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Tibet in 50 Years
Special> Tibet in 50 Years
UPDATED: March 4, 2009
Full Text: Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet
Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China March 2009, Beijing

A social security system has been basically put in place to cover both cities and countryside in Tibet. In 2008, the allowances for each family of the infirm elderly without children, which is guaranteed food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses, was raised to 1,600 yuan. In 2006, Tibet led other farming and pastoral areas in China with a system of basic subsistence allowances that covered all peasants and herdsmen with an income below 800 yuan.

Before the peaceful liberation, there was no medical institution in the modern sense in Tibet, except for three small, shabby government-run organizations of Tibetan medicine and a small number of private clinics, with fewer than 100 medical workers altogether. If the nearly 300 Tibetan medical practitioners in the farming and pastoral areas were included, the total number of medical workers would still have fallen below 400 - less than four medical workers for every 10,000 residents. Smallpox, cholera, venereal diseases, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, tetanus and other epidemics were prevalent.

After the peaceful liberation, and especially after the democratic reform in Tibet, the Chinese Government adopted various measures to prevent diseases, and soon got some diseases that seriously harmed people's health under control. Since the 1960s, smallpox has been eliminated in Tibet, and the incidence of infectious and endemic diseases has declined by a big margin. Today, Tibet leads other places in introducing the medical insurance system for urban residents, and is building a medical system in the farming and pastoral areas based on free medical service, which now grants each farmer and herdsman an annual 140 yuan of medical allowance. By 2008, there were 1,339 medical organizations in Tibet, 1,277 more than in 1959; 7,127 hospital beds, 6,647 more than in 1959; and 9,098 medical workers, 8,307 more than in 1959. The number of hospital beds and medical workers for every 1,000 residents were 2.50 and 3.05, respectively, or 2.11 and 2.41 more than in 1959.

Thanks to the improvement of medical services, the average life expectancy in Tibet has increased from 35.5 years in 1959 to 67 years at present. According to the fifth national census, carried out in 2000, Tibet had 13,581 senior residents aged 80-99, and a remarkable 62 above 100 years old. In terms of number of the elderly over 100 years of age, Tibet led all provinces and autonomous regions in China. The total population increased from 1.228 million in 1959 to 2.8708 million in 2008, of which more than 95 percent were Tibetans and members of other ethnic minorities. The past 50 years have seen the fastest population expansion in Tibet for centuries.

Traditional ethnic culture is protected and developed; freedom of religious belief is respected. The Chinese Government has made huge efforts to promote the learning, use and development of the Tibetan language. In Tibet, importance is given to both the Tibetan and Han Chinese languages, with priority given to Tibetan. At present, both languages are used in teaching in all schools of the farming and pastoral areas, as well as some urban areas, with the major courses being taught in Tibetan. Teaching is also conducted in the two languages in high schools. Moreover, courses in the Tibetan language have been opened at Tibetan high schools in the hinterland areas of China. In the matriculation examinations for institutions of higher learning and secondary vocational schools, Tibetan is a subject of examination, and the score is included in the total score. Since the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region, both Tibetan and Han Chinese have been used for resolutions and regulations adopted by the people's congresses at all levels, and official documents and public announcements of people's governments at all levels as well as their subordinate departments. During judicial proceedings, Tibetan is used in hearing any case involving Tibetan people, and the written Tibetan language is used for legal papers. Both Tibetan and Han Chinese are used for official seals, credentials and signs of all entities; logos of government departments, factories and mines, schools, bus and train stations, airports, shops, hotels, restaurants, theaters, scenic spots, sports venues and libraries; and street and traffic signs. Since its establishment in 1959, Tibetan People's Radio (TPR), with focus on Tibetan-language broadcasting, has developed 42 programs in Tibetan and the Khampa dialect, including 21 hours and 15 minutes of news broadcasting in Tibetan and 17 hours and 50 minutes of broadcasting in the Khampa dialect every day. The Tibet Television Station formally opened a Tibetan satellite TV channel, which has been broadcasting 24 hours a day since October 1, 2007. At present, there are 14 Tibetan-language periodicals and 10 Tibetan-language newspapers in Tibet. Computer information processing of the Tibetan script was realized in 1984, and a Tibetan-script operating system compatible with Chinese and English versions was developed. In 1997, an international-standard Tibetan character code was approved, making the Tibetan script the first ethnic-minority script in China with an international standard.

The Tibetan cultural heritage is being effectively protected, inherited and developed. The completion of the Tibetan volumes in a 10-tome folk culture series, including Annals of Chinese Operas, A Collection of Chinese Folk Ballads, A Collection of Folk Dances of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Proverbs, A Collection of Folk Performing Art Genres, A Collection of Folk Songs of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Traditional Operas and Music, and A Collection of Folk Tales, has enabled a large number of major items of the Tibetan cultural heritage to be saved and protected in an effective way. The state has also earmarked special funds for the collection, collation and publishing of the text of the lengthy oral epic Life of King Gesar. This is listed as one of the major scientific research projects. So far, over 300 volumes of the masterpiece have been collected, with the publication of 62 volumes in the Tibetan language and over 20 volumes in Han Chinese translation; and many volumes have been translated into English, Japanese and French. The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and the Drepung, Sera, Ganden, Tashilhunpo, Sakya and many other monasteries have been placed under the protection of the state since the democratic reform in Tibet. Moreover, since the early 1980s more than 700 million yuan has been channeled from central and local coffers for repairing a number of venues of cultural relics under state protection and major monasteries of various sects of Tibetan Buddhism, and helping them open to the public. From 1989 to 1994 the Central Government allocated 55 million yuan and a great amount of gold, silver and other precious materials for the renovation of the Potala Palace. In 2001, a special fund of 330 million yuan was apportioned to maintain and repair the Potala Palace, the Norbulingka and Sakya monasteries. In 2007, the Central Government allocated another 570 million yuan for the overall repair and protection of 22 key cultural relics sites in Tibet during the 11th Five-Year Plan period. Such an investment was unprecedented in China's history of cultural relics protection.

The freedom of religious belief and normal religious activities of the Tibetan people are protected. Today, there are more than 1,700 religious venues in Tibet, with more than 46,000 resident monks and nuns, which can fully meet the needs of religious believers in Tibet. Various traditional Buddhist activities are carried out in the normal way - from sutra studies and debates to abhisheka (consecration) and other Buddhist practices, as well as the system of academic degrees and ordination through examinations. According to incomplete statistics, there are now more than 60 classes for sutra studies in Tibet, with 6,000 novice monks. As a unique way of passing on Tibetan Buddhism, the Living Buddha reincarnation system receives respect from the state. In Tibet, religious activities are rich in content and diverse in form; religious festivals are celebrated frequently. Since the early 1980s, more than 40 religious festivals have been successively resumed. Monks and laymen organize and take part in the Sakadawa Festival, Shoton (Yogurt) Festival and other religious and traditional activities every year.

Modern education and the media are developed in an all-round way; the educational level of the people is constantly improving. In old Tibet there was not a single school in the modern sense. The enrollment rate for school-age children was less than 2 percent, while the illiteracy rate was as high as 95 percent. During the past 50 years, the Central Government has invested a huge amount of funds in education in Tibet, making Tibet the first place in China to enjoy free compulsory education in both urban and rural areas. Since 1985, the state has set up boarding primary and high schools in farming and pastoral areas, and covered all tuition as well as food and lodging expenses for students at the stage of compulsory education from Tibet's farming and pastoral families. In 2008, all 73 counties (cities and districts) in Tibet realized six-year compulsory education and basically wiped out illiteracy; in 70 counties of which, nine-year compulsory education is being practiced, and the illiteracy rate has fallen to 2.4 percent overall. The enrollment rate for primary school-age children has reached 98.5 percent, that for junior high school 92.2 percent, and that for senior high school 51.2 percent. There are 884 primary schools, 117 high schools and 1,237 teaching venues now in Tibet. The average educational level of people in Tibet reached 6.3 years in 2008. There are six institutions of higher learning, with about 30,000 students and an enrollment rate of 19.7 percent, and 10 secondary vocational schools, with the number of students totaling 21,000. In 20 hinterland provinces or municipalities of China, 28 junior and senior high schools have classes specially for Tibetan students, 53 key senior high schools and over 90 institutions of higher learning have accumulatively enrolled 36,727 junior high school students, 30,370 senior high school students (including secondary vocational school students), trained and provided more than 18,000 professionals for the construction of Tibet. At present, the number of Tibetan students in these schools has reached 18,640. Modern science and technology in Tibet has developed rapidly, and the number of related personnel keeps increasing. There were 46,508 professionals of various kinds in 2007; among them 31,487 are of ethnic minorities, with Tibetans in the majority. Large numbers of highly educated Tibetans, including some with Ph.D and MA, as well as scientists and engineers, have become a major force in promoting Tibet's development.

The modern press and publishing industry in Tibet started from scratch, and has developed rapidly. Now, Tibet has two publishing houses for books, and two for audio-visual products; 35 printing houses of various types; 23 openly distributed newspapers and 34 periodicals; each of Tibet's seven prefectures and (prefecture-level) cities has newspapers in Tibetan and Han Chinese. Tibet has nine radio and TV stations, 39 medium-wave transmitting and relay stations, 76 FM radio transmitting and relay stations above the county level, 80 TV transmitting stations above the county (including port city) level, 76 cable TV transmitting stations and 9,111 radio and TV stations at the township and village levels. From 1978 to 2008, the radio and TV coverage rates in Tibet have risen from 18 percent and 2 percent to 88.8 percent and 89.9 percent, respectively, achieving the target of extending radio and TV coverage to each town and administrative village of the region. In addition, there are 564 movie-projection agencies, 82 movie-projection management agencies, 478 projection teams and 7,697 projection locations in Tibet's farming and pastoral areas, covering 98 percent of the region's administrative villages, with each farmer or herder watching 1.6 movies per month. Besides, there are 257 public art and cultural centers at all levels, 10 professional art performance troupes, 18 folk art performance troupes, and 660 amateur performance teams. The development of the media and cultural services provide convenience for the people in Tibet to acquire the latest news, get access to knowledge and information, and entertain themselves in their spare time, enriching their cultural life.


Over the past 50 years, tremendous changes have taken place in Tibet, as it has experienced a process from darkness to brightness, from poverty to prosperity, from autocratic rule to democracy, and from self-seclusion to opening up. At present, Tibet is in its best period of historical development with rapid economic and social progress, cultural prosperity, improved lives, ethnic unity, and a good government and a united people.

History has convincingly proved that instituting the democratic reform in this region of over 1.2 million square km and abolishing the centuries-old feudal serfdom of theocracy to emancipate the million serfs and slaves was of great significance not only in the history of China's human rights development, but also in the world's anti-slavery history. This is a great page in the progress of human civilization that will shine throughout the ages. Without the democratic reform, there would have been no emancipation of the laborers constituting 95 percent of the Tibetan population, no frog-leaping social progress and human rights development in Tibet, and no happy life for all the ethnic groups in Tibet today.

History has convincingly proved that the 14th Dalai Lama and his political clique are the chief representatives of old Tibet's theocratic feudal serfdom and a small number of serf-owners who monopolized with vested interests old Tibet's political, economic and cultural resources. There are fundamental conflicts of interests between them and the Tibetan laboring people who constitute the overwhelming majority of the Tibetan population, and there are irreconcilable and profound contradictions between them and the need for social progress in Tibet as well as the rules for the development of human society. This means that the Dalai clique is destined to remain anti-democratic reform, that they will not quit the stage of history and give up their privileges by themselves, and that they will not concede defeat. Fifty years ago, the Dalai clique staged an armed rebellion, aiming to separate Tibet from the motherland so as to maintain the theocratic feudal serfdom and to preserve their privileges forever. Since they fled abroad 50 years ago, they have never stopped trying to restore the system of theocratic feudal serfdom. With the support of anti-China forces, they have set up and maintained a so-called "Tibetan government-in-exile" with the 14th Dalai Lama as the theocratic leader, never ceasing their separatist activities to sabotage the steady development of Tibet. They have turned black into white in an attempt to mislead the international community, pretending to be speaking on behalf of the "Tibetan people." They whitewash the old Tibetan society of feudal serfdom under theocracy as some sort of Shangri-la, denigrating the implementation of the democratic reform to promote social progress as "destruction of culture and religion" and "infringement of human rights." This shows how they hated to see the abolition of the theocratic feudal serfdom, to see the loss of the serf-owners' privileges, how they hate to see the Tibetans and people of other ethnic groups becoming their own masters under the socialist democratic system, and leading a happy and peaceful life; and how they long to restore the feudal serfdom of theocracy that has been swept into the dustbin of history so as to regain the "paradise" under the rule of the feudal serf-owners. This also shows that our essential difference from and fight with the Dalai clique are not merely over the question of autonomy; this is a struggle between progress and reaction, unity and separation.

History has convincingly proved that abolition of serfdom, the liberation of serfs and slaves, and keeping national unity safe against separation are a progressive and just cause for the protection of human rights and maintenance of national sovereignty. Looking back upon history, the U.S. Government once started a four-year-long civil war against the secessionist South to abolish slavery, at a cost of over $15 billion, more than 1.1 million casualties and other incalculable losses. President Abraham Lincoln was crowned with eternal glory for leading the war, and is still extolled by the American people today, as well as by other people all around the globe. When the Dalai clique staged the large-scale armed rebellion to retain the theocratic feudal serfdom and to split the country, the Chinese Government took actions to quell the rebellion for the sake of defending national unity and emancipating the serfs and slaves of Tibet. The historical significance of this righteous action is entirely comparable to the emancipation of the slaves in the American civil war. Yet the Western anti-China forces simply ignore the historical facts and confuse right and wrong by exalting the 14th Dalai Lama--chief representative of the theocratic feudal serfdom and the Tibetan serf-owners--as a "guardian of human rights," "peace envoy," and "spiritual leader," and accusing the Chinese Government that abolished feudal serfdom and emancipated the serfs and slaves of "trespassing on human rights." This is totally absurd, and provokes deep thought. In fact, the so-called "Tibet issue" was the outcome of the imperialist attempts to partition China in modern times, as a part of the big powers' conspiracy to turn China into a colony or semi-colony. The armed rebellion staged by the Dalai clique to split the country in 1959 was supported and instigated by imperialist forces. Ever since the Dalai clique went into exile, Western anti-China forces have never ceased their instigation and training of the Dalai clique to support their split and sabotage activities. It is thus clear that the so-called "Tibet issue" is by no means an ethnic, religious and human rights issue; rather, it is the Western anti-China forces' attempt to restrain, split, and demonize China.

History has also convincingly proved that there is no way to restore the old order, and there is no prospect for the success of any separatist attempt. Time goes by, and social progress is inevitable; this is a historical trend no one can resist. The will of the people of all ethnic groups in China, including the Tibetans, shall never be shaken from safeguarding national unity and sovereignty, from following the socialist road with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, from holding on to the system of regional ethnic autonomy, from promoting the realization of modernization in Tibet, and from building a new, united and democratic Tibet with a prosperous, civilized and harmonious society. There is no way for the Dalai clique to uphold "Tibetan independence"; neither will it succeed in its attempt to seek semi-independence or covert Tibetan independence under the banner of "a high degree of autonomy." Whatever pretexts the Dalai clique uses to try to turn back the wheel of history and to restore the rule of feudal serfdom, the Tibetan people and people of other ethnic groups who personally experienced the misery under the serfdom system in contrast to the happy life in Tibet today will never allow it, and the Dalai clique's attempts are doomed to failure. The only way out for the 14th Dalai Lama is to give up advocating "Tibetan independence" and any attempt to restore the old system, admit that Tibet is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, disband the so-called "Tibetan government-in-exile" and stop all his activities aimed at splitting the country. The 14th Dalai Lama must thoroughly reflect upon and change his political position and behavior. The Central Government has opened and will always keep open its door for the 14th Dalai Lama to return to a patriotic stand.


1. The Unveiling of Lhasa, Edmund Candler. London: Pentagon, 2007.

2. The Unveiling of Lhasa, Edmund Candler. London: Pentagon, 2007.

3. Portrait of A Dalai Lama: The Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth, Charles Bell. London: Collins, 1946.

4. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, Melvyn C. Goldstein. California: University of California, 1991.

5. A Buddhist Pilgrim to the Holy Place of Tibet, Gombojab Tsebekovitch Tsybikoff.

6. The Land of the Lama, David MacDonald.

7. "A Great Turn in the Development of Tibetan History," Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme. China Tibetology quarterly, Issue 1 of 1991, Beijing.

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