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China Hails 50 Years of Progress in Tibet Ahead of Dalai-Bush Talks

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/05/24; May 24, 2001.]

BEIJING, May 23 (AFP) - China Wednesday hailed its 50 years of rule in Tibet since Chinese troops took control of the territory as the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, prepared to meet US President George W. Bush.

State-controlled Chinese newspapers filled their pages with commentaries justifying the decision to send troops into Tibet in 1950 and the May 23, 1951 signing of the "17-Point Agreement" with Tibetan representatives which formalized the Chinese takeover of Tibet.

The invasion was a "peaceful liberation" of Tibetans from foreign imperialists forces and the feudal serf system, which subjected more than 95 percent of Tibetans to a life as serfs and slaves, said a commentary in the China Daily.

"Fifty years ago, there were no rights guaranteeing that the serfs and their sons and daughters could go to school.

"Fifty years ago, the Tibetan serfs had no right to even minimal medical care. Life expectancy in Tibet was 36 years. Today that figure has risen to 65," the commentary said.

The government also used the anniversary to renew its attacks on the Dalai Lama ahead of his meeting with Bush at the White House later Wednesday.

"The Dalai Lama talks loudest when he talks about religious freedom. However, he ignores the fact that under his rule, most of the Tibetan serfs who even had no proper homes of their own simply couldn't afford to build their own small Buddhist niches," the editorial said.

Beijing reviles the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking independence and the break-up of China. The Dalai, who fled Tibet after an abortive anti-China uprising in 1959, campaigns around the world from his base in northern India for greater Tibetan autonomy.

The White House says Bush is meeting the Dalai Lama purely as a prominent religious figure and not as a political leader, but China has rejected that explanation and strongly protested against the meeting.

In a letter published in the People's Daily, the communist party committee in Tibet vowed to "continue to deepen the anti-splittist struggle" -- jargon for their campaign against the Dalai Lama and autonomy.

"Our struggle with the Dalai clique is related to the basic or fundamental interest of the nation and the people. It's a serious political struggle ... There should be no compromise," it said.

Tibet human rights monitors however condemned Beijing for trying to use the 17-Point Agreement -- which has been renounced by Tibetans as a document signed under duress -- to legitimize its control over Tibet.

"The 50th anniversary celebration of the agreement will not whitewash this vital fact or the atrocities committed on the Tibetan people in the name of liberation by the occupying power," said the New York-based Office of Tibet.

"China will also use the anniversary to deepen economic development policies designed to further integrate Tibet with China."

The London-based Tibet Information Network said the Chinese media coverage reflects Beijing's frustration at the loyalty among Tibetans for the Dalai Lama and the welcome he receives from Western governments.

Tibetans have been warned their salaries or pensions would be withheld if they failed to participate in the anniversary festivities, the New York group said.

China has also sent delegations overseas to sell the Chinese argument about the "benefits" its rule has brought to Tibetans.

Beijing considers its control of Tibet crucial for strategic purposes and has argued that Tibet has historically been a part of China. It has ruled Tibet with an iron fist, restricting religious activities and arresting anyone who questions its authority.

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