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Serfs liberation and slaves emancipation deserve equal respect
2013/03/29
 

From: China Tibet Online

Fifty-four years ago, millions of Tibetan serfs were liberated from the feudal serfdom and given land through the follow-up Democratic Reform in 1959. Likewise, millions of slaves were emancipated on the other part of the world a hundred some years ago. As you all know, millions of black slaves were emancipated in the American Abolitionist Movement in 1862. It may be beyond your common sense that the two democratic movements share some resemblances, marking a huge progress of human rights in the respective society.

Prior to the Democratic Reform in 1959, Tibet practiced a system of feudal serfdom under theocracy, which was darker and more backward than in Europe in the Middle Ages. The three major estate-holders - officials, nobles and upper-ranking monks in monasteries, accounted for less than five percent of Tibet's total population but owned all the farmland, pastures, forests, mountains and rivers, and the majority of the livestock. The serfs and slaves, accounting for more than 95 percent of the population, had no means of production or freedom of their own. The serfs could only live on the manors of their masters were to prohibited leave, or flee away. They were properties of the serf owners for generations and could be bargained, traded or transferred. They were not only subjected to the three-fold exploitation of corvee labor, taxes and high-interest loans, but also suffered cruel political oppression and punishment rarely seen in world history. Their lives were no more than struggles for existence, according to the White Paper issued on March 2, 2012.

Charles Bell, a Britain known as an "old Tibet hand", described Tibet in his Portrait of a Dalai Lama: The Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth as such, "A trip from Europe and America to Tibet will bring you back to hundreds of years ago, to a place still in a feudal age."

Likewise, after the United States became independent in 1776,slavery was still prevalent on the plantations in the South of the United States while nearly all nations have abolished slavery within their borders across the world by in mid 1900s. The black slaves were private properties of the slave owners. Slavery was a social and powerful economic institution, integral to the agricultural economy. By the 1860 United States Census, the slave population had grown to four million, accounting for 14 percent of the total population of the United States. Black slaves in groups of dozens or hundreds were forced to do heavy labor work on the plantations or workshops. Every day they worked for 18 or 19 hours, and even some young and strong laborers toiled to death after seven or eight years with such heavy work load. Besides, they didn't have any freedom, including that of getting married, and they would be given severe punishment if they tried to escape from the plantations. Like the serfdom in Tibet, the black slaves could be sold between slave owners in the market.

For a long time Tibet's economy was in a primitive and backward state. The feudal serfdom and theocracy seriously hindered the development of the social productive forces.The top leaders of the Chinese central government regarded the feudal serfdom as an obstacle to its economic and social development. And they didn't allow any feudal theocratic system to exist on the land of the People's Republic of China in the modern era.

In the 18th century, American rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized slavery for violating the rights of man. The federal government of the United States, or the Union, or the North identified slavery as the social and economic foundation of the Confederacy, or the South. They deemed that slavery threatened the harmony of the North and the South as well as the overall economic development of the United States.

The Democratic Reform carried out in Tibet in 1959 ended the history of a feudal serf system, and freed more than one million serfs, who were given rights of human beings, deprived off levies and become masters of their own. On September 21, 1959, the Tibet local government issued the Resolution on Abolishing the Land Ownership of Serf Owners and Implementing the Land Ownership of Peasants, by which the land of serf owners were distributed to serfs. Besides, they also obtained rights of economic development and education, which conforms to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the international law. Following the Democratic Reform, many former serfs were given the rights to become deputies and representatives of National People's Congress,China's parliament and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference,political advisory body. In the 12th Two Sessions concluded in March 2013, about 20 deputies and 44 representatives attended the most important national meeting for state affairs and delivered 27 bills and 54 proposals respectively to the CPPCC session.

In 1863, the US President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves held in the Confederate States; and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution issued in 1865 prohibited slavery throughout the country, marking the success of the abolitionist movement. After the slaves were set free, the two-billion-dollar debt of the slaves was abrogated. And slaves were given rights to vote. The movement opened the door of the closed economy in the South, which laid a foundation for the industrialization of the South and the development of the whole society.

For a nation, the top priority of human rights is the rights of survival and development. Only after the Democratic Reform in 1959 could serfs enjoy the rights of democracy, freedom and human rights guaranteed by China's Constitution and Tibet enjoy a leapfrog economic development over the past 60 some years. And only after the Abolitionist Movement could the United States rose as a world superpower.

However, both historical events went through a slow process. During the Democratic Reform, the Chinese late Chairman Mao deliberated on how the land reform was conducted. He gave full consideration to the interests of all strata in Tibet, especially the interests of the upper ruling class. In particular, Mao stressed to persuade the upper class. "If they do not agree, we won't do it." While the former US President Lincoln didn't want to abolish slavery through radical means until the South stirred up the Civil War in 1861.

Similarly, both movements are revolutions to overturn the former rulers of the backward social systems, and both are democratized and political modernization movements.

In contrast, the movement of the United States didn't go as far as that of China for slaves didn't end up acquiring land as serfs in China's Tibet.

The Democratic Reform conducted under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, which abolished the centuries-old feudal and theocratic serdom within several years is a mass democratic movement, and the most widespread, deepest and greatest social change. And it is an unprecedented historical event, making the huge progress in the world history of human rights.

And the Emancipation Proclamation and the final success of the movement made the concepts of democracy, equality and freedom deep into the heart of the people, which constituting the main spirit of the United States as a nation.

While the Abolitionist Movement was so much valued and respected by the American people as well as the people of the whole world, for half a century, the Democratic Reform carried out in China's Tibet has been downplayed and even misinterpreted by some Western countries including the United States with a double standard. In fact, it should be valued on an equal footing with human rights movements in other parts of the world. Like the Abolitionist Movement of the United States, it should be justified and paid tribute to by all those respecting human rights in the world community.

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