China’s Tibet: A story of progress | Analysis

BySun Weidong
Nov 05, 2019 06:23 PM IST

Tibet has been part of China since ancient times. It enjoys development and religious freedom

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the 60th anniversary of democratic reform in Tibet. Over the past 60 years, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, great changes have taken place in Tibet. Politically, the backward feudal serfdom was abolished and a socialist system with people as masters and regional ethnic autonomy was established. Economically, Tibet has enjoyed double-digit growth for 26 consecutive years. Its GDP in 2018 was 147.763 billion RMB Yuan, up by 9.1% year-on-year, a growth rate leading the country. Culturally, Tibetan language has become the first ethnic minority language in China to meet international standards. Books and cultural programmes in the Tibetan language are rich and colourful. In education, from a place with less than 2% of children school enrolment rate and 95% of youth illiteracy rate 70 years ago, it has progressed to boast a 9.55-year per capita schooling in 2018. In the religious field, it has over 1,700 religious sites and over 46,000 resident monks and nuns. Each year, millions of people come to Lhasa to worship the Buddha.

Those who claim “the Chinese government violates religious freedom of the Tibetan people” either have never been to Tibet or harbour ulterior motives(REUTERS)
Those who claim “the Chinese government violates religious freedom of the Tibetan people” either have never been to Tibet or harbour ulterior motives(REUTERS)

Tibet is a homeland shared by Tibetan and other ethnic groups of China. In the 7th century, the then Tibetan ruler Songtsan Gambo married Princess Wencheng of the Tang dynasty of China, and Buddhism was introduced into Tibet from the Tang Empire. In the 13th century, the Yuan dynasty brought Tibet under its direct administration. The following Ming dynasty continued to strengthen the administration of Tibet. During the Qing dynasty, the reincarnation system for living Buddhas was established in Tibet. Historical records prove that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times. In today’s world, it is universally recognised that Tibet is an integral part of China, and no country has ever recognised “Tibetan independence”. And there is no such thing as the so-called “political status” of Tibet.

In recent years, journalists from countries including India have visited Tibet. They have witnessed the economic and social achievements, religious freedom, and the happy life enjoyed by the Tibetan people. More and more people have begun to view the current situation in Tibet in a rational and objective light, and rethink the false accusations made by the Western media. The Chinese government protects citizens’ religious freedom according to its constitution and laws. Those who claim “the Chinese government violates religious freedom of the Tibetan people” either have never been to Tibet or harbour ulterior motives.

The reincarnation of the living Buddha is the unique inheritance system of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1653 and 1713, the Qing emperors granted honorific titles to the 5th Dalai Lama and the 5th Panchen Lama, officially establishing the titles of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni and their political and religious status in Tibet.

In 1793, the Qing government promulgated the ordinance by the Imperial House Concerning Better Governance in Tibet (29 Articles), stipulating that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and other living Buddhas shall follow the procedure of “draw of lots from the golden urn”, and that the selected candidate is subject to approval by the central authorities of China. The current 14th Dalai Lama was approved by the then national government of China and was enthroned through the “Sitting-in-Bed” ceremony in 1940. The 11th Panchen Lama was selected by a draw of lots from the golden urn, approved by the central government of the PRC and then enthroned through the “Sitting-in-Bed” ceremony in 1995. In 2007, the Chinese government promulgated the management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, putting the reincarnation of living Buddhas under the rule of law. At present, there are 1,331 living Buddhas in China, among which 356 are in Tibet. Their reincarnation must all comply with national laws and regulations, religious rituals and traditional customs.

On June 23, 2003, China and India signed the Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation Between the PRC and the Republic of India, in which India recognises that Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the PRC and India does not allow Tibetans to engage in political activities against China in India. This commitment was reaffirmed in subsequent bilateral documents between the two countries. China appreciates India’s position. It hopes and believes that India, as a responsible major country, will stick to its position, honour its commitments, resist interference on Tibet-related issues and promote the healthy and stable development of China-India relations.

Sun Weidong is the Chinese ambassador to India
The views expressed are personal
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