- China - Dalai Lama - Tibet
AFP - Chinese authorities on Saturday launched a new national holiday, "Serfs' Liberation Day," to mark the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibet uprising that forced the Dalai Lama into exile.
The Chinese flag was raised in front of the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa where more than 13,000 people, most wearing Tibetan traditional dress, stood for the national anthem in a ceremony broadcast on state television.
The government has said the holiday, which coincides with the quelling of an anti-Chinese uprising in the Himalayan region 50 years ago, marks the end "feudalism" in Tibet.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after sending in troops to "liberate" the Himalayan region the previous year, and Beijing has long maintained that its rule ended a Buddhist theocracy that enslaved all but the religious elite.
Speakers including a soldier, a self-described former serf and the region's top Communist official told the crowd in Lhasa that the region's past poverty was due to a system of exploitation overseen by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.
Chinese authorities, apparently fearing that not everyone shares the celebratory mood, have launched a massive security clampdown in recent weeks in Tibet to quell possible unrest related to the anniversary.
Last year, widespread demonstrations and riots erupted throughout Tibet as Tibetans called for greater religious freedom and autonomy from Beijing's rule.
One Friday, Beijing's choice as the second highest Tibetan spiritual figure, the Panchen Lama, addressed an international gathering of Buddhists in the eastern city of Wuxi, state media reported.
"The serfs' emancipation is wholly in line with Buddhist principles, and the pursuit for selflessness by Communists is also a basic Buddhist virtue," the Panchen Lama told top officials in Beijing on Friday.
Friday's address was the latest in a series of appearances by the 19-year-old Panchen Lama that experts are calling a propaganda offensive against the Dalai Lama.
Years of discussions between the Dalai Lama and Beijing over the parameters of "Tibetan autonomy" have not resulted in any significant changes in the nature of China's rule over the Himalayan region.