Full Text: Sixty Years Since Peaceful Liberation of Tibet

2. Implementing the Democratic Reform, abolishing feudal serfdom, and emancipating millions of serfs and the social productive forces, achieving the most profound social reform in the history of Tibet

Prior to the Democratic Reform, Tibet practiced a system of feudal serfdom under theocracy, which was darker and more backward than in Europe in the Middle Ages. The three major estate-holders - officials, nobles and upper-ranking monks in monasteries - accounted for less than five percent of Tibet's total population but owned all the farmland, pastures, forests, mountains and rivers, and the majority of the livestock. The serfs and slaves, accounting for more than 95 percent of the population, had no means of production or freedom of their own. They were not only subjected to the three-fold exploitation of corvee labor, taxes and high-interest loans, but also suffered cruel political oppression and punishment rarely seen in world history. Their lives were no more than struggles for existence. Thus, reforming the social system of Tibet was an inevitable requirement of social development and the fundamental aspiration of the Tibetan people. In consideration of the special conditions of Tibet, the 17-Article Agreement stipulated that "the Central Authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet;" "in matters related to various reforms in Tibet, there will be no compulsion on the part of the Central Authorities. The local government of Tibet shall carry out reforms of its own accord, and when the people raise demands for reform, they shall be settled by means of consultation with the leading personnel of Tibet." After Tibet was liberated peacefully, the Central People's Government adopted a very prudent and tolerant attitude toward the reform of its social system, hoping to persuade the people of the local ruling class of the need for reform and waiting patiently for them to take initiative to start the social reform. But the serf owners were totally opposed to any reform which would mean giving up their privileges, and sabotaged the 17-Article Agreement and plotted a series of activities to split Tibet from China, which ended in a full-scale insurrection in 1959.

In order to safeguard the unity of the nation and the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people, the Central People's Government, together with the Tibetan people, took decisive measures to suppress the rebellion, dissolved the local government and carried out the Democratic Reform in Tibet, which fundamentally uprooted the feudal serfdom. Through this reform, the theocratic system was annulled to separate religion from government; the feudal serf owners' right to own means of production was abolished and private ownership by farmers and herdsmen was established; the serfs and slaves' personal bondage to the officials, nobles and upper-ranking monks was cancelled, and they won their freedom of the person. The Democratic Reform constituted an epoch-making change in the social progress of Tibet and its development of human rights. It emancipated a million of serfs and slaves politically, economically and in other aspects of social life, effectively promoted the development of social productive forces in Tibet and opened up the road towards modernization. The former serfs and slaves got over 186,000 hectares of land in the Democratic Reform and, in 1960, when the Democratic Reform was basically completed, the total grain yield of Tibet was 12.6 percent higher than in 1959 and 17.7 percent higher than in 1958 prior to the Reform. In addition, the total number of livestock was 9.9 percent higher than in 1959.

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