China’s Communist Party marked the 70th anniversary of its taking control of Tibet with a call for the region to embrace the regime’s rule.
At the iconic Potala Palace, a sacred Buddhist site in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang spoke on Aug. 19 in front of a tightly-vetted crowd of 20,000 people, casting the Party as the savior that “peacefully liberated” Tibetan “peasant slaves.”
“Tibet could only develop and prosper by adhering to the Party’s leadership and the socialist path,” said Wang, who also heads the regime’s mostly nominal political advisory body and is a member of the Party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.
Chinese communist troops marched into the vast Himalayan region in 1951, forcing Tibetan leaders to accept a treaty that promised to uphold Tibet’s existing political system, regional autonomy, and religious freedom.
The 14th Dalai Lama, who turned 86 this year, fled on foot to India in 1959, after the Chinese military crushed a Tibetan uprising. Around 80,000 people soon followed him, according to the exiled Tibetan government.
While the regime claims that it “liberated” Tibetan peasants from an oppressive theocracy, critics and activists say that Beijing had instead embarked on a campaign of “cultural genocide” in the unique Buddhist region, which had been largely independent of central Chinese rule for most of its history.
Over the years, the regime has forced monks and nuns to return to secular life and handed harsh sentences, as long as 20 years, to some monks, according to human rights groups.
A 2020 report by think tank Jamestown Foundation also found militarized vocational training camps—similar to those that hold more than 1 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang—appearing in Tibet.
Wang, in his speech at the ceremony, took a victorious tone, gloating over what he described to be a “harmonious and stable” Tibet, where different ethnicities “love each other like tea and salt,” in a reference to the smoky, salty local beverage known as butter tea.
He said the Party has “defeated the separatist and sabotage activities by the Dalai [Lama] group and overseas hostile forces” and successfully eliminated extreme poverty in the region.
By Eva Fu