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New Beijing Exhibit Gives China's Version of Tibet Story


The Chinese government has stepped up criticism of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, who fled to India 50 years ago after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in his homeland. China has also increased security in Tibet and Tibetan areas of China, as it prepares to celebrate what it is calling "Serf Emancipation Day (March 28)." The holiday will mark the 50th anniversary of when it says it brought democratic reform to a dark and feudal Tibet.

Visitors to Beijing's Palace of the Nationalities are transported thousands of kilometers away, to Tibet's holiest monastery, the Potala Palace.

In the exhibit, China's version of the Tibet story is on view. Many Chinese visitors welcome the introduction to an almost foreign culture.

As China prepares to celebrate what it calls the 50th anniversary of democratic reforms in Tibet, the government is stressing the remote Himalayan region's history - before and after the 1949 founding of the People's Republic of China.

Visitors are shown pictures and exhibits that contrast how Tibetan serfs and their feudal masters lived before China took over.

In 1951, Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Tibetan representative Ngapo Ngawang Jigme signed an agreement formalizing what China calls the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

Beijing says aside from democratic reform, Chinese rule brought a higher standard of living for the six million Tibetans, and it is celebrating its proclaimed achievements with a holiday.

But last March, a peaceful demonstration in Tibet in support of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama turned into violent anti-Chinese riots. The Chinese government says 19 people were killed, although Tibetan activists say the number is much higher.

Western media coverage of the unrest angered many Chinese. They felt western news reports unfairly vilified the Chinese government.

The anger intensified after Tibetan activists disrupted the international leg of the Olympic torch relay.

Recently, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that 50 years after Communist China took over in Tibet, things are going well.

"The truth is that Tibet's peace and stability and continued progress have proven that our policies are right," he said.

To ensure there is no unrest this year, the Chinese government has sent more paramilitary troops and police to Tibet and Tibetan areas in China.

One Tibetan monk in Gansu province, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, says he is afraid.

Despite the government's repeated pronouncements that things in Tibet are fine, Tibet is mostly off limits for foreign journalists. The authorities have even prevented foreign reporters from visiting Tibetan areas outside of Tibet that Chinese regulations say are open.

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