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For whom is Tibet a 'hell on earth'?



LHASA -- Tuesday is a special date for Tibetans. For the 2.8 million residents in the southwest China autonomous region, it marks 50 years since feudal serfdom was abolished; but for the 14th Dalai Lama and his "government-in-exile," it marks five decades of futile attempts at independence.

Fifty years after he fled China and having failed time and again to foment widespread unrest in Tibet and other Tibetan communities in western China, the Dalai Lama is apparently at his wit's end.

In a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of his exile, the Dalai Lama abruptly shook off his pacifist outlook and smiles to give some gibberish far below the intelligence of the "spiritual leader" himself, and poles apart from truth.

In this speech, delivered in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama denigrated Tibet's 50 years of democratic reform, sustained economic growth and improved human rights as "untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet."

He also slandered the Chinese government as having killed hundreds of thousands of Tibetans and transformed the plateau region into a "hell on earth.

"The Tibetan people are regarded like criminals, deserving to be put to death," the spiritual leader said.

The Dalai Lama might have staged some fanfare in front of the "Tibet independence" forces overseas, and bewitched some Westerners with his assumptions that though groundless, sometimes sell well internationally - the "nearing extinction" of the Tibetan culture and identity, for instance.

The Dalai Lama calls Tibet a "hell on earth." But many Tibetans I know, particularly the elderly people who still remember the past, say Tibet is at its best stage of development. Why do the opinions vary so much?

With no exception, the 14th Dalai Lama and all his predecessors represent the aristocrats and serf owners in old Tibet. So when the democratic reform took place and all the serfs stood up to own land and become men with dignity, Tibet became "hell on earth" for the Dalai Lama and his likes.

This "hell on earth" is precisely "paradise on earth" for the ordinary Tibetans. Under no circumstances would these people allow the Dalai Lama to restore the old social strata in their homeland, under the name of the "middle way" or "meaningful autonomy."

Anyone with the least knowledge of Tibet knows clearly, under the ruling Communist Party of China, how schools, hospitals, quake-resistant homes and other facilities have been built to improve the quality of Tibetans' lives; how roads, airports and a railway have been constructed to bring in some of the most-needed supplies and how modern technologies have enabled farmers to build vegetables and fruits on former infertile land.

Anyone who has been to Tibet cannot help exclaiming at its well-preserved culture: the centuries-old treasures housed in the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple and more than 1,000 other monasteries; the traditional artwork and opera; the elegant, Tibetan-style homes; the eating habits, featuring yak butter, highland barley and other cuisine, and the unique language, one of the few Chinese dialects that are still widely used in both written and spoken forms.

Ask Loga, 85, if the Tibetans are living in a "hell on earth." The Lhasa resident, who speaks only Tibetan dialect, has been a pilgrim to Sera Monastery nearly every day since he was 13. Thanks to the improved quality of life, the average life expectancy of Tibetans has nearly doubled since the democratic reform, to about 67.

With the interpretation of a Tibetan colleague, Loga told me he was "in good shape except that he was blind in one eye." The hearty smile on his weathered face tell me he is happy and content.

Fifty years after the Dalai Lama's flight from China, some Tibetans still revere him as their "spiritual leader." They do this because as devout Buddhists, they worship him as the reincarnation of all previous Dalai Lamas. It's this status, rather than his words or deeds, that earned the 14th Dalai Lama some awe.

For the Dalai Lama, 50 years is a long time. Tibet is no more the former land of poverty from which he fled. Its people are no more living under the serf owners' whips, totally ignorant to what is going on in the wide world.

If the Dalai Lama really wants to do something beneficial for his fellow Tibetans, he should stop lying, abandon his separatism mentality and show some sincerity in settling the Tibet issue properly.

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