China launched a new holiday Saturday, "Serfs' Emancipation Day," to mark the 50th anniversary of the communist government's overturning of the region's feudal system.

The Chinese flag was raised at a televised ceremony in front of the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital of Lhasa, and a crowd of 13,000 heard testimonials from Tibetans who praised the Chinese administration and denounced Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama fled his homeland after Beijing crushed an uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.  China says that is when it brought democratic reform to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, however, says that over the past five decades China has killed hundreds of thousands of Tibetans and turned the region into "hell on earth."

At a gathering Friday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Communist Party officials and the second highest-ranking Tibetan spiritual leader, Gyaltsen Norbu, praised China for bringing wealth and civilization to the remote region. Gyaltsen Norbu was given his high position in Tibetan Buddhism with Beijing's approval.

While the Chinese government is trying to paint a positive picture of life in Tibet, authorities are also stepping up security to prevent more unrest.

The Chinese government has repeatedly accused foreign journalists of distorted reporting about Tibet.  At the same time, Beijing has made it nearly impossible for foreign reporters to travel there to verify what is sparking continued unrest.