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Date for Tibetan 'Serfs Emancipation Day' set

  • Story Highlights
  • Day to mark when China says one million people freed from serfdom 50 years ago
  • Dalai Lama spokesman says China needs to deal with the problem in Tibet
  • Tibet is technically autonomous from the central Chinese government
  • But its current government is directed from Beijing
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By Miranda Leitsinger
CNN
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(CNN) -- Lawmakers in Tibet have approved March 28 as a day to mark the freeing of serfs in the troubled region, a move that a Dalai Lama representative said Tuesday did not address problems facing the area "realistically and seriously."

Tibetan monks in exile pray at a temple in Dharamsala, India, in November.

Tibetan monks in exile pray at a temple in Dharamsala, India, in November.

The bill approved by legislators on Monday will mark the date that China says about one million people were freed from serfdom 50 years ago in the Himalayan region, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The legislation was aimed at "reminding all the Chinese people, including Tibetans, of the landmark democratic reform initiated 50 years ago," said Pang Boyong, deputy secretary general of Tibet's regional parliament, Xinhua reported.

While Tibet is technically autonomous from the central Chinese government, its current government is directed from Beijing. The Dalai Lama, traditionally the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, lives in exile in India.

The "Serfs Emancipation Day" falls near the 50th anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Beijing's rule that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

"March 10th will be the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising and actually we would consider this an opportunity now for the Chinese to show to the world what a great upcoming power they are in being able to come to terms with accepting that there is a problem inside Tibet and with committing themselves to finding a realistic solution that would bring about stability and unity, and which would be mutually beneficial to both parties where Tibet would also remain with the People's Republic of China," Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said.

"It's best not to avoid the situation, that we accept the reality that there is a problem inside Tibet and that was clearly demonstrated by the demonstrations we saw that took place in March of last year. So I think the Chinese, instead of trying to hide this fact by declaring these new holidays, they should address the issue realistically and seriously," he added.

Tibetan Buddhists say they resent the slow erosion of their culture amid an influx of Han Chinese, the largest ethnic group in China.

Resentment against the Chinese in Tibet spilled over last March, when Buddhist monks initiated peaceful anti-Chinese protests -- on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising -- in the regional capital of Lhasa.

The protests soon turned violent, with demonstrators burning vehicles and shops. Some protesters advocated independence from China, while others demonstrated against the growing influence of the Han Chinese in the area and other regions of China with ethnic Tibetan populations.

The subsequent crackdown left 18 civilians and one police officer dead, according to the Chinese government. Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140.

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China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting the discord in his homeland -- a charge he denies.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not advocate violence or a separate and independent Tibet. He has said he wants a genuine autonomy that preserves the cultural heritage of the region.

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