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China Applauds Itself Ahead of New Tibetan Holiday


On the eve of a government-declared holiday to celebrate 50 years of Chinese Communist rule in Tibet, Chinese officials are emphasizing the material improvements made in the lives of ordinary Tibetans.

The Chinese government is applauding itself for overturning Tibet's feudal hierarchy 50 years ago.

In 1959, Tibet's top spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled his homeland and Beijing crushed a failed uprising against Chinese rule. China says this is when it brought democratic reform to Tibet, and it is celebrating the event Saturday with a new holiday called "Serf Emancipation Day."

Senior Communist Party leaders and former Tibetan serfs gathered Friday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Gyaltsen Norbu, the young man Beijing installed as Tibet's second highest-ranking spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama, spoke in Tibetan when he gave his upbeat assessment.

He says the lives of the masses are moving towards wealth and civilization, and the Tibetan future is as bright as the endless light of the golden sun.

The Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama switched to Mandarin Chinese, though, when he spoke of how Tibet's ethnic, cultural and religious freedoms are protected by Chinese law.

He says only under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party can Tibet enjoy the development and prosperity it has today, and have such a bright future.

The chairman of China's main government advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, promised that development in Tibet will continue.

Jia says China should make big efforts to promote what he described as the "leaping forward" of development in Tibet. He said development is the foundation for solving all of Tibet's problems.

This point was made clear in a Chinese-government circulated video, called "A Perspective of the Lhasa Riot," which presents Beijing's view of last year's anti-Chinese violence in the Tibetan capital.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang brought out the DVD at a regular briefing Thursday.

Qin says he takes note of a separate controversy, in which a video of Chinese police brutality against Tibetans in custody was posted on the Internet. He dismissed the other video, but waved the Chinese DVD in front of foreign reporters and challenged them to have their news agencies run the Chinese version online.

The controversial video of Chinese police brutality against Tibetans was recently posted on the website YouTube, which subsequently became inaccessible in China.

Despite the Chinese government's attempts at painting a completely rosy picture of life in Tibet, authorities have also stepped up security there, to try to prevent any unrest.

One monk, whose identity has been withheld for his own safety, is worried.

He says monks are afraid, and he is afraid. He says they are afraid of the situation, which he describes as very tense.

The Chinese government repeatedly criticizes foreign journalists for distorted reporting about Tibet. At the same time, Beijing has made it nearly impossible for foreign reporters to go there. And authorities recently have even been stopping foreign reporters from visiting Tibetan areas outside of Tibet that Chinese regulations say are open.

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