Tibetan lawmakers have designated March 28 as an annual “Serfs Emancipation Day” to mark the liberation of about one million serfs in the region and the end of what the Chinese government says was a system of feudal oppression 50 years ago. This CCTV report carries the official party line of what life in pre-Liberation Tibet looked like for serfs. It portrays them as having suffered immensely under a theocratic system and the despotic rule of lamas and aristocrats, and how they were often subjected to judicial mutilation such as the gouging out of eyes, and the cutting off of hands or feet.
There is a lack of consensus among Tibetologists as to the accuracy of the above portrayal of pre-Communist Tibet, and today, this topic remains highly politicised and controversial. Some academics are arguing that the essentially Western terms ‘serf’ and ‘feudalism’ may be completely inappropriate to the Tibetan context, while others say judicial multilation was declared illegal in 1913 by the 13th Dalai Lama, way before the Chinese took over.
For more on the subject, refer to Wikipedia’s treatise on the Serfdom in Tibet controversy and Social classes of Tibet. Then compare BBC and Xinhua‘s reports on the declaration of the new holiday and make up your own mind. Also of interest: a look by Shanghaiist last November at how China is fighting the Tibet propaganda battle by means of Google Ads.
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