28 Mar 2009

National holiday to celebrate 'liberation of Tibet'

6:32 pm on 28 March 2009

The Chinese authorities are holding a new holiday to mark what it calls the liberation of Tibet.

"Serfs' Liberation Day" is intended by the authorities in Beijing to celebrate the start of Chinese rule in Tibet in 1959.

The holiday, held on Saturday, was announced after Tibetans joined violent protests against Chinese rule last year.

China says it liberated Tibet from the dark ages, freeing the population from medieval-style slavery and bringing prosperity to its people.

Few Tibetans are likely to join in the celebrations.

Fifty years of Chinese control has left them with little political or religious freedom.

They feel excluded from China's considerable economic investment in the region, which critics say has mainly benefited the Han Chinese who have migrated there in massive numbers.

Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama continues to be vilified by the Chinese government.

The Communist Party has been relentless in promoting its view of an improved, contented Tibet.

State-controlled newspapers, television and a museum exhibition have lauded Chinese rule.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao says the region is peaceful and stable but that may be thanks to the thousands of paramilitary troops and police who have been stationed there since last year's trouble.

It is a year since the protests in Lhasa and surrounding areas. China's government still forbids foreign journalists from reporting freely from the region.