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Tibet marks emancipation of serfs

LHASA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Residents of southwest China's Tibet autonomous region on Wednesday marked the emancipation of 1 million serfs when the theocratic rule in Tibet was abolished in 1959.

Thousands of people gathered in Potala Square in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in the morning. Local residents, monks, students and soldiers sang the national anthem as they watched the red flag of the People's Republic of China rise before the imposing Potala Palace.

Authorities designated March 28 as the day to commemorate the 1959 democratic reform in Tibet, which ended the feudal serf system, freeing about 1 million Tibetan, over 90 percent of the region's population at the time, from a life of serfdom.

"I feel excited about the day," said Nyma Choling, 68, who added that he was born a serf and, and without the abolishment of serfdom, he would not be able to enjoy the good life he has today.

Government officials said that after the democratic reform, Tibet has achieved all-around economic and social growth and people from all ethnic groups in Tibet benefit from the reform.

"Over the past 53 years, marvelous changes have taken place in Tibet. History has proven that today's Tibet would not exist without the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC)," said Lhasa's top official Qizala, secretary of the CPC Lhasa municipal committee.

Lhasa topped an annual ranking of resident satisfaction among Chinese cities conducted by National Statistics Bureau over the past three years.

Dorje Tsedrup, mayor of Lhasa, said people felt satisfied due to big social and economic changes, continuous favorable policies rolled out by the central government, and less pollution and ecological damage associated with the development.

Overall, Tibet's gross domestic product rose to 60.6 billion yuan (9.6 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011, 94 times more than the level in 1959.

The government plans to invest 193.1 billion yuan for 226 projects in Tibet from 2011 to 2015, about 2.5 times the amount invested during the previous five-year period.

In a televised speech delivered prior to the day, Tibet's government chief Padma Choling said the political rights, religious freedom, traditional culture and ecological system in Tibet have been well respected and protected.

But he said Tibet can only achieve leap-forward development and long-lasting security by resolutely safeguarding the country's unity and opposing separation.

"I feel I am living in the best time of history," said Soinam Wanggyai, 81, who lives in a village of Tibet's Nyingchi prefecture. "Favorable policies flow in like a river. We benefit a lot."

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