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Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Holiday marks Tibet 'liberation'

The Tibetan capital, Lhasa
China says it liberated Tibet from centuries of serfdom

The Chinese authorities have marked the inaugural "Serfs' Liberation Day" with ceremonies and speeches extolling the virtue of Chinese development in Tibet.

"Any plots to make Tibet independent... are bound to fail," said Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist Party chief.

The holiday, which marks the start of Beijing's direct rule of Tibet in 1959, was announced last year after Tibetans joined violent protests against China.

The Free Tibet group said all China had to offer was intensifying repression.

Beijing says it liberated Tibet from the dark ages, freeing the population from medieval-style feudal slavery and bringing prosperity to its people.

A crowd of more than 13,000 watched the Serf's Liberation Day ceremony in front of Tibet's famed Potala Palace. National television broadcast the 75-minute event live.

Nowadays we have roads, televisions and telephones... all made possible by the Communist Party
69-year-old Tibetan

A man describing himself as a former serf, a student and military officials joined Mr Zhang in praising the economic development brought by China and denouncing the exiled former Buddhist theocracy that ruled Tibet.

"Nowadays we have roads, we have televisions and telephones, children go to schools, and we have savings in the banks, all made possible by the Communist Party," said one Tibetan man who had been born into what he described as a serf family in 1940.

But critics of Beijing rule say Tibetans feel excluded from China's considerable economic investment in the region which has mainly benefited the Han Chinese who have migrated there in massive numbers.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says 50 years of Chinese control has left Tibetans with little political or religious freedom.

Troops

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was predictably vilified by speakers on Serfs' Liberation Day and in the run-up to the holiday.

The rival Panchen Lama - the Chinese supported leader of Tibetan Buddhists - told a gathering of monks in Wuxi, eastern China that the event proved the country enjoys social harmony, stability and religious freedom.

The Communist Party has been relentless in promoting its view of an improved contented Tibet.

Protesting Tibetans
Anti-Chinese protests in Tibet in 2008

State-controlled newspapers, television and a museum exhibition have lauded Chinese rule.

The Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that the region is peaceful and stable but that may be thanks to the thousands of paramilitary troops and police who have been stationed there since last year's trouble.

A year on from protests in Lhasa and surrounding areas over Chinese rule, the Communist government still forbids foreign journalists from reporting freely from the region.



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