Governing Regional National Autonomy. The People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region stipulates, "People's courts and procuratorates at various levels must guarantee the right of Tibetan citizens to use their own national language to enter a lawsuit. In cases involving the Tibetans, Tibetan language should be used in doing procuratorial work and hearing cases, and legal documents should be written in the Tibetan language." At present, the main officials of the procuratorates and courts at all levels in Tibet are Tibetan citizens.

VII. Economic Development and Improvement of Living Standards

The feudal serfdom in old Tibet seriously handicapped the development of the social productive forces. The economy in Tibet was in a state of extreme backwardness for a long time. Wooden ploughs were the basic tools for agricultural production and yaks were employed for threshing. Slash and burn cultivation and the burning of grass to fertilize land were still customs retained in a few localities. In 1952, each mu of land (15 mu equal to 1 hectare) could only produce 80 kg of grain on the average and the per-capita share of grain came to 125 kg. Livestock breeding hinged on climatic conditions and frequent natural calamities often caused the deaths of large numbers of animals. In 1952, the region had only 9.74 million head of livestock. The handicrafts industry was also extremely backward and modern industry was nonexistent in old Tibet. Dangerous and difficult roads made it hard to travel in the region. The transport of goods and the delivery of mail had to depend on human and animal power. There were no bridges on the Yarlung Zangbo River that dissects Tibet, except for a few chain constructions left over from the Ming Dynasty. Since there were no highways in Tibet, the car given to the Dalai Lama by the British had to be dismantled and carried to Lhasa by draught animals. Tibet was also backward in regard to sources of energy. In 1950, on the eve of Tibet's peaceful liberation, there was only one 125-kw hydropower station in the region, which supplied electricity only intermittently. The backward economy and the cruel exploitation by the serf-owners kept the people in dire poverty and misery. As far as Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was concerned, there were only 20,000 residents in the city proper before the Democratic Reform in 1959, and close to 1,000 tattered tents thrown together for the poor and beggars could be seen on the outskirts of the city. Prison authorities offered no food to the convicts, and "prisoners" in handcuffs and wooden cangues begged in the streets. And the pathetic remains of those homeless people who died of frost and hunger could be spotted anywhere in the city.

The Democratic Reform has greatly fired the enthusiasm of farmers and herdsmen for production. In the past four decades, particularly since the reform and opening up of the last ten years and more, earth-shaking changes have taken place in Tibet. With the support of the central government and people throughout the country, the Tibetan people have developed production, alleviated poverty and built up family fortunes.

The development of agriculture and animal husbandry has been given top priority in the Tibetan economy. During the early stage of the Democratic Reform, the central government and the Tibetan local government formulated a series of policies and principles for the development of agriculture and animal husbandry which were compatible with the local conditions. Financial and material support was also provided. As a result, Tibet's production levels of agriculture and animal husbandry increased greatly. Total grain output rose from 180 million kg in 1959 to 315 million kg in 1966, registering an average growth rate of 8.3 percent a year. Cattle soared from 9.556 million head in 1959 to 18.175 million head, a rise of 90.2 percent. The living standards of the people took the first step towards improvement.

Since 1980, the government has imposed no levies on farmers and herdsmen, with both agricultural and livestock taxes exempted. In 1984, in addition to continuing the practice of interest exemption for agricultural and livestock loans, the government annulled repayment of pre-1980 collective loans used for the building of water conservancy projects and purchasing machinery for agriculture and animal husbandry. Agricultural and pastoral areas have introduced various forms of contracted production responsibility systems on a household basis, developed household sideline occupations, restored open markets and conducted large-scale capital construction of farmland and grassland. Before the liberation of Tibet, there was no farm machinery or chemical fertilizer in Tibet. Nowadays, farming households own tractors. Scientific farming and breeding of cattle has become highly valued and welcomed. Introduction of modern tools for production and the application of science and technology have boosted overall production. In 1991, the total output value of agriculture reached 2.046 billion yuan in Tibet, 4.4 times higher than in 1952. Grain output came to 580 million kg and the average per-mu yield was 224 kg, showing rises of 3.7 times and 2.8 times respectively over 1952. Although the 1991 population of Tibet was almost double that in 1952, the per-capita share of grain in 1991 came to 290.5 kg, or an increase of 2.2 times that of 1952. The output of animal by-products rose by a substantial margin. In 1991, the total meat output stood at 91,000 tons and the total output of milk reached 177,000 tons.

Modern industry started after the Democratic Reform of Tibet. In 1965, 80 industrial enterprises were established in Tibet. Employing close to 10,000 workers, they covered the building, power, motor vehicle repair, lumber, tanning, borax and coal industries. The total industrial output value reached 28.83 million yuan that year. The government has paid close attention to the development of the national handicrafts. In 1965, it had widened to encompass 33 trades and its total annual output value rose from 1.24 million yuan before the Democratic Reform to 8.9 million yuan, showing a 7.2-fold rise. Tibet was short of petroleum and coal, and energy supply was inadequate in the past. To change the situation, a power station was built in Lhasa in 1956. It was the first public power enterprise in Tibet. Tibet is rich in geothermal resources and the state invested in building a geothermal power station in Yangbajain with the biggest generating capacity in China. In 1991, the installed power generating capacity of Tibet reached 140,000 kw and the annual output of generated electricity came to 400 million kwh. After 40 years of construction, Tibet boasts a dozen or so modern industries such as power, mining, building materials, lumber, wool textile, printing and food. Employees of state-owned enterprises total 51,000. In 1991, the total industrial output value came to 403 million yuan, a rise of 5.3 times that of 1959. The output value of the handicrafts stood at 46 million yuan.

Tibet had no regular highways in the past. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the first large-scale construction project was to build highways from Sichuan and Qinghai to Lhasa on the high mountain ridges with an average elevation of 3,000 meters. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is 2,413 km long and the Qinghai-Tibet Highway 2,122 km long. Since then, the Xinjiang-Tibet, Yunnan-Tibet and China-Nepal highways have been built one after another. Currently, there are 15 arterial highways and 315 feeder roads, with a total length of 21,842 km, throughout Tibet. Except for Medog County which is located deep in the mountains, highways provide access to all the counties and 77 percent of the townships in Tibet. A highway network, with Lhasa at the center, consisting mainly of the Qinghai-Tibet, Sichuan-Tibet, Yunnan-Tibet and China-Nepal highways, has taken shape. In order to solve Tibet's fuel supply problem, the state allocated funds to build a refined oil transmission pipeline from Golmud in Qinghai Province to Lhasa. This 1,080-km-long pipeline has played an important role in guaranteeing energy supplies for Tibet in its economic construction. To meet Tibet's need to open to the outside world, since the start of an air route from Lhasa to Beijing in 1956, domestic airlines have offered services from Lhasa to Chengdu, Xian, Lanzhou, Shanghai and Guangzhou. International air links have been inaugurated between Lhasa and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Modern science and technology did not exist in old Tibet. The period since the Democratic Reform has seen the establishment of agricultural, animal husbandry, communications, power, construction, geological, water conservancy, meteorological, public health, pharmaceutical and educational research institutions in Tibet. They have trained Tibetan scientific and technical personnel. The Academy of Social Sciences of the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up in 1985. Currently, Tibet has 17 special scientific research institutions with 26,900 technical personnel. Over the past 40 years, 347 scientific and technological achievements have been awarded prizes at the autonomous regional level. Of these, 21 scientific research achievements such as "the comprehensive development and utilization of solar energy resources in Tibet" have been honored by state prizes.

The snowy peaks, famous monasteries and relics of historical interest on the Tibetan Plateau have attracted many adventurers and tourists from other countries. In opening up, Tibet's tourism industry has gradually flourished. At present, Tibet has 11 travel agencies and 19 tourist hotels and guesthouses with 3,600 beds for foreign guests. The autonomous region has opened over 60 scenic spots to the public. Between 1980 and 1991, Tibet received 150,900 overseas tourists.

Due to efforts made in the past 40-odd years the living standards of the Tibetan people have improved markedly. Most farmers and herdsmen have adequate food and clothing and some have attained relative affluence. In 1991, the average net income of farmers and herdsmen in the region was 455 yuan. Allowing for price increases, the figure was 2.6 times higher than the 159 yuan of 1979. In the Zholgyur Village, Yadong County at the foot of the Himalayas, the annual income of the 75 households was 361,600 yuan in 1986 and 74 households have built new dwellings. The per-capita income of residents in cities and towns is 2,120 yuan a year, 3.3 times higher than in 1981. By the end of 1991, savings deposits of city and township residents totalled 492.4 million yuan, over 500 times more than in 1959. Farmers and herdsmen have obtained considerable amount of means of production. Each household owns 6,021 yuan worth of fixed assets for production purposes and 75 head of cattle. For every 100 households, there are nine motor vehicles, six tractors, three power-driven threshers, and 12 horse-drawn carts. The average per-capita material consumption of farmers and herdsmen has increased enormously compared with the period before the liberation of Tibet. In 1991, the per-capita consumption of grain was 183.6 kg. Other figures were 3.6 kg for edible oil, 14.7 kg for meat and 50 kg for milk. While retaining their traditional diet, Tibetans have expanded it to also include more vegetables, eggs, wine, sweets and pastries. The living conditions of the people have improved markedly. According to statistics produced by the local government of old Tibet, of a population of 1 million in Tibet in 1950, some 900,000 lacked real housing. Currently, except for the pastoral areas, all households have fixed housing. In 1991, the per-capita floor space of city and township residents reached 13.7 square meters. In Gyangze County of Xigaze Prefecture, which has a population of 56,700, over 80 percent have moved into new dwellings, with a per-capita floor space of 40 square meters. The traditional way of life of the Tibetan people has been somewhat modernized. A sample survey shows that for every 100 urban households, there are 212 bicycles, 88 color televisions, 84 radio cassette recorders, 42 washing machines, 24 refrigerators and 26 cameras. The construction of various cultural facilities has increasingly enriched the ethical outlook and cultural life of Tibetan people.

Due to Tibet's extremely harsh natural conditions and its extremely backward social development in history, the level of economic development and the living standards of the people are still lower than the nation's average. In 1989, the government of Tibet Autonomous Region formulated the Strategic Ideas for the Economic and Social Development of Tibet. It has implemented the policy of opening up to the rest part of China and the outside world as well; exploring the regional, domestic and foreign markets; developing advantageous resources and stepping up development of key areas and key industries. The goal is to narrow as soon as possible the gap in economic development between Tibet and other areas of the nation in order to lay a solid foundation for the common prosperity of Tibetan and other ethnic groups.

VIII. Freedom of Religious Belief

The majority of Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also about 2,000 Muslims and 600 Catholics in the autonomous region.

Respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a basic policy of the Chinese government. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, organizations at all levels in Tibet earnestly carried out the policy, gaining the appreciation of both monks and lay people. Protected by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and state laws, the Tibetan people now enjoy full freedom to participate in normal religious activities. Almost every religious family has a small sutra recitation hall or a niche for a Buddhist statue. More than 1 million worshipers make the pilgrimage to Lhasa each year. Sutra streamers and Mani stone mounds put up by devout believers can be seen everywhere in Tibet. Inside and outside famous monasteries such as the Jokhang are crowds of worshipers either prostrating in prayer, turning their prayer wheels or bowing to Buddhist statues.

During the period of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), however, in Tibet as in other parts of China, the policy on freedom of religious belief was disrupted, and sites and facilities for religious activities were seriously damaged. After the "cultural revolution" ended, the policy on freedom of religious belief began to be implemented again in Tibet in an all-round way. Since 1980, unjust, false and wrong cases have been redressed in Tibet and religious institutions have been reinstated or established, and a great deal of work has been done to ensure freedom of religious belief for all citizens. Over the past decade and more, the Chinese government has appropriated more than 200 million yuan in special funds to implement the religious policy in Tibet. The funds were used to renovate the Jokhang Monastery built in the 7th century, the Samye Monastery built by the king of the Tubo Kingdom in the 8th century, and the four famous monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism -- Zhaibung, Sera, Gandan and Tashilhunpo. For the renovation of the Potala Palace alone, the central government allotted a lump sum of more than 40 million yuan. In 1984, the central government provided 6.7 million yuan in special funds, 111 kg of gold, 2,000 kg of silver and large quantities of jewelry for the renovation, under the direction of the late 10th Bainqen Lama, of the holy stupas and the memorial halls for the 5th to the 9th Bainqen Lamas. To date, more than 1,400 religious centers have been renovated and opened to the public, meeting the needs of the religious people for their normal religious life. The government has also exerted every effort to locate those Buddhist statues, instruments used in Buddhist services and other religious articles that got lost during the "cultural revolution" and distributed them to the various monasteries and temples, to the welcome of monks and lay people.

In recent years, various religious organizations have organized religious activities on their own. The Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China established the Tibet College of Buddhism in 1983 and opened sutra studying classes in some monasteries and temples of various religious sects. There are a total of 3,000 monk students. Every year, a number of Living Buddhas and lamas are sent to the China Tibetan Language High Institute of Buddhism in Beijing for advanced studies. In 1984, the autonomous region's people's government presented the Lhasa edition of the Gangyur of Tripitaka in Tibetan, which used to be kept in local archives, to the Tibet Buddhist Association. It offered 500,000 yuan to the latter for the establishment of the Lhasa Sutra Printing House which, in recent years, has printed more than 1,000 volumes of the Gangyur of Tripitaka in Tibetan for Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples located both inside and outside the autonomous region. In 1990, with another 500,000 yuan proffered by the government, the Tibet Buddhist Association started the carving of printing blocks for the Lhasa edition of the Dangyur of Tripitaka in Tibetan in Lhasa's Muru Monastery. The 13th Dalai Lama had intended to commission the work, but the plan never materialized. The journal Tibetan Buddhism was launched by the Tibet Buddhist Association in 1985. Today, the region has more than 34,000 lamas and nuns. A total of 615 people from religious circles have become deputies to the people's congresses and members of the people's political consultative conferences at various levels, as well as directors of the Buddhist associations and government officials. They participate in the management and discussion of government affairs and devote themselves to Tibet's construction undertakings together with other local citizens.

The government respects and protects traditional religious activities and the rites of the various sects. According to the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism and historical traditions, after a Living Buddha passes away his position should be inherited by his incarnation through traditional methods. On June 25, 1992, the central government confirmed the incarnate soul boy of the 16th Living Buddha Garmaba. Government department officials attend such religious activities as the annual Grand Summons Ceremony in Lhasa, the pilgrimage to Snow Mountain in the Year of the Horse, the pilgrimage to the Holy Lake of Nam Co in the Year of the Sheep and the Walking-Around-Religious-Rock Festival at the Razheng Monastery, and offer alms each time. Wedding and funeral customs with religious links also receive full regard.

Thanks to the earnest implementation of the policy on freedom of religious belief, different religions, sects, monasteries, and both religious and secular people in Tibet respect one another and live in harmony. China's Constitution also clearly stipulates that no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens and hamper the country's educational system. Those who carry out law-breaking and conduct criminal activities under the guise of religion will be prosecuted according to law. In recent years, some monks and nuns in Tibet received legal retribution because they infringed on the law. They were involved in riots that endangered social security and disrupted public order, engaged in beating, smashing, looting, burning and killing and carried out other criminal activities. None was arrested and declared guilty because of religious belief.

Buddhist organizations and religious circles in Tibet have actively carried out friendly exchanges with their counterparts abroad. Since China introduced reform and opening up, the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China and some monasteries and temples have organized religious groups to go on friendly tours, visits, inspections and academic exchanges abroad. They have also hosted more than 10,000 people from several dozen countries who came, either in groups or individually, on pilgrimage, or for sightseeing or inspection tours.

Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, many noted religious figures have worked in co-operation with the Chinese Communist Party and the government, and participated in the management and discussion of government affairs. They have played an active part in the construction of the country and Tibet, earning the admiration of the people and winning the respect of the government. For several decades, the late 10th Bainqen Erdeni Qoigyi Gyaincan, co-leader of Tibetan Buddhism with the Dalai Lama, constantly adhered to a patriotic stand and made great contributions to the peaceful liberation of Tibet, to the struggle against separatism, to the safeguarding of the unification of the motherland and to the strengthening of the unity of various ethnic groups. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, he served as a vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee and the honorary president of the Buddhist Association of China. He passed away in January 1989. The government decided to build a holy stupa and memorial hall for the remains of the 10th Bainqen Erdeni Qoigyi Gyaincan in the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Xigaze, and hold memorial ceremonies, preserve his body and look for and choose the reincarnated soul boy to succeed him according to Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Currently, structures of the holy stupa and the memorial hall are basically completed, and the search for the child is proceeding smoothly under the charge of Living Buddha Qazha Qamba Chilai of the Tashilhunpo Monastery.

IX. Development of Education and Culture

Education in old Tibet was very backward. There were no schools in the modern sense. Before Tibet's peaceful liberation, only some 2,000 monks and children of the nobility studied in government and private schools. The masses of serfs and slaves had no right to receive education.

Under the stipulation of the 17-Article Agreement concerning the gradual development of the spoken and written Tibetan language and school education, the Lhasa Primary School was founded in 1952 and the Lhasa Middle School established in 1956. This enabled Tibet to embark on the road to modern education.

To develop education in Tibet, the government has invested more than 1.1 billion yuan and introduced a series of special policies over the past 40 years. Education is free. All the study costs of Tibetan students, from primary school to university, are covered by the government. Since 1985, free food, clothing and accommodation have been provided for some Tibetan primary and middle school students, and boarding schools have been introduced in the vast rural and pastoral areas. The principle of "giving priority to local nationalities" has been carried out in recruiting students for various kinds of schools at different levels. Priority is given to candidates of Tibetan and other local nationalities in the recruitment of university, college and secondary vocational school students. Efforts are being made to establish more departments and schools of Tibetan culture covering Tibetan language, medicine, art and history.

Over the past four decades and more, Tibet has basically established an educational system with both special local flavor and national characteristics which includes pre-school, primary and middle school, secondary vocational and technical school education, plus higher education, and adult and television education. Urban residents, farmers and herdsmen now enjoy the right to receive education. According to statistics, by 1991, Tibet had established four modern universities (Tibet University, the Institute for Nationalities, the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry College and the Tibetan Medical College); 15 secondary vocational and technical schools involved in teacher training, agriculture and animal husbandry, public health, Tibetan medicine, finances, sports,

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