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Thousands gather to celebrate serfs day

A GRAND celebration to mark Tibet's first Serfs Emancipation Day was held yesterday morning at the square in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

The event was presided over in both Tibetan and Mandarin languages by Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government of Tibet, and attended by about 13,280 people.

After the national flag was hoisted against the backdrop of the grand Potala Palace and snow-capped mountains in the distance, representatives of former serfs, soldiers from the People's Liberation Army and students delivered speeches.

Tsondre, a 69-year-old farmer from the suburbs of Lhasa, recalled changes in his life after the democratic reform.

"I was born to a serf's family and was made a monk in the Sera Monastery when I was young," said the old man, adding that he would never forget his tragedy.

He cited a Tibetan adage to describe the misery of serfs: "All that I can take is my own shadow, all that I can leave are my footprints."

He was at the lowest level in the monastery, doing all kinds of chores throughout the year without getting enough to eat.

"Due to hunger, many people like me went out to beg for food, but if we were discovered by high-level monks, we could be clubbed or whipped," he recalled.

Sun Huanxun, a PLA veteran who went to Tibet in 1950 and stayed there, recalled what he saw in Lhasa before the democratic reform.

"Slaves wailed and begged from passers-by, some of them had their legs chopped by the landlords, some had their eyes gouged out and some were without hands," he said.

In contrast, the landlords were in luxurious dress, some riding on the backs of their slaves. "Hung whips, knives and shackles hung in their houses," he added.

Tibet's Communist Party Chief Zhang Qingli said: "Burying feudal serfdom and liberating the 1 million slaves in Tibet was a natural development in history ... A milestone in the worldwide campaign to abolish slavery, a sign of progress in human rights.

"Just as Europe couldn't return to the medieval era, and the United States couldn't go back to the times before the Civil War, Tibet would never restore the old system," Zhang said.

On March 28, 1959, the central government announced it would dissolve the aristocratic local government of Tibet and replace it with a preparatory committee for establishing the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Tibetan legislators endorsed a bill on January 19 to designate March 28 as an annual Serfs Emancipation Day, to mark the date on which about 1 million serfs in the region, accounting for 90 percent of the Tibetan population, were freed 50 years ago.


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