Jan 19

Serfs’ Emancipation Day for Tibet

Written by Steve on Monday, January 19th, 2009 at 4:01 pm
Filed under:-mini-posts, culture, education, General, News, politics, religion |
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The following article appeared in the BBC News Online today:

Serfs’ Emancipation Day for Tibet

By James Reynolds

China has declared a new annual holiday in Tibet called Serfs’ Emancipation Day, to mark the end of what it says was a system of feudal oppression.

The local parliament in Tibet has passed a bill which declares 28 March as the new holiday.

The announcement comes in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama.

The 49th anniversary a year ago led to widespread protests by monks and others in and around Tibet.

Emancipation or tragedy?

China’s position on Tibet is built on two beliefs – firstly, that Tibet is an integral part of Chinese sovereign territory, and secondly, it believes that the Chinese Communist Party liberated the Tibetan people from the oppressive feudal rule of the Dalai Lama.

China is keen to promote its beliefs – particularly because the 50th anniversary of the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama is just a few weeks away.

It was on March 28th 1959 that the Communist Party announced the dissolution of the existing local government in Tibet – following the Dalai Lama’s escape a few days’ beforehand.

China says that this move freed about one million Tibetans from serfdom and slavery.

But Tibetan groups in exile see it all very differently. For them, the events of March 1959 and the exile of the Dalai Lama from his homeland were a tragedy.

One exile group has called the new holiday an effort at rewriting history, which is provocative and irresponsible.

The official Chinese government position was expressed in this article from the China Daily.

What is your opinion of this holiday? Will it be celebrated among the Tibetans, or used as a reason to protest? What do you think will happen on March 28th when it is celebrated for the first time?

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75 Responses to “Serfs’ Emancipation Day for Tibet”

  1. pug_ster Says:

    We will probably see the usual suspects protesting on that holiday. It will depend on what the Western Countries will react to this. My guess is that Western countries will have bigger things to worry about like the recession so this news will be nothing be more than a footnote in Western Media. Besides, I don’t think the Brits like what July 4th stands for anyways.

  2. Jed Yoong Says:

    Pardon me, I feel Tibetan feudalism is worse than traditional feudalism. The priests truly have absolute power over the populace. Anyway, why is the Dalai Lama going round pretending to be the reincarnation of Buddha?

  3. Steve Says:

    @ pug_ster: I think they’ll be a couple of articles in western media similar to this BBC one, plus a few editorials that’ll side with Tibetan independence which will engender a huge reaction on the Chinese side while 99% of westerners won’t read the editorials and will have no idea about the holiday nor any interest in learning about it.

    @ Jed Yoong: Did you get a chance to read the link from China Daily? I’d recommend it to get a good idea of the CCP position and their reasons for the holiday.

    You asked, “Anyway, why is the Dalai Lama going round pretending to be the reincarnation of Buddha?”

    In the China Daily article, there was this passage, “Xinza Danzengquzha, 68, a living Buddha in Nagarze, Xigaze, said: “People brought out the contracts and burned them, dancing and singing around the fire.” Also a lawmaker, the former aristocrat said he learned a lot in his work after reform, including carpentry and painting. He later worked as an editor and translator of Tibetan books and documents. He studied for three years in Beijing and went abroad several times for research. “My horizons were broadened by reform,” he said. Meanwhile, as a living Buddha, he still performs Buddhist rites.”

    So apparently there are many living Buddhas in Tibet and since this partcular living Buddha has the support of the CCP, it seems they are not against that aspect of the religion but specifically the Dalai Lama himself. We have many bloggers far more knowledgeable about Tibet than I am, so maybe they can give you a better answer.

  4. pug_ster Says:

    I think it really depends on what the Pro-Independence TYC does. Perhaps they will do their usual protests at New Delhi, Nepal, etc… or they will go to the extreme and like the incident at Lhasa last year. In any case, the only way to grab the headline is violence and by the way China reacted to violence last year, I doubt that the TYC will get their way.

  5. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Well, not a bad way to show some sincerity in your negotiations with the Dalai Lama, while pulling a shameless political stunt like this. I wonder how many Tibetans will be genuinely “celebrating” the CHinese invasion on that anniversary? I also wonder how many Tibetans will be rounded up and “asked” to wave little 5-star flags for the benefit of the CCTV cameras?

    I hope Tibetans don’t riot over this one. The best way to show their disdain would be to completely ignore the whole thing, like it doesn’t exist.

  6. Otto Kerner Says:

    You know, when I first heard about this, my initial reaction, “Hmmm, maybe this is something that everyone can agree on”. But, upon further reflection … no. Maybe if they wanted to have a holiday to celebrate the end of serfdom on the date of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in the 1970s. But I don’t see why any sensible person would celebrate the beginning of the horrendous suffering and chaos of late 1950s and 1960s-era Tibet.

  7. Otto Kerner Says:


    I think you’ve got the right impression (by the way, usually nobody but Chinese propaganda sources uses the term “living buddha”; other English sources usually say “tulku”, or some wordier expression). Back during the Cultural Revolution, the government used to suppress all the tulkus, but in the modern period they are interested in working together with “patriotic” tulkus — there are quite a few of those now, with varying degrees of patriotism. I don’t think Chinese government sources ever criticise the Dalai Lama specifically for his religious role, I suppose because the government is interested in using religion to mollify the public.

  8. Haiz Says:

    I just really hoped nothing big happen in the year 2009 so that March 2008 tragedy will slowly dissolve. I see this Serf Emancipation Day event as very provocative action. If such anniversary is really needed and people and government sincerely want to preserve, then that should have been started earlier or later, not just as a response to March incident.
    According to my understanding, lots of following tragedy of March incident were aroused by unwisely-planed patriotic education campaign. So, this serfdom ending function may also serve for further trouble. Actually, on Tibetan language forums in China, this action is already condemned severely, saying that this is purportedly to insult the value of Tibetan people’s lives by the other ethnicity. When I first about saw this on local news, I thought the central government will intervene in this and may ask local authority to delay this for a while, but that didn’t happen.
    According to my knowledge, almost all the Tibetan areas have unofficially decided not to celebrate coming new (or spring festival for Amdo region) in memorial of those died or imprisoned during March incident. By looking at this fact, I am not sure what the public response will be for this function.

  9. Ted Says:

    I don’t quite understand this comment from the China Daily article:

    “Gaisang Yeshes showed understanding of these criticisms. “The day was a festival to most Tibetan people, but doomsday to a few others,” he said.

    The professor compared the day to Sept. 22, 1862, when slaves were freed in the United States by the milestone “Emancipation Proclamation” signed by then US President Abraham Lincoln.

    “But the difference is, Tibetan people soon gained the right to vote, while black people still struggled for voting rights 100 years later,” he said.

    Gaisang from Xigaze said he was proud to have become a lawmaker when he started life as the son of a serf. “Now I can vote, with a say in the decision-making of the government,” he said. “This was unimaginable half a century ago. People were then praying all day not to be beaten.””

    Giving the author and speaker a tremendous amount of latitude, that still amounts to at best a horribly uninformed opinion and at worst an outright lie. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1870 and in the same year, John Rainey was elected to the House of Representatives from the state that started the Civil War.

    I’m sure Gaisang Yeshes is as proud as Rainey was to be a lawmaker, but I doubt that Rainey would have said that everything back in old South Carolina is just hunky dory at any time during his service. I guess it’s nice to know that Tibetans aren’t still struggling to be heard and can fully exercise their rights.



  10. Jerry Says:

    Ted: Voting rights act of 1870? Whaa? You thinking about the 15th amendment, which was ratified in a reconstruction congress (no southern states) and certainly not enforced in the south. There are quite a few ‘voting rights act’ following that in U.S. history, but the famous one that ended literacy tests/voting prereqs and gave real voting rights to blacks was passed in 1965. Although I really hate wikipedia as a ‘source,’ the 1st google search for ‘voting rights act’ does point to the right one.

    And just a side note, wikipedia is crap. Please don’t link to it if you’re going to link at all.

  11. Paulo Says:

    Tibetans got the right to vote…on what exactly? If the guy in the China Daily article wants to compare with the US, I’d say…the day a Tibetan, or half Tibetan for that matter, gets elected to become China’s president, and Tibetans have the right to vote for said President, then, and only then, can they make such a comparison.

  12. Leo Says:


    Chinese citizens do have right to elect their local councils and parliaments, which is not as good as a national election but a big step from absolutely no rights or completely serfdom.

  13. Leo Says:


    I thought China-controlled Tibet was an absolute police state and people absolutely have nowhere to air their free opinions and all the forums were censored and infected with commie shells.

  14. Wukailong Says:

    @Jerry: Back from Hongkong?

    I agree there are problems with Wikipedia (saying that gives me some leeway, in the same way that saying Mao’s policies were problematic does – but I digress), but as a first approximation it often does its job well. And that brings me to this:

    @Jed Yoong (#2): I’m not sure I would call the Tibetan system prior to the 1950s “feudal” because the term originated as a way to describe the European system before the industrialized society.


    Other places have had quite different systems and now the term has somehow degenerated into describing something between “medieval” and “horrible”. Even in Marxist parlance, which is what Chinese intellectuals in PRC used (and still use, to a certain extent) to describe the world, Tibet wouldn’t be feudal, it would be a slave society (and a “serf” one at that to denote farming slaves), which is what comes before feudal.

    Then there’s this discussion about whether there ever was such a thing as feudalism:


    Finally, there was a discussion in a thread on this blog some time ago about the two systems existing in Tibet before the fifties (the tribal system as opposed to the serf system). Does someone remember where that discussion was?

  15. Wukailong Says:

    @Otto (#7): I don’t think 活佛 is a propagandistic way of referring to tulkus, but rather an inadequate translation into Mandarin. It’s a bit like how books in Chinese translated from English render “meditation” (as in a meditation practice) as 冥想 which is not at all what it is about. I’ve reacted to how people use the word 喇嘛 to refer to a lamaist monk rather than a teacher, but I think we’ll better accept that translations will often be quite lacking.

    An English example is how “bad karma” is used to describe misfortune, but in Buddhism, for example, the fruits of one’s bad deeds is referred to as vipaka, not karma.

  16. Ted Says:

    @ Jerry: “Voting rights act of 1870? Whaa? You thinking about the 15th amendment, which was ratified in a reconstruction congress (no southern states) and certainly not enforced in the south.”

    Your’s was my reaction to the China Daily article 🙂 Maybe my meaning didn’t come through. I’ll try again, please bear with…

    –In 1870, African-Americans were granted the right to vote–

    Knowing what I know it would be painful to write something like that and then go on to suggest that African-Americans could actually exercise those rights at the time. But apparently China Daily and its sources have no qualms using such empty rhetoric about Tibet. To suggest that the rights of Tibetans 30, 40, or 50 years ago were the same as those of African-Americans today is an outrageous stretch. And how can anyone imply that there is no struggle/unrest in Tibet when there were riots just a few months ago.

    Presenting the emancipation of the serfs as something to celebrate is one thing, but to whitewash everything around it is a mistake that will only lengthen the issues in the region. Without discussion, this will give a lot of people yet another reason to say “look how much we have done for you.” A phrase I heard plenty back home and have heard plenty here.

    A short while back, I had a conversation with a very interesting Chinese scholar who did not dodge the issue of ethnic tension in China. In fact, knowing that I would not voluntarily broach such a subject, she brought it up on her own looking for an unvarnished outsider’s opinion. I don’t understand why it is so difficult to have that discussion in the general public.

    N.B. Point taken about my mislabeling of the 15th Amendment.

  17. Wukailong Says:

    Comment number 8 is neither personal nor nonsensical. To me it looks like it was voted down because it was an unwelcome opinion by some. Personally, I would prefer if we vote on content and tone rather than on whether we like said opinion or not.

  18. Wukailong Says:

    @Ted (#16): “And how can anyone imply that there is no struggle/unrest in Tibet when there were riots just a few months ago.”

    Part of the problem lies here. Many Chinese sincerely believe that there is next to no opposition in Tibet towards the authorities, and that all problems (I mean all) are created by the evil Dalai splittist clique.

  19. Steve Says:

    I have a question for the group~

    Whether this holiday should or should not exist is moot at this point; it exists. So for me, the real question is what will happen on March 28th. There are three ways I can imagine to respond to this holiday in Tibet:
    1) Celebrate it
    2) Ignore it
    3) Protest it

    I’m assuming that there will be huge government sponsored celebrations on that day. Haiz has heard that Tibetans may just ignore it. What do you think? We’ve had two sets of opinions in the past on this blog concerning the Tibetans themselves and how they feel. One set believes they support the Chinese government and welcome the material progress,etc. and the other believes they long for the return of the DL and prefer greater autonomy. Will their reaction on March 28th give us a better indication as to which way they really lean?

    Welcome back, Jerry! Hope you and Boo had a great time in HK. 😛

  20. Wahaha Says:

    ” Part of the problem lies here. Many Chinese sincerely believe that there is next to no opposition in Tibet towards the authorities, and that all problems (I mean all) are created by the evil Dalai splittist clique. ”


    20 years ago, AS A HAN CHINESE, I could go to a monstary, ALONE, in a town with no more than 15 han chinese and didn have to worry about my own safety.

    So there must be some cliques that have stirred the pot, people like Sarkozy ?

  21. FOARP Says:

    “Besides, I don’t think the Brits like what July 4th stands for anyways.”

    The day when the Americans conquer Britain, crush all opposition and force us to celebrate July the 4th, is the day you might actually have a point.

  22. FOARP Says:

    In the meantime, I can’t see this as anything but a stupidly provocative move designed to show how happy Tibet is with PRC rule, and not likely to be taken seriously by anyone. I don’t even think most PRC citizens will look that kindly on it.

  23. pug_ster Says:

    @21 FOARP

    Why not? Most of the Tibetans who lived are descendent of Serfs or a former Serf themselves. The people whom they are liberated from left the country on their own.

  24. Wahaha Says:


    …….Resentment against the Chinese in Tibet spilled over last March, when Buddhist monks initiated peaceful anti-Chinese protests — on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising — in the regional capital of Lhasa.

    The protests soon turned violent, with demonstrators burning vehicles and shops. Some protesters advocated independence from China, while others demonstrated against the growing influence of the Han Chinese in the area and other regions of China with ethnic Tibetan populations.

    The subsequent crackdown left 18 civilians and one police officer dead, according to the Chinese government. Tibet’s self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140…….


    The crackdown caused the death of 18 civilians ?

    When will these media @$$holes stop spurting their BS ? dont they know what they ate last night ?

  25. FOARP Says:

    @Wahahaha – You might not have noticed this, but Tibet was arguably more violent 20 years ago, not less. The 1989 riots were far worse than the ones last year. I’ve known people who’ve visited plenty of nasty places, everywhere from Afghanistan to Libya, and never came to any harm, this is not because there is not a sensitive political situation in those places, but because people do not usually treat individual visitors as a threat or a target. As for the Tibetan Serfs, I doubt they liked living in feudal servitude, but I also doubt they liked being ‘liberated’ by the CCP. I’ve met several Tibetans, both inside and outside China, and none had anything good to say about the ‘liberation’ – especially since the ‘liberation’ came at bayonet point.

  26. Wahaha Says:


    Two words & one number : strasbourg proposal & 1988.

    I went to Tibet in 1986.

  27. Steve Says:

    @ Wahaha #20: I’ve had several Han Chinese friends take trips to the Tibetan areas, though in Sichuan and not the TAR, and they have all raved about how nice the people are and how well they were treated. Their experiences match yours, and these trips were in the last few years.

    I would be surprised to learn that many people in the Tibetan areas even know who Sarkozy is. I can’t see anything he’s done in the time he’s been in office, which has only been eight months, that would affect Tibetan opinion. He might have some effect on French opinion but certainly not American opinion and probably not any other country besides his own.

    What does 1988’s Strasbourg Proposal have to do with this holiday? I’m not following your argument there…

  28. admin Says:


    Wahaha was talking about the Dalai Lama’s Strasbourg Proposal 1988 ( http://www.dalailama.com/page.96.htm )

  29. Steve Says:

    @ Wahaha & admin: I had actually found this site and read up on it, but couldn’t make the connection with the current holiday. Wahaha, I figured you were making a point but I wasn’t sure what it was. 🙂

  30. Wukailong Says:

    @Wahaha (#20):

    “20 years ago, AS A HAN CHINESE, I could go to a monstary, ALONE, in a town with no more than 15 han chinese and didn have to worry about my own safety.

    So there must be some cliques that have stirred the pot, people like Sarkozy ?”

    – Apparently you can still safely go to a monastery, alone, so that point is not valid. But please post anything that shows I’m wrong.
    – That there are riots doesn’t automatically mean that there are “cliques that have stirred the pot” (though it can of course be true).
    – How exactly do you mean that Sarkozy is involved in causing riots or other problems in Tibet (which I think is what you mean)?

  31. admin Says:

    @ Steve,

    I don’t think Wahaha was making the connection with the current holiday. He was arguing with FOARP on why Tibet became a more violent place and he pointed to the Strasbourg Proposal 1988 as the root cause.

  32. chinayouren Says:

    @Wahaha –

    I agree with Steve. Individual Han are still treated well in Tibetan monasteries, I have seen it with my own eyes during my trip to West Sichuan last Summer, even in areas where a few months before there had been unrest.

    And yes, some have been stirring the pot from both sides, but not necessarily the Dalai Lama himself. The Chinese government with this emancipation day is deliberately trying to start more trouble. What we should ask ourselves is: why? Is it just the initiative of a hawkish politician that went unchecked, or is it a more conscious move with the approval of the top leadership? Unity in times of economic crisis?

    As for the fixation with Sarkozy and the French -latest developments here– it is ridiculous, and inexplicable from the POV of the Tibet conflict. It can only be understood as the Freudian reaction that France often induces in bigots of all sorts. Like Bush’s fries.

  33. Steve Says:

    @ admin: Thanks for the explanation. I guess I was a little dense earlier today but now I see that the riots referred to took place one year after the proposal, so there is the ’cause and effect’ Wahaha was trying to point out.

    @ chinayouren: What do you think the Tibetan people’s reaction will be on the holiday itself? My feeling is that it’ll be split, and the size of each split will give us a much better idea of the true feelings of the Tibetan people themselves. So in a way, the government is taking a chance that the reaction will be positive, aren’t they? If the reaction is negative, for me that would mean creating the holiday was a political mistake.

    Because Hu used to run Tibet, I can’t see any major decision being made involving the TAR that does not have his stamp of approval. Politicians have their specialties and they want to be the “deciders”, as some ex-politician used to say, in areas they have expertise. That’s a universal trait.

  34. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve #19 and #33:
    Like I said in #5, I’m hoping the response is choice #2. This “holiday” doesn’t merit a response, and any response, be it positive or negative, simply goes towards legitimizing it. But we’ll see. I do wonder, though, whether the CCP will feel the need/urge to truck in “volunteers” from far and wide to “help” with the celebrations. For that, again, we’ll also see.

    I can’t imagine, for such a politically-sensitive region with its recent history, that the local government would do anything of this scale without the express consent of Beijing.

  35. chinayouren Says:

    @ Steve – #33

    1- I agree the CPC top leaders must have approved it, I don’t see important decisions directly concerning national matters like Tibet being taken independently.

    2- “The government is taking a chance that the reaction will be positive”
    Really? Is there any chance this might happen? I mean, I can well imagine there’s a significant part of the ethnical tibetan population that is happy with the situation -again, reliable statistics missing. But it is clear too that there’s significant internal opposition. In the best of cases they will boycott the ceremony, and in the worst, they may start a new wave of violence justified by this new humiliation.

    Because, no matter how you put it, serfs or not serfs, being conquered by force is always a national humiliation, and this anniversary commemorates precisely that.

    Like you say, Hu was in Tibet, and he can’t be so disconnected with reality as to ignore this. How could he possibly expect a positive reaction? I think this has more to do with consolidating his position in the party and securing the support of the “third leg” of the system, the PLA.

  36. Steve Says:

    @ chinayouren #35: “again, reliable statistics missing”.

    That for me is the key. There is no reliable data from the Tibetan regions and reporters aren’t allowed in to get a feel for the attitude of the people. I think this is a mistake by the government because when reporters can’t get reliable information they go negative, figuring the government is keeping them out because they’re hiding something. So they write the story giving each side equal billing, which is the “unbiased” story, except the copy from the CCP is dry and boring, filled with the same old jargon, and the story from the Tibetans in India is told in a way that appeals to the western press. So no matter the actual situation on the ground, the impression is always that things are negative there, whether they are or not.

    Now I’m not saying they are positive or negative, I have no idea what people there actually think. As you said yourself, you were treated well by the people there so they seem to be hospitable towards individuals. We now have that part of it confirmed by several different sources, so there seems to be no real animosity towards the Han Chinese people themselves, or towards foreigners. That’s why to me, what happens on March 28th is the real story and might answer some questions.

    Of course, there is also a chance no foreign reporters will be allowed into the area and only the “official” story will come out. That will definitely get negative international press. You have to let people see with their own eyes.

    Were they conquered or were they liberated? Ah… that is the question, isn’t it? The reaction to the holiday should go a long way in answering how they really feel.

    Quick question: You said the PLA was the third leg of the system. What is the second leg? In the USSR, the three legs were party, KGB and army. In China, there is the party and the army, but isn’t the Chinese version of the KGB under the auspices of the party?

  37. chinayouren Says:

    @ Steve –

    1- Just a clarification: I am not Chinese nor look Chinese myself. I was just travelling with Chinese.

    2- The 3 legs of the system are the Party, the State Council and the PLA, if I remember well. In any case, what is important is that the PLA has a lot of power in China and sometimes the other two “legs” have to give in some things to keep them happy. Like for example allowing them to run illega businesses, etc.

  38. Steve Says:

    @ chinayouren: Oh, I know you are not Chinese. The reason I mentioned that you were treated well was because one of my colleagues had gone to western Sichuan back in 2001 and showed me her photos. She said she was treated great but they might not treat me so well since I was a westerner. I’m sure she was kidding me. 🙂

    Didn’t Mao say something about political power growing from the barrel of a gun?? I guess he was talking about the PLA.

  39. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    I guess that’s also why the Charter made a point of “public control of public servants” but used this term in reference to the military.

  40. Wahaha Says:

    Steve, WKL, and chinayouren,

    Thanks for the information about the situation in Sichuan. I sincerely hope that I was completely wrong.

    My information was from my friend who went to Tibet several years ago, he and his friends were advised to stay together ,,, you know.

    One thing I like to confirm : in Sichuan, did those han chinese go to monstaries by themselves or with some westerners ?

  41. Wahaha Says:


    I never attack DL, except questioning why westerners believe DL is legitmate representative of Tibetan people. I used middle age of Europe to illustrate that though most Tibetan people want to get bless from DL, that doesnt prove he represents the welfare and interests of Tibetan people.

    About the holiday, I think it politically means that Chinese government has no more interest talking to DL. On Tibet issue, CCP enjoys widespread support from Chinese people, that is what it found out from 3.14 riot.

  42. Steve Says:

    @ Wahaha #40: The Chinese friends of mine that went to Sichuan all went on tours with Han Chinese only.

  43. chinayouren Says:

    @wahaha #41 – I agree with all that. Perhaps if the reactions of the Chinese government were a bit more open and relaxed on this issue, more Western people could understand it better and be less biased.

    “On Tibet issue, CCP enjoys widespread support from Chinese people, that is what it found out from 3.14 riot.”

    Sure, I don’t think the rest of Chinese will have any kind of problem with that celebration.

    – If all goes well, it will be presented on CCTV as a great success, and the majority will continue to believe that there is no problem in Tibet except for an external clique of lamas and traitors, which they already do anyway.

    – If it goes bad, we get more riots and more victims and more international noise.

    So, in the best of cases, nothing to win. In the worst, a lot to loose. Who benefits from this new celebration?

  44. Wahaha Says:


    Han chinese wont celebrate it. but clearly the education of history will be intensified in Tibet, to make sure that every Tibetan knows what Tibet was like before 3/28/1959.

    What DL will do or will not do doesnt matter anymore, cuz West needs the market in China.

    The issue is who will be the next DL , where he will be picked and where he will live…..

  45. waigouren Says:

    If any of you are really interested in the truth about Tibetan socio-economic situation before 1950 then read this paper:


  46. shel Says:

    Chinese should not entertain what the west think of its policy in Tibet. Just tell the truth that’s all.
    No one own this world. It belong to all mankind. As long as all its citizen are treated equally, chinese should care less of what white supremacist think.
    As for exile tibetan youth, these are bunch of spoilt kids live on western hand out and their days are numbered.

  47. Brad Says:

    I agree with this view:

    It is an emancipation to 95% of Tibetans (former surfs and slaves and their decedents living in china) will be celebrating; a tragedy to 5% of Tibetans (former slave masters and their offspring living in exile) and the former colonial powers.

  48. FOARP Says:

    Errr . . . Guys, you may not have noticed this, but the Tibetans do not actually agree with you, if they did, then they would have been celebrating this day every year for the last 50. Once again, judging from what we know (instead of what comes out of Beijing/Dharumsala ) I don’t think that they enjoyed being serfs, but I also don’t think they have enjoyed CCP rule. I doubt there will be much genuine celebration of this day this year.

  49. Brad Says:

    Err…Guys, you may not have noticed this, majority of Chinese do not actually agree with the view of westerners regarding Tibet affairs. If they did, they would have overthrown the Chinese government long time ago. Tibetan in exiles including the Dalai Lama are not Chinese citizens. They do not live in China. They do not represent the people of Tibet. Darussalam, Dalai Lama, dissidents are nothing but dirty stones the western axes evil have been using to cast toward communist China. Guess what, communism seemingly is winning in this round. As the Chinese saying goes “30年河东, 30年河西”.

  50. FOARP Says:

    Let me ask you a question – how many Chinese people woke up on the 28th of March last year and thought to themselves “Hooray! Today is “Serf liberation day!”, what? None? So what is this ‘celebration’ except some kind of publicity stunt which may totally back-fire? And what does it actually mean to Tibetans? If it doesn’t mean anything to Tibetans, then why is it being celebrated?

    Brad, you totally missed the point, preferring to spew nationalistic clap-trap about how much you don’t care what western people think, obviously that is the reason why you come on a website like this – to show how much you don’t care about what western people think by reading all the comments written by western people.

  51. Allen Says:


    You wrote:

    how many Chinese people woke up on the 28th of March last year and thought to themselves “Hooray! Today is “Serf liberation day!”, what? None?

    Perhaps the problem you outlined is precisely why we need to establish Serf Emancipation day.

    In the U.S., if we did not MLK holiday, or the Veterans holiday, or any of other official holidays – many ideals we treasure would be in danger of fading from memory.

    It’s important to have MLK holiday to reflect upon the importance of civil rights – even though there are still many injustices left in this country.

    It’s important to have the Veterans holiday to reflect upon the sacrifices many have made for this country – even though there are many more sacrifices to be made and even though we have disagreements whether certain wars engaged by this country are just.

    In a similar vein, it is important to have a Serf Emancipation Day to reflect upon the importance of freedom (from cast or class based oppression), economic empowerment, as well as political liberation for the people of Tibet – even though the government still has a ways to go to deliver to all its citizens the promises it has made to its citizens.

  52. Steve Says:

    Though December 7th isn’t an American holiday, we all know what it stands for; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There is really only one viewpoint from an American point of view. But this holiday in China might be taken a few different ways among the Tibetan Chinese themselves. That is what makes it such an interesting topic for us to discuss.

    The question before the group, which will obviously be answered on March 28th, is what the reaction will be among the Tibetans living in China. I don’t think we’re much interested in western reaction or even Han Chinese reaction, at least I’m not. We are all curious to know what percentage will celebrate and what percentage will not. How will it be celebrated? Will there be parades and speeches? Will there be elaborate fireworks? What will the turnout be like? Will foreign reporters be allowed to observe so an accurate impression can be transmitted to the non-Chinese audience, or will reporting be restricted to Chinese news sources only? Will it be a true holiday or just a propaganda stunt?

    Will the Chinese government have enough confidence in a positive Tibetan reaction to allow outside reporting? Or will they be hesitant because it might not go according to their expectations? If they do NOT allow foreign reporters access to the celebrations, then those same reporters will have to report “both sides” of the story, which means getting the Chinese version and then the Tibetan exile version, and we know how that will go. I hope the government has confidence in the people and allows the reporters in. If local Tibetan reaction to the holiday is very positive, won’t it go a long way in diffusing the argument of the Tibetan exiles?

    Allen, I don’t think people use holidays to reflect as much as they do to celebrate. We celebrate MLK’s birthday because of all the good he engendered in his life, and Washington and Lincoln for the same reasons. This should be the Tibetan “July 4th”, shouldn’t it? This should be a time for fireworks, barbeque (maybe yak barbeque?) and fun! 😛

  53. Allen Says:

    @Steve #52,

    Yes – it’s an interesting topic.

    Personally though, I frankly do not care as much about what happens this March 28th (or the next, or the next) … as the long-term effect this holiday has on Tibet and China as a whole.

    I think what is more interesting is the long-term effect an emphasis on notions of freedom and empowerment embodied in the very concept of liberation from serfdom can have on making a positive influence on Tibetans’ strive for grater equality and justice.

    Some people today may want to politicize “Serf Emancipation Day” as “Kick the Dalai Lama out of China Day” or even “Chinese Invasion Day.”

    I cannot argue with these concepts except to note again that by the letter of the bill in the legislature, what we have here is “Serf Emancipation Day” – not the other stuffs that might be in people’s head.

    I’m writing an opinion piece on this topic (I’m usually not opinionated at all, as you may have noticed, hmm, hmm, clearing my throat) …. will publish that soon.

  54. Otto Kerner Says:

    re: #41, “why westerners believe DL is legitmate representative of Tibetan people”

    The Dalai Lama is seen as a legitimate representative of the Tibetans because there is no one else to speak for them. He was the head of a previous government of Tibet and he is still extremely well-known and apparently very popular in Tibet. That’s a pretty weak claim, but as I said, there is no one else.

    As I’ve commented several times in the past, the Chinese government could solve this problem quickly and easily by allowing free elections in Tibet, even for an advisory body with no powers. However, they are obviously not going to do that any time soon.

  55. Tu Touque Says:

    Agrees with Allen # 51

    Perhaps the problem you outlined is precisely why we need to establish Serf Emancipation day.

    I like MLK’s day. I like the celebratory spirit of liberation, emancipation, Galileo proving the Church wrong, Internationalist Einstein’s crushing the hubris of Anglo-Newtonian supremacy with the help of an English Quaker scientist. Happy that America has found a better choice for President, sad that the bullies in the Middle East remain strong, cruel and aggressive. I am immensely proud of Olympics 2008, and looking forward to London 2012. Therefore, I will, this March 28th 2009, wake up and go“Hooray! Today is “Serf liberation day!”

  56. Steve Says:

    Allen, the concepts of freedom and empowerment you refer to are good ones and always worth celebrating. However, two distinct events occurred on this day. As the holiday states, the serfs were emancipated. But the other event was the invasion of Tibet by the PLA. Regardless of whether you think this was a good thing or a bad thing, for me that was the most significant event that occurred.

    When the French fleet under DeGrasse defeated the British fleet outside Cheasapeake Bay, Cornwallis was unable to evacuate his army and so with the great help of the French, the Americans won their independence. But the French didn’t stay, so the event has one interpretation since subsequent events didn’t lessen the positive effects of their involvement. If the Tibetans see themselves as a subset of greater China, then they should feel the same way.

    But if they do not feel they are part of a greater China, then the reminder of the invasion would probably be stronger than their emancipation. There are two reasons for this; firstly, a historic sense of nationalism and secondly, that subsequent to this event, they had to live through some tough times. Most Tibetans alive these days have no memory of serfdom, but far more do remember the conditions before 1979. As Wahaha has remarked, even when he visited in the latter 1980s, the economy had not yet been developed. Anyone over 20 would remember a time when they were governed by China without the benefit of any economic progress.

    I’m not pushing a particular “bad or good” view here, I’m just stating several possible emotional reactions that might occur. As you are more interested in the long term effects, what happens in two months isn’t of much concern to you. For me, it allows us the opportunity to get a better perspective of the Tibetan mood at this moment in time, so we differ in that the initial celebration of the holiday holds great interest for me. I would call it a potential political “trigger point” in Chinese/Tibetan relations. If Tibetans truly feel glad to be a part of China, as many of our bloggers have argued over time, then wouldn’t a positive Tibetan reaction to this holiday indicate to the world that China’s position has been valid and the Tibetan exiles has not?

  57. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Shel #46:
    “Just tell the truth that’s all.” – yes, that is good advice. Hope the CCP is listening.

    “chinese should care less of what white supremacist think” – the effort to curb racism is not furthered by being racist yourself.

    To Brad #49:
    “majority of Chinese do not actually agree with the view of westerners regarding Tibet affairs.” – that’s all fine and good. But I think the point has been made many a time in these parts, that perhaps Tibetans don’t care all that much about the view of Chinese in Tibetan affairs either. Once again, the point is to get the Tibetan perspective. As Steve says, maybe if China allowed reporters to observe the “holiday”, we might get a better sense of Tibetan sentiment regarding this stunt. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    To Allen #51:
    it’s a huge stretch to compare this with MLK day or Veterans’ Day. For starters, this is a local “holiday”; hardly compares with the national holidays you mentioned. If California has some sort of state holiday, this would be on that level. And while I suspect Tibetans will be doing their share of reflection on that day, I wonder if it will be along the lines you suggested, or something rather different. Whereas you think of it as all liberation, freedom, and umbrella-drinks, they may or may not agree.

  58. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – But these days are not celebrated simply because the government tells people to celebrate them. People are genuinely happy to celebrate them, and asked for them to be made official holidays, and would mark them even if the government hadn’t made them official. November the 5th, Battle of Britain day, Trafalgar day, Burn’s night, St. Patrick’s day – none of these are official holidays in the UK, but some people do celebrate them every year. If the Tibetans really did want to celebrate this event, they would have been doing it for a long time already – that they haven’t suggests that this stunt has nothing to do with their wishes and everything to do with propaganda.

  59. Tu Touque Says:

    Actually, until the late 1800s, November 5th was mandated, by fiat to be celebrated in Britainnia. Cracker’s Night was compulsory by decree. George Washington forbade the celebration of this holiday, also known as Guy Fawkes day, Bonfire Night, and Fireworks Night, among his troops due to its anti-Catholic and pro-British purpose.

    Similar sentiments also befell on latter days Britons with regard to the celebration of Trafalgar day’s. This archiac holiday’s celebration sharply declined after WW I as the British general public’s opinion of war became correctly viewed as a source of tragedy rather than glorious victories. Did St. Patrick drive them snakes in the river? Who cares? It didn’t matter. What really matter was that the Irish felt the need to wear Green, get high and imagine driving their oppressors into the river.

    It is going to be the 50th anniversary of the outsing of the Dalai Lama. The local parliament in Tibet passed the bill, 28 March as the new holiday. Let all 56 ethnic Chinese group join in celebration of this new holiday. May a united New China keep the war profiteering vultures, the cankerous snakes and bellyaching cocks of the walk at bay for a better chance at maintaining global peace and multicultural harmony.

  60. HongKonger Says:

    I was looking for great historical patriots and stumbled upon this article:


    “Knowing of past lies and deceptive treaties of the “White man”, Comanche Chief
    Quanah decided to remain on the warpath, raiding in Texas and Mexico and out
    maneuvering Army Colonel Ronald S. Mackenzie and others. ”

    “Quanah was the last Chief of the Comanche Nation and never
    lost a battle to the white man. His tribe roamed over the area where Pampas stands.
    He was never captured by the Army, but decided to surrender and lead his tribe into
    the white man’s culture.” Why?

    “One day Quanah rode to a mesa, where he saw a wolf come toward him,
    howl and trot away to the northeast. Overhead, an eagle “glided lazily and
    then whipped his wings in the direction of Fort Sill,” This was a sign, Quanah
    thought, and on June 2, 1875, he and his band surrendered at Fort Sill in
    present-day Oklahoma.”

    Biographer Bill Neeley writes:
    “Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone
    Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he
    accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche
    tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”

    Quanah was traveling the “white man’s road,” but he did it his way. He
    refused to give up polygamy, much to the reservation agents’ chagrin.
    Reservation agents being political appointees of the Federal Government,
    their main concern was to destroy all vestiges of Native American life and
    replace their culture with that of theirs. Quanah Parker also used peyote,
    negotiated grazing rights with Texas cattlemen, and invested in a railroad.

    He learned English, became a reservation judge, lobbied Congress and pleaded
    the cause of the Comanche Nation. Among his friends were cattleman Charles
    Goodnight and President Theodore Roosevelt. He considered himself a man who
    tried to do right both to the people of his tribe and to his “pale-faced

    “Quanah died on February 23, 1911. For his courage, integrity and
    tremendous insight, Quanah’s life tells the story of one of America’s
    greatest leaders and a true Texas Hero.”

    My question is, did he sell out or did he save lives? For sure, he’d not only
    saved however many remaining lives of the Commanche nation, he also
    saved the lives of many of his ultimate arch enemy.

    How is Chief Quanah remembered? A great warrior, a man of faith or a traitor?

    Incidentally, on the same day that Chief Quanah voluntarily surrendered, ( June 2, 1875 )
    James Augustine Healey became the 1st Black Catholic Bishop in US. The two events
    of course are not related, but then if the wolf had not appeared and the eagle did not
    whipped his wings in the direction of Fort Sill, you and I would not be spending these
    last few minutes contemplating on it, and perhaps the likely consequence of cussing at me for
    wasting your time. LOL.

  61. Brad Says:

    @FOARP #50

    Excuse me, have you ever asked yourself: do you care about what Chinese think? Understanding is a two-way street. #50 is a shining example of western arrogance and rudeness.

    @S.K. Cheung #57

    Reminding you, China is an independent sovereign country. It is sort of childish to say: if China allows me this and that, then I will blah blah. Don’t you think it is very insulting and rude to stick nose into other’s house?

    Please look into the mirror and ask: what credibility do you have to earn the trust of Chinese people?

    Some recent memory as a refresh: historical support of Dalai Lama separatists, the bombing of Chinese embassy, Hainan spy plane, historical media anti-china propaganda, groundless accusations of Chinese Human Rights violation, arms sales to Taiwan, support of any anti-china interest groups, Tibet riot media lies, attack of Olympic torch…

    You tell me, why should or would China risk to allow those hostile westerners into any area of China to cause unwanted trouble?

  62. FOARP Says:

    @Brad – A two-way street is not formed by simply telling people that you don’t care what they think, and then contradicting that by telling them that their opinions anger you. Likewise, telling people that you do not want to interfere in their affairs and then telling them how they should behave is also contradictory. If you wish to say that you disagree, say it and say why, nationalism wont wash with me.

    You write as if the ‘westerners’ on this thread were personally responsible for the things you accuse them of. Yes, I took part in demonstrations against the torch relay, they took place in the street I live in, but I have no association with any free-Tibet group, and I personally do not think much of the Dalai Lama. I am not an American, and had no great love for many of the policies of the Bush government. I have lived in China, and have personally witnessed the abuse of human rights, and know that much of what is said about the human rights situation is valid, as I have met those who suffered at the hands of the CCP, both in the past and recently. I am not a ‘hostile westerner’, I know many people in China who would readily agree with what I have said, and who have opinions about the CCP even more negative than my own. However, it is a lot easier to pose as a patriot on the internet than it is to publicly voice critical opinions in real life.

    I also know that the caricature of the ‘arrogant, shameless foreigner’ is one widely believed in China, indeed, television and radio carry many examples of it – do you think you will convince us of anything by repeating it here?

  63. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – Once again, I don’t support or oppose Tibetan independence. I just think Tibetans should be free to decide their own form of government. If they want to be part of China – fine, but just painting everything red and pretending that they are happy about the current situation when the evidence of history is otherwise convinces no one. Likewise, Do you really think this day is worth celebrating? If so, why haven’t you been celebrating it? It is a rather obvious idea – the Soviet Union also made people celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution and victory day, even though the Estonians, Ukraineans, Chechens, Belarussians, Kazakhs etc. did not see either as events worth celebrating. If it really were so important and worthy of celebrating as the Chinese government make out, if Tibetans really did see it as the day their new and joyously liberated lives begun, then they would celebrate it themselves without prompting from the government.

    However, I suppose only a hopelessly arrogant and meddling foreigner like myself could say such a thing.

  64. Brad Says:

    @FOARP #62

    I don’t know what you are talking about. You need to focus on the issues, ideas, reasoning and logic instead of making accusations.

    To have a two-way communication:
    Rule #1 : respect other’s. Do not indulge into imaginations and personal attacks.
    Rule #2 : be honest. Do not put your words into other’s mouth.

    You lost me from the start to end:

    “…to spew nationalistic clap-trap about how much you don’t care what western people think, obviously that is the reason why you come on a website like this – to show how much you don’t care about what western people think by reading all the comments written by western people. “

  65. FOARP Says:

    @Brad – Your point was that you don’t care what ‘western’ people think, and you made it by coming on a website to tell westerners how angry they make you. As for the rest, please yourself, it is all the same to me.

  66. Wahaha Says:

    I have lived in China, and have personally witnessed the abuse of human rights, and know that much of what is said about the human rights situation is valid,…


    Then you must also know that chinese government has helped millions of people out of poverty.

    Did you go to Tibet museum in Beijing while you are in China ? If you didnt, I guess you NEVER have intention listening to the voice of chinese people. Chinese people had kept quiet under the West media suppression for long time. I guess what Brad means is that chinese have had enough of this.

    How about those @$$holes who protested for free Tibet last August in Beijing ? did they ever listen to Chinese ? a B!t!h singer from Iceland yelled “free tibet” in a concert in Shanghai, who the F@#$ did she think she was ?

  67. FOARP Says:

    @Wahaha – I visited Beijing once, for a few days, and at the time did not even know that that museum existed (this was in 2004). I did visit the People’s War museum though, because my friends had told me to visit there, and it was the most interesting museum I visited in my entire stay in China, except for the Nanjing museum – and that was mainly for the jade suit of armour they have there (which is surprisingly beautiful). In Nanjing I also visited the massacre museum, which I found to be a work of propaganda. I do not at all belive the claims of Japanese apologists, and believe that the number of dead could be as high as is claimed at the museum, but I was horrified to find music (which sounded like the kind you find in a cheap horror movie) being played there, messages telling you that a ‘strong socialist motherland’ was the only way of stopping a massacre happening again, and people smoking, laughing, and pointing out the bullet holes in the multitudinous skeletons which were on display. This was not serious history. I also visited the palace in Beijing, and during my time in Taiwan, I also visited the national museum there, as well as the palace museum (very boring) and the CKS and SYS memorial halls (a bit more interesting) and ROC military museum (even more interesting, if only because it was the absolute opposite of the Beijing military museum).

    But I guess you’d rather get angry about something that was said at a concert almost entirely attended by foreigners, and accuse people who did not visit a museum that the majority of Chinese people would not be interested in visiting of hating China. Especially when I spent almost the entirety of my stay in China about a thousand miles away from that museum.

    Let alone the idea that the Chinese people speak with a single voice, or that that voice can possibly be conducted through a museum built by the central government, or that I might have met plenty of time speaking to Chinese people and may still communicate with my friends there who, let me put this plainly, DO NOT SPEAK LIKE YOU DO. I was, as you might expect, much more interested in speaking and listening to people who I met as friends from work, or at the gym, or just about town, than I was to people who decided, for example, that they wanted to tell me all about how much they hated the ‘imperialist powers’, how much they wanted to see the leaders of the western countries die, or how much they wanted to wreak revenge upon Japan by massacring Japanese people in Tokyo the same way it was done in Nanjing.

    As for economic development, a lot of people in China thank a free market economy for that. I certainly don’t thank my own government for the economic development I find in the UK – that would be silly. I can thank the Labour party for what we have in the way of socialism in this country – free education and healthcare, government money for legal representation, unemployment money, state pensions, all of which were delivered at a point when the average GDP in the UK was less than that currently enjoyed in Shanghai. I also thank the conservatives for privatising the nationalised industries, and reducing taxation thereby allowing the people to enrich themselves. For the rest, I thank Newton, Gates, Gallileo, James Watt, Trevithick, Henry Ford, Diesel, Jimmy Hendrix, Einstein, Faraday, Brunel, Chuck Berry, The Wright brothers, Adam Smith, Caxton, Von Braun, Alexander Fleming, Charles Drew, Omar Khayyam, Plato, Freud, the Curries, Bob Dylan, Spielberg, John Logie-Baird, Alan Turing, Tsiolkovsky, the inventors of the five inventions (names?) etc. Because these are the men and women who, through their inventions, created the modern world as it stands today.

  68. Wahaha Says:


    Let me put this plainly too.

    British, French, German havent done anything that deserved the respect of Chinese people.

    Tibet issue is an issue of sovereign, it is not about human right. you know that, I know that, everyone knows that. We all know the first thing West politicians would do if China became another Russia: independence of Tibet, independence of XingJiang, maybe even independence of Mongolia.

    We know what West politicians want to see in China : poverty, chaos, disasters, or even civil war, in the name of human right. We know our problems, we dont need west media to remind us, and we have had enough of this “do this, you will have our respect.” BS. In what way did british respect India’s people?

  69. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Brad #61:
    I have no idea how your diatribe addresses what I wrote in #57, but if you want to fly off the handle, as I’ve oft said, whatever floats your boat.

    I’m quite comfortable sticking my nose into whatever I please. However, I’ve never asked for nor pretended to seek the “trust” of the Chinese people. I think Chinese opinion matters as much to me as mine does to them.

    As for your “refresher”, you are fully entitled to your version of revisionist history. As I’ve also said before, to each his own.

    If you think journalists seeking to report an event are by definition hostile westerners looking to cause trouble, then I think the objective of this blog will not be met in the foreseeable future, at least for folks like you.

  70. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Brad #64:
    After reading #61 then seeing #64, it strikes me that you should take those same rules out for a test drive yourself.

  71. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha #66:
    If a person can’t acknowledge China’s progress (ie economy) while criticizing her continued shortcomings (pick one, lots to choose from) without eliciting multiple expletives from you, then jeez dude, you need a vacation.

    How do you get off on saying stuff like: if you’ve never visited a certain museum, then you NEVER intend to listen to the voice(s) of an entire people? I didn’t realize the Tibet museum was the gateway to the Chinese heart and mind.

  72. Wukailong Says:

    Guys, I can visit that Tibet museum any day (in February, I’m in the northeast now) and see what I think. Actually a friend of mind and I intended to visit it last year, but he didn’t have enough time. From what I’ve read in other places it’s mostly black-and-white pictures without dates or locations that talk about the numerous atrocities taking place in the area when it was ruled by DL, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

  73. FOARP Says:

    @Whaha – Fine. Suit yourself, I know plenty of Chinese people who disagree with you.

  74. Wukailong Says:

    Isn’t Mongolia independent already?

  75. Jianghua Says:

    Serf emancipation day is a pretty racist term if you ask me. I am very disgust how the Chinese and their government’s wants to humiliate the Tibetan population, we know who is bad intentionned here.

    I wonder what would be the reaction if we made an Holliday like this over the liberation of the slavery of the black people.. the reaction would be pretty ugly if you ask me

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