A Nation of Serfs: How the Greatest Generation Shackled Us With Debt

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The riots incurred severe losses to the lives and property of Tibetans.

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The Dalai's words and deeds have showed that he is no longer only a religious leader as he claims. On the contrary, he has become the political leader engaged in long-term divisive activities abroad. It urges him to renounce separatism and return to the stand of patriotism and unity. On December 28, , the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said to AP correspondents that "the Dalai Lama may return, but only as a Chinese citizen"; "we have but one demand -- patriotism. And we say that anyone is welcome, whether he embraces patriotism early or late.

The Dalai Lama sent representatives to Beijing to contact the central government on February 28, He can go out again after his return. This is a practical question. This is the criterion for judging right or wrong.


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The central government leaders have since met a number of delegations sent back by the Dalai Lama and reiterated on many occasions the central government's policy towards the Dalai Lama. To satisfy the desire of both local and overseas Tibetans for visits and contacts, the central government has formulated and practiced the policy of free movement in and out of the country. It has also made clear that all patriots belong to one big family, whether they rally to the common cause now or later, and bygones can be bygones. From August to September , central government departments concerned received three visiting delegations and two groups of relatives sent by the Dalai Lama.

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Most of the Dalai Lama's kin residing abroad have made return visits to China. Since , Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas have received some 8, overseas Tibetans who came to visit relatives or for sightseeing, and helped settle nearly 2, Tibetan compatriots. Regretfully, the Dalai Lama did not draw on the good will of the central government.

Instead, he further intensified his separatist activities. He continued to advocate "Tibetan Independence," and instigate and plot a number of riots in Lhasa. In June , the Dalai Lama raised a so-called "Strasbourg proposal" for the solution of the Tibet issue.

A Nation of Serfs: How the Greatest Generation Shackled Us With Debt

On the premise that Tibet "had always been" an independent state, the proposal interpreted the issue of a regional national autonomy within a country as a relationship between a suzerain and a vassal state, and between a protector and a protected state, thus denying China's sovereignty over Tibet and advocating the independence of Tibet in a disguised way. The central government naturally rejected the proposal, because it was a conspiracy the imperialists once hatched in order to carve up China. The Chinese government solemnly declared, "China's sovereignty over Tibet brooks no denial.

Of Tibet there could be no independence, nor semi-independence, nor independence in disguise. In early , the 10th Bainqen Lama passed away. Taking into account the historical religious ties between various generations of the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Lama as teacher and student, the Buddhist Association of China, with the approval of the central government, invited the Dalai Lama to come back to attend the Bainqen Lama's memorial ceremonies. President Zhao Puchu of the association handed a letter of invitation to a personal representative of the Dalai Lama, providing the Dalai Lama with a good opportunity to meet with people in the Buddhist circles in China after 30 years of exile.

But the Dalai Lama rejected the invitation. As witnessed a new international anti-China wave, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway, with clearly political motives, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama, giving its strong support to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan separatists. Since then, the Dalai Lama has travelled the world, advocating Tibet's separation from China. The Dalai Lama simultaneously intensified his efforts to incite and plot riots in Tibet.

On January 19, , he said over the BBC: If the Beijing government fails to hold talks with him on his plan of Tibet's autonomy within a year, he will have to change his stand of compromise with China; many young Tibetans stand for the use of force. On April 4, , the Dalai Lama said in the Tibetan language program of the Voice of America, "All matters shall be further strengthened for Tibet's independence.

This adds a further element of instability in the Tibetan society. Therefore, new riots are quite possible. In an interview with Xinhua News Agency reporters on May 19, , on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Tibet's peaceful liberation, Premier Li Peng of the State Council of the People's Republic of China pointed out, "The central government's policy towards the Dalai Lama has been consistent and remains unchanged. We have only one fundamental principle, namely, Tibet is an inalienable part of China. On this fundamental issue there is no room for haggling.

The central government has always expressed its willingness to have contact with the Dalai Lama, but he must stop activities to split the motherland and change his position for 'Tibetan independence. The central government's policy towards the Dalai Lama is also clear. To be responsible for the history, the Chinese nation and its 1.

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Any activity attempting to realize "Tibetan independence" and split the motherland by relying on foreign forces is an ignominious move betraying the motherland and the whole Chinese nation including the Tibetan nationality. The central government resolutely denounces this kind of action and will never allow it to succeed. The central government will continue to implement a series of special policies and preferential measures to promote the construction and development of Tibet so as to enhance national unity, construct a prosperous economy, enrich culture and improve the people's livelihood.

Any activity sabotaging stability and unity in Tibet and any unlawful deed creating disturbance and inciting riots runs against the basic interests of the Tibetan people and will be cracked down on relentlessly. So long as the Dalai Lama can give up his divisive stand and admit that Tibet is an inalienable part of China, the central government is willing to hold talks at any time with him. The Dalai Lama is warmly welcome to return to the embrace of the motherland at an early date and do some work that is conducive to maintaining the motherland's unification, the national unity, as well as the affluent and happy lives of the Tibetan people.

Part Two IV. Feudal Serfdom in Old Tibet Before the Democratic Reform of Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under the despotic religion-political rule of lamas and nobles, a society which was darker and more cruel than the European serfdom of the Middle Ages. Tibet's serf-owners were principally the three major estate-holders: local administrative officials, nobles and upper-ranking lamas in monasteries. Although they accounted for less than 5 percent of Tibet's population, they owned all of Tibet's farmland, pastures, forests, mountains and rivers as well as most livestock.

Statistics released in the early years of the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century indicate that Tibet then had more than 3 million ke of farmland 15 ke equal to 1 hectare , of which Before the Democratic Reform, Tibet had hereditary noble families and 25 big noble families, with the biggest numbering seven to eight, each holding dozens of manors and tens of thousand of ke of land.

Serfs made up 90 percent of old Tibet's population. They were called tralpa in Tibetan namely people who tilled plots of land assigned to them and had to provide corvee labor for the serf-owners and duiqoin small households with chimneys emitting smoke. They had no land or personal freedom, and the survival of each of them depended on an estate-holder's manor.

In addition, nangzan who comprised 5 percent of the population were hereditary household slaves, deprived of any means of production and personal freedom. Serf-owners literally possessed the living bodies of their serfs. Since serfs were at their disposal as their private property, they could trade and transfer them, present them as gifts, make them mortgages for a debt and exchange them. According to historical records, in the aristocrat Chengmoim Norbu Wanggyai sold serfs to a monk official at Garzhol Kamsa, in Zhigoin area, at the cost of 60 liang of Tibetan silver about four silver dollars per serf.

He also sent serfs to the Gundelin Monastery as mortgage for a debt of 3, pin Tibetan silver about 10, silver dollars. Serf-owners had a firm grip on the birth, death and marriage of serfs. Male and female serfs not belonging to the same owner had to pay "redemption fees" before they could marry.

A Nation of Serfs: How the Greatest Generation Shackled Us with Debt by Bryce Webster

In some cases, an exchange was made with a man swapped for man and a woman for woman. In other cases, after a couple wedded, the ownership of both husband and wife remained unchanged, but their sons would belong to the husband's owner and their daughters to the wife's owner.

Children of serfs were registered the moment they were born, setting their life-long fate as serfs. Serf-owners ruthlessly exploited serfs through corvee and usury. The corvee tax system of old Tibet was very cruel. Permanent corvee tax was registered and there were also temporary additional corvee taxes.

Incomplete statistics indicate the existence of more than categories of corvee taxes levied by the Gaxag Tibetan local government. The corvee assigned by Gaxag and manorial lords accounted for over 50 percent of the labor of serf households, and could go as high as percent. According to a survey conducted before the Democratic Reform, the Darongqang Manor owned by Regent Dagzhag of the 14th Dalai Lama had a total of 1, ke of land, and 81 able-bodied and semi-able-bodied serfs.

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They were assigned a total of 21, corvee days for the whole year, the equivalent of an entire year's labor by In effect, 83 percent of the serfs had to do corvee for one full year. The serfs engaged in hard labor year in and year out and yet had no guaranteed food or clothing. Often they had to rely on money borrowed at usury to keep body and soul together.

The annual interest rate for usurious loans was very high, while that for money borrowed from monasteries was 30 percent, and for grain 20 or 25 percent.

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Monetary loans from nobles exacted a 20 percent interest, while that for grain amounted to 20 or 25 percent. Gaxag had several money-lending institutions, and the Dalai Lama of various generations had two organizations specialized in lending money. Incomplete records in the account books of the two cash-lending bodies of the Dalai Lama in show that they had lent out about 3.