Elliot Sperling on “Serf Emancipation Day”

I think I could not do better than  round off the discussion on “Serf Emancipation Day” with the insightful yet refreshingly matter-of-fact observations of  Elliot Sperling on the subject. Professor Sperling studied under the late Taktser Rimpoche and is now the director of the Tibetan Studies program at Indiana University’s department of Central Eurasian Studies and the author of “The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics.



by Elliot Sperling

Far Eastern Economic Review   April 2009

In January, in a move little noticed outside Tibet-watching circles, China signaled its confidence in having outmaneuvered the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan government-in-exile on the Tibet issue. Beijing announced plans for an official holiday to commemorate the liberation of Tibetan serfs and the suppression of the Tibetan uprising in 1959 in Lhasa, thereby negating an earlier pledge to relegate the events of that year to a forgotten past.

Equally significantly, it upped the ante in a struggle for the ownership of Tibet’s historical memory. Tibetans claim March 10, the day the 1959 Tibetan uprising erupted in Lhasa, as a national day. That uprising began in Eastern Tibet and spread westward as China moved against the poorly armed and vastly outnumbered Tibetans. When the revolt boiled over in Lhasa and was crushed, the Dalai Lama and approximately 100,000 Tibetans sought refuge in India. Tibet’s traditional government was abolished and China began a campaign to wipe out rebellion and impose the full force of Chinese rule throughout the country.

This year Chinese authorities were forced to take drastic measures in an attempt to contain any hint of commemorations of the failed revolt. At the same time, Beijing has staked out a new holiday in order to impose a celebration of the suppression of that same uprising: March 28, the date on which the Dalai Lama’s government was ordered disbanded in 1959, is henceforth to be “Serfs Emancipation Day.” There is nothing subtle about all this; China is quite determined to dominate the Tibetan historical view, whether or not coercion or even force is necessary.

On one level, the new holiday symbolizes the return of 1959 and the Tibetan uprising. When contacts between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama began again in the late 1970s, the suppression of the revolt in 1959 and the massive deaths and imprisonment that resulted from it had not been forgotten. Films and photos of post-1959 destruction in Tibet were shot by a delegation sent by the Dalai Lama (at China’s invitation) in 1979 and seen throughout the exile community. For China, however, 1959 has always been represented as the culmination of a reactionary armed rising by feudal, upper strata serf owners, ultimately put down with the broad support and assistance of the Tibetan people.

So it was significant when, in 1981, no less a figure than Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang asserted to the Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Thondup, “There should be no more quibbling about past history, namely the events of 1959. Let us disregard and forget this.” And in its dealings with the Dalai Lama’s exile government China operated under the premise that those events were not to be revisited.

But this was neither the case in Tibetan exile society nor among Tibetans in Tibet. The date of the uprising, March 10, was always fraught with danger, since Tibetans inside Tibet very obviously didn’t share the Chinese government’s interpretation of the rebellion. In recent decades every March 10 has brought unambiguous signs that it resonates as a day of nationalistic pride. In some years, as happened in 2008, major demonstrations have broken out on March 10, with homemade versions of the banned flag of independent Tibet on display.

The designation of March 28, 1959, as “Serfs Emancipation Day,” put 1959 unambiguously back on the table for China. The decision to do this now, while obviously intended as a warning to Tibetans who might have thought of demonstrating on March 10, is more importantly another signal that the negotiating process, certainly in substance if not also in form, is dead. As such, it is more significant for understanding China’s stance than, say, the ongoing vitriolic denunciations of the Dalai Lama.

Artists perform dance at a gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the emancipation of Tibetan serfs in Beijing, capital of China, March 28, 2009. (Xinhua/Fan Rujun)


This decision also meshes with other actions. The last round of Tibet-China negotiations in October ended disastrously. While the Tibetan delegates strove to be discreet and keep mum about what happened until a scheduled November meeting of various exile representatives in Dharamsala, the exile government’s base, their Chinese counterparts effectively rubbed their noses in failure. They announced at a press conference that the talks had produced nothing and rejected all that the Tibetans had sought, adding that the Dalai Lama had better recognize the error of his ways.

The discussions were thus where they had been 30 years earlier. China considers the Tibet issue settled, save for questions of the Dalai Lama’s personal circumstances, should he return. With a successful Olympics behind it and a major role in dealing with the global financial crisis ahead, China is no longer coy.

And since the Dalai Lama long ago acquiesced to China’s demands that he accept Tibet as a part of China, and repeatedly articulated that position publicly and privately to world leaders (at China’s insistence, no less), the crucial taint of illegitimacy that had always attached itself to China’s annexation of Tibet has been largely removed. The loss of that card has left the Dalai Lama with little more than palliatives to offer the exile community.

The dialogue process the Dalai Lama has promoted has turned out to have been a one-way street almost from the beginning. He has spoken vaguely of a better future, telling people that the Tibet issue will prevail. And he has also opined that “the entire people of China” support the Tibetan cause, ignoring the popular antipathy to that cause (and to Tibetans) that spread in China in the wake of the spring protests in Tibet. All of this has worked to China’s advantage. Now Beijing is simply biding its time and waiting for the 73-year-old Dalai Lama to pass from the scene.

With “Serf’s Emancipation Day” now fixed on the calendar, a few observations are in order. There’s no doubt that Tibet’s traditional society was hierarchical and backwards, replete with aristocratic estates and a bound peasantry. And there’s no doubt that Tibetans, whether in exile or in Tibet, voice no desire to restore such a society. Many Tibetans will readily admit that the social structure was highly inegalitarian. But it was hardly the cartoonish, cruel “Hell on Earth” that Chinese propaganda has portrayed it to be.

In theory, all Tibetan subjects were bound, even the aristocrats. The lurid descriptions of pre-1959 Tibet that China is once again trotting out were popularized in the 1970s exhibition and book “Wrath of the Serfs,” a depiction that is so over-the-top as to be laughable. In fact, the scope of the bonds varied. While the obligations of some of the peasants at the bottom were onerous, the system was such that bound peasants could also possess land and even have others bound to them as workers. In other instances, bound subjects could work on their own, away from estates, in exchange for a yearly fee paid to their overlord. Beyond that, the monastic life placed a significant percentage of the population outside the normal bonds of aristocratic estates.

In this hierarchically structured society, the Dalai Lama too had bound subjects, including both peasants and others much higher up the ranks. A common theme of Chinese propaganda has the Dalai Lama scheming to return to Tibet so as to reinstitute the serf system, the assumption being that he would then make himself the major serf lord. This is fantasy. Tibetans, in Tibet and in exile, have no desire to resurrect a social system that disappeared 50 years ago, one which the Dalai Lama himself has described as backward. In the 21st century there is simply no impetus from or benefit to any party in restoring the system. The Dalai Lama has gotten along fine without it over the last five decades. He has also repeatedly made it clear that he simply doesn’t want to govern Tibet after the Tibet issue is resolved.

So while the idea that he wants to restore theocracy is a red herring, one should note that the threat of his return to full power in Tibet is not the tool with which China should threaten Tibetans. Many and quite likely most would accept, if not flat out welcome rule by the Dalai Lama—at least at first. In any event, China has no intention of even entertaining the possibility of his return to Tibet. More than once the Chinese government has stressed that he would be relegated to a ceremonial position and residency in Beijing. But even that possibility has long since disappeared as China awaits his demise, seeing in that the ultimate solution to the Tibet issue.

Lost in most discussions is an understanding that Tibet’s demographic circumstances—a small population in a relatively large land area—served to mitigate the extent of exploitation. The situation was quite the reverse of China’s in the early 20th century, where far too little land for the large population allowed for severe exploitation by landowners. China’s categorization of Tibetan society as feudal obscures the fact that this socially backwards society, lacking the population pressures found elsewhere, simply didn’t break down as it ought to have and continued functioning smoothly into the 20th century. Inegalitarian? Yes. Sometimes harsh? Yes. But “Hell on Earth” for the vast majority of Tibetans? No. Traditional Tibetan society was not without its cruelties (the punishments visited on some political victims were indeed brutal), but seen proportionally, they paled in comparison to what transpired in China in the same period. In modern times, mass flight from Tibet only happened after its annexation to the People’s Republic.

When compared to other traditional social and land-tenure systems, the Tibetan situation does not seem so isolated an example—and certainly not the uniquely hellish one that Chinese polemics and propaganda describes. The zamindar system in pre-independence India (and even in much of post-independence Pakistan) presents a similar example of a traditional society in which people were effectively bound to aristocratic estates. In one sense, Tibet may have actually been more humane, since there did exist mechanisms that allowed for some mobility. Actually, insofar as the serf question is concerned, it’s hard to see why members of the once-vaunted renmin gongshe, the people’s communes, should not be described as living circumscribed lives comparable to that of serfs—except that many serfs also had rights to their own plots and produce on estates. The bottom line is that China is attempting to create a simplistic cartoon of villains and victims.

Tellingly, China often illustrates its “Hell on Earth” thesis with photographs and anecdotes derived from rather biased British imperial accounts of Tibet. That one might use such materials to create a similar narrative depicting traditional China as barbaric is no small irony; and such assertions can certainly be found in literature from the age of imperialism. A further irony is that for Tibetans today there is probably no period that registers in the historical memory as cruelly and as savagely as the one that started with the “democratic reforms” in the 1950s and continued through the depths of the Cultural Revolution.

When the Dalai Lama’s representatives returned to tour Tibet in 1979, cadres in Lhasa, believing their own propaganda, lectured the city’s residents not to vent anger at the representatives of the cruel feudal regime. What actually transpired was caught on film by the delegation and is still striking to watch: Thousands of Tibetans descended on them in the center of Lhasa, recounting amidst tears how awful their lives had become in the intervening 20 years. These scenes stunned China’s leadership and for some, at least, made clear the depths to which Tibetan society had sunk since the era of “feudal serfdom.” There were certainly abuses in pre-1959 Tibet. But no matter how bad they might have been, traditional Tibetan society did not generate anything like the body count that ensued after the Chinese takeover, both in terms of direct resistance and deaths resulting from imprisonment, “democratic reforms” or the Cultural Revolution.

It’s hardly likely that most Tibetans, after all these decades, are ready to buy into the government-enforced description of their past; such a ham-handed propaganda campaign may actually end up making many Tibetans view the past as far rosier than it actually was. It is also unlikely to win over large foreign audiences beyond those who already are, or would like to be, convinced. Most likely, it will simply reinforce a Chinese sense of a mission civilatrice in Tibet. The colonial thinking and arrogance inherent in such missions when entertained by European powers in the past is obvious. And it is precisely the kind of attitude that will likely exacerbate friction in Tibet and, justifiably, lead Tibetans to view China’s presence in their land as of a sort with the colonialism of other nations.


58 Replies to “Elliot Sperling on “Serf Emancipation Day””

  1. A true diagnoses of china’s colonialism. Very balanced. JNla I think the three articles of Serf Emancipation you have were a complete education for me on the subject. Now please write your own opinion. We are waiting

  2. This is a very objective analysis of the situation faced by us all, a very clear-headed piece. I just enjoy prof Elliot’s writings. Thank you. NG

  3. It’s nice to hear articulated so finely, what was there in the air, impressionwise and in my head. Thank you, very informative and good.

  4. Professor Elliot Sperling’s writing is an expertly anlysed and objectively presented true account of Tibet past and present vis a vis the twisted political propaganda being aired by China’s official media CCTV and XZTV since the just concluded “serf emancipation day” celebration in Tibet by the Chinese govt. Thank you so much Professor Sperling.

    Only a simple common sense can tell that China’s official version of “hell on earth” past Tibet and the “all joy” modern Tibet is a colossal lie. If it were true then Tibetans, even after half a century, would neither give up their lives to rise gainst China’s rule in Tibet nor risk their lives to escape into exile. Besides, happy and contented people do not need to be controled by machine guns.

  5. Bravo!! Professor.. you are one of the scholars who really digs everything before coming into CONCLUSION. I salute you for all that you are..

    Time has come indeed to create a world a better place to live in, but without true UNDERSTANDING of past.. we will not have a better place.

    I think by now, Chinese Govt should know that though Tibetans are workings towards Autonomy, yet if they continue with their propagandist approaches, they might regret in future!!!

  6. This paper is quite subjective and balanced; the old Tibet is backward but not as bad as Chinese government want people to believe. Professor Sperling, as a third party observer, did not use offensive languages that would usually kill Chinese readers’ desire to finish the article. We always believe China was victimized by European, Japanese and American imperialism in the past 170 years but we need to realize, no matter how shocking it might be to some of us, that we can be oppressors or imperialists to other people.

  7. Mr. Professor can’t afford to make upset none in theory , but as he depends on his master more, he often takes hard steps on the so called “thorn field ” in his master’s front-yard. you can call this- an articulated gentle pad on the shoulder . However, my feeble voice will not make any difference on his “scholarly path” as his “self assurance” is so firmly embedded into the ways he is and will be always.

    A thorn filed is what think we are.

  8. Mr. Professor can’t afford to make upset none in theory , but as he more depends on his master than , he often takes hard steps on the so called “thorn field ” in his master’s front-yard. you can call this- an articulated gentle pad on the shoulder of his master . However, my feeble voice will not make any difference on his “scholarly path” as his “self assurance” is so firmly embedded into the ways he is and will be always.

    “A thorn filed” is what they think we are.

  9. Mr.Norbu is a lengthy to lengthy parral to Mr.Professor, they are good comrades too.
    Once Norbu boasted one day his ‘tiny wings’ will create storms in peking, how much is true, yet to come, but what is a certainty is that there are hell lot of Tibetan goons and zambis who gallop after in his “track” with eyes closed and brains shut dead.

  10. Crazy wolf said something in chinese, he clearly see Tibetan and chinese are different people with different historical past. He actually proved wrong of chinese propapaganda such as tibetans and chinese are children of same mother. Anyway, in Tibetan we call all chinks gya-dri or Chinese ghost or han gui in chinese. Om ma ni pedme hum!

  11. Crazy wolf,

    Unfortunately my computer doesn’t print Chinese or Tibetan text so I can’t get one of my Chinese colleagues to translate it. However, I get the gist.

    Just to spice things up a bit more, I will share some Thai sayings with you. Thai people say mainland Chinese are “laang samong” (brainwashed) and also say they are “muan kwaai” (just like buffalo) – led around by the nose by the Party with no apprent will to resist.

    As many Thai people have Chinese ancestry, that they are rightly proud of, such comments are not made out of anti-Chinese racism as such. They are mostly made out of astonishment and pity that the Chinese people could have let such a thing happen to them as to have submitted to such a cruel regime.

  12. The holy Communism is our red bomb, it destroys anything that comes against in our way, with this all mighty red bomb, foreign imperialist dogs were chased out, traitor dog Jiang Jieshi and his bustards were also burnished, as you know we raped and cut open of their pregnant women and killed of those ghost men from a land called home of sun, we massacred 10 thousand of them every day in a single blow, and we accomplished all of these even before those imperialist Americans and colonist Europeans invented so called nuclear bombs.
    Do you want me to tell you more about our founder Mao-ze Dong; he is father of all fathers, a god of all gods and Allah of all small Allahs, you Tebethian people should be thankful and grateful, tell me how many millions of you being librated from your “Thalai” and his cruel government. Before, you were ‘slephes’, you have no right, you ate grass and “slepht ” together animals. Before you no humans.

    see—now you “sleeph” in house, a real house. now you ‘weir” clothes, a real clothe, you ..no more in sheep skin and animal house. now you started to be a human and learn human language and no more of being barbarians and speaking barbarian language.

    See, now your face is whi-te, before you “pei-pol” were very ugly and black.
    Your lamas and your religion ‘is’ poison, your lamas ‘ethe’ your flesh and drank your blood, they are parasites,, what’s why , our great founder sent his 50 thousand libration army for you, for your salvation, see, now you are free, we defeated them, their heads blown up, they cried like ‘dtogs’, others ran away to seek refugee in those ‘hho hhates us”

  13. Life expectancy 35 year old in pre-1950 Tibet. Infant and child mortality mountain high.

    Dalai Lama’s mother had 16 children. Only 7 survived to adulthood. Dalai Lama borned in 1935; moved to Lhasa with parents in 1939-40. So, the deaths happened had nothing to do with China.

    Obviously, worshippers of Dalai Lama can never be objective.

  14. Another shiny black nail in the coffin of Serf Emancipation Day. What professor Sperling says is on the mark and reflects the feeling of majority of the Tibetan people. Tibetan government was “disbanded” by the Chinese.
    HH gave in to the Chinese demands, and consequently the sacred word Rangzen has this uneasy tint to it now for the members of our own government. And that’s sad. The dialogue with China is obviously one way. And our leaders don’t seem wake up to its reality. And someone somehwere rightly mentions that during our protest marches we are told not to say “china” but to say “CCP” so as not to hurt Chinese feelings. Haha. Chinese people are hurt because they cannot kill enough Tibetans? And our leaders are so considerate of the chinese. HOw noble of them.
    This individual of post # 14 thinks so greatly of their syphilitic Mao who he thinks saved us from wearing sheep skins. (The horror! the horror! should be this inept’s epithet.) You of post 14, First save yourselves from dog and rodent eating fetishes, and also save yourselves from wearing dog furs. For shits sake dogs are almost human. But of course I forget you people are capable of eating human fetus too. (That’s a fact that’s been in news stories since many years ago.)
    Mao killed more people than Hitler did and most of them were his own people, chinese. And to think that many who lost family members to his twisted idealogy still have to tolerate his rotten-teeth-laden fat face on the yuan. Anyway, I know you chinese are trying to get a rise out of us by saying those things about a peace loving person like His Holiness.
    I am waiting for the day when the chinese peasants whose lands get taken away and the migrant workers whose mounting grievances are heard by none will take to the streets and raise hell to tell let their tyrants know that enough is enough. If you are outraged by what happened in Lhasa, you little Walmart Chinese generation, YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN YET. You know in your gut what your own people are capable of. These sorts of things have been happening in china for ever. But like prof. Sperling writes, nothing like that had ever taken place in Tibet, that is, untill the chinese came in.

  15. I challenge Jamyang Norbu to publish what I wrote and don’t delete it.

    Tibet had a declining population for centuries…Don’t know when it started. Miserable. Once a upon a time, Tibet conquered the capital of the most mighty Chinese dynasty.

    If this is not HELL, what is?

    Jamyang Norbu, please answer. Don’t delete.

  16. Did I thank Elliot Sperling! It is a wonderful piece, thank you. We have very few honest scholars for friends, and Elliot Sperling, I hear from reliable sources, is one of them. I hope no dimwit tries to disrupt his speech in the future.

  17. Post 14. So you think that white face is superior to black face? ummm — that means — you have a long way to go since you are only a YELLA FELLA right now.

  18. we hhave another secret weapon, which is our superior vision of great hhanism, our peasants, factory workers, scholars , and even our comrades in abroad including Falun Dafa practitioners and dissidents, all connected and stringed together with this unbreakable secret thread , therefore you need not to worry about rebellion from Han brothers and sisters.
    You Thibethians started behave bad since last year, now you behhave even worse than Xinjiang people, so starting last year every thibethian people ‘s every movement is being watched closely by our die -no -regret boys with their surveillance cameras and automatic machines, now you better behhave well, otherwise our boys has no hhesitation to finish you without even a trace.
    Number of Your lamas and monks are myriad, they behaved very very bad last year, now most of our secret jails in TAR , Qinghai, Ge-ermu and Sichuan are overflowed , it is really wasteful of resources to watch them over and building new Laogai camps and sent more jail keepers to teach them how to behave. If this wrong and illegal behaviors of your thibethians continue, we planned well to reduce your numbers signicantly.
    Recently, we had to increase our manpower on monitoring your illegal conversation s on energy waves, we not only listen, we also record, most of this illegal talks come from America and Europe, our secret expanded among those dangerous locations, as soon as we find those dangerous elements, we can act promptly on their roots in Thibet.
    Now I warn sternly about your illegal exit from motherland, stopping travel overseas are now successful as our secret agencies stopped issuing passports to thibethians and xingjiang people, as for the trespassing over hhimalayans, you better not , our boys will be merciless, you will be shot like rabbits in my back yard

  19. Tibetan Wolf

    Thanks for showing us just how brain dead the most fanatical supporters of the CCP are.

    I will tell you something about your “god” Mao and what he did for the Chinese people. Around 70 million Chinese died during his rule – either directly in state violence or in preventable famines that were used as a political tool. Many who survived the Cultural Revolution carried terrible scars – physical and psychological – for the rest of their lives. Mao as China’s supreme leader during these times was ultimately responsible for all of that mayhem.

    And, as I’m sure you actually know and relish the thought of, around 1 million Tibetans died as a result of China’s invasion of Tibet. Some liberation, some salvation that was.

  20. To Tibetan wolf. I pray to god that you will live long enough to see the day you will have to eat your own words infront of the Tibetans. You think, talk and behave typical chinese wolf. We Tibetans don’t have to argue with you because your words amply express how pathetic and degenerated you are. If you are representing the Chinese race then you do not need external enemies to defeat you, you are your own enemy and reason for destruction. My prayers of pity goes out to you and the people who you represent. Om Ah Hum!

  21. Anoni’s 15, where did you find that life expectancy was 35 and who did conduct the research before invasion and occupation by China? It is another CCP’s propaganda, just like the nong nu film. Nobody subscribes it. This very statement is same as reference to Chinese as “sick man of asia” where teaching a lesson to these sick men is the burden of Europeans. Anyway, whatever is the past does not give license to China to invade Tibet. So hands off man. Even in the so called modern China, dumping off baby girls are so common, that 98% of Chinese babies in America are adopted by white people. Moreover, ladies from beijing prostitue in Tokyo, ladies from Shanghai prostitute in New York, and ladies from Guangdong prostitute in Bangkok. Tibetans don’t throw out babe girls like faeces onto the street as Chinese do it to their own daughters. We cherish life as precious. Tibetan women do not prostitute as we have a high level of self dignity. Therefore, don’t throw your cheap Chinese shit in this forum, it only shows your stupidity and almighty self-rightous chauvinist

  22. That Prof. Sperling’s insightful analysis of the totalitarian mindset of the Chinese Communist colonialists in Tibet should summon such vitriolic anti-Tibetan, pro-Chinese Communist cant from certain readers is shocking. These defenders of the Chinese occupiers of Tibet pursue the same racist logic of those who vigorously defended slavery in the American south.

    The Chinese Communist Party tortures and murders Chinese people as well as Tibetans, Uighers, Mongols, etc. The apologists who continue to obscure this inconvenient truth have obviously never spent any time in a Chinese prison or labor camp. Perhaps they should visit Harry Wu’s new Laogai museum in Washington DC.

  23. Another accomplishment of party that I’m proud of is that we made Thibethians literate in our civilization, we not only made them to forget their barbarian tung, and we also achieved their young ones to hate their old barbarian ways. We figured out that the soul of their barbarian opinions, their barbarian beliefs and their barbarian culture and their barbarian language is their poisonous religion and the die- hard keepers of this
    malpractice. In the 50s, 60 s and 70s we assumed that torture an killings would subdue them and we did kill millions of the barbarians, destroyed their ghost temples and images of their barbarian deities, burned their books of demons and put those bad lamas and monks in our Laogai camps, but in 80s we learnt that the barbarians learnt no lessons for last three decades, instead their barbaric resentment and their barbaric spirit has been re-enforced and been revived. our son of the founder , whose holy name is his holiness Mr.Deng Xiaopeng saw the dangers of the volcanonic barbarians and he revised the method of taming the tiger-like barbarians, he made them release , he made them express, he made them breathe.
    In the process of creating a new society in our motherland, we put children of barbarians in our learning institutions and made them learn our civilized language and our civilized ways of life. Strange enough, these off-springs of barbarians didn’t want to forget their barbaric language and their barbaric ways of living. our son of the founder had an another idea, he created special learning institutions for the barbarian children and make them learn our civilized beliefs and our superior ways in their barbarian languages, later we found that this strategy was quite successful, we were able to produce obedient and loyal barbarian for our party and our motherland, later we sent these loyal barbarians back to their villages and successful make correcting the barbaric ways. At the same tims we wire trillions of cash to barbaric regions to tear down all that representing the barbarism and creating new civilizations that some times these inferior barbarians are very resentful of.

  24. We were very upset with this very spread of thibetian barbarism in abroad, last year they sabotaged our Olympic torch rallies in UK, France and California, and they seriously harmed our national pride and our glory.
    These barbarians were wooed and paid by foreign imperialists who envy our prosperity with red eyes, who wanted to see our downfall. Legally, those non-thibethian thibethians in abroad don’t represent our motherland’s thibethians, and it is not their business at all to interfere our internal affairs, we feed and clothe our thibethian comrades well for last 50 years.

  25. O yea….only 7 out of 16 of Dalai Lama siblings survived to adulthood.

    5 dalai lamas from 1800? to 1880? died too young and never really took his throne.

    Khampas and Goloks were notorious bandits. Kampas hated the Lhasa officials and wanted to overthrow the Lhasa governments.

    Monasteries fought against monasteries…and one appealed to Lhasa, the other appealed to Han-Chinese warlords.

    It this not living hell??

    The CCP united them all….Praise to CCP.

    But praise to Lord Jesus, the name above all names.

  26. According to Prof Sun Dong Dong, 99% of Chinese petitioners are mentally ill and unstable. Since vast majority of Chinese are being subjected to the wrath of supreme and all-rightous Communist Party of China, sons and daughters of these party officials in the guise of businessmen and businesswomen in collusion with local corrupt police and security forces removing these dirt poor Chinese citizens who are making up the 95% of entire Chinese population.

    Sun Dongdong, head of the university’s forensics department, told China Newsweek magazine (no relation to the American publication) that he thinks at least 99% of China’s petitioners are mentally ill, even if the vast majority of them do not show symptoms. He also expressed support for the forced hospitalizations of mentally ill petitioners.

    “When [a petitioner] insists on his particular point of view, that point of view is a symptom of paranoia,” he said, according to the report (in Chinese).

    “Hospitalization of [a mentally ill person] is the greatest safeguard,” he said. “He’s a danger to society and also a danger to himself. We must bring such a person in for treatment and speed up his mental recovery. In this way his human rights will be protected.”

    Perhaps, all the imposters and self-rightous persons on this forum must be mentally unstable and danger to online social life, thus need the attention of owners, readers, and temptorary visitors.

    Needless to mention, they are the forefront campaigners and members of the famous “fifty cent party” of PRC.

  27. The chinaman binds his wife’s feet. The chinaman dumps his baby daughters. The chinaman then steals his neigbor’s son. The chinaman bows in front of a hypocritic syphilitic Mao. The chinaman has no conscience. The chinaman has no soul. The chinaman is not his brother’s keeper. He steals his brother’s son. The chinaman blames his misfortune on others. The chinaman is ungrateful to his benefactors. There is nothing worse or more contemptible than a chinaman. As for the chinawoman refer to post by New generation. Every seedy massage parlor is full of them.
    So shove it buddy.

  28. Beijing xiao jie zai dong jing zuo ji, shanghai xiao jie zai nu yue zuo ji, guang dong xiao jie zai man gu zuo ji!

  29. Who is “Tibetan Wolf”? Are you a paid Chinese Communist propagandist? Please cease your insulting, incoherent, racist cant, it does not belong on this blog.

  30. Tibetan Wolf,

    You posts are racist and deliberately toned to cause offense. Yet you want people to welcome China into the world?


  31. Anoni,

    I think you should sort out what you’re about. It seems as if you have no idea what you’re going on about and just repeating things you have heard with no personal opinion or thought on the matters you speak of.

  32. I’m afraid I must confess to a certain degree of amusement at the fact that some of the responses from China to this piece bear out the conjecture in the final paragraph: i.e., that the institution of “Serf’s Emancipation Day” will mostly serve to reinforce an arrogant—and very much colonialist—line of thinking which holds that China is in Tibet to implement a civilizing project directed at a people who would otherwise be living in barbarism.

  33. WEll said, Prof. Sperling, your article has provoked a flood of racist hysteria similar to the justifications of slavery in the United States for 300 years, which exposes the colonial, militarist mindset of the Chinese Communist occupiers of Tibet for what it is.

    These racists comments are an insult to the Chinese democrats and intellectuals who are also victims the Chinese Communist state. 31 Chinese democracts traveled to Dharamsala on March 10th to stand with HH Dalai Lama, to condemn the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Many of them had been tortured in Chinese prisons.

    Their presence in Dharamsala was historic and inspiring, and just the beginning of a new alliance.

  34. Why waste time on Tibetan Wolf? I don’t think he is a Chinese or at least not educated in mainland even he is an ethnic Chinese.

    1. “traitor dog Jiang Jieshi”??? Although pinyin supposed to be the standardized Romanization system for Mandarin and suppose to supersede older systems such as Wade-Giles but Chinese people continue to use Chiang Kai-shek or Peking University for existing historical terms. Jiang Jieshi? Yeh right!

    2.“as you know we raped and cut open of their pregnant women….” PLA or its pre-1949 paramilitary or guerrilla organizations are highly respected in China (well, at least it’s so before June 4th, 1989). No Chinese will brag about rape a pregnant woman and usually those words only reserved for WW II Japanese invaders.
    3.“Mao-ze Dong is father of all fathers, Allah of all small Allahs” Give me a break! Ever seen a Chinese write that way?

    4.“whi-te”, “pei-pol”, ‘ethe’, ‘dtogs’, ‘hho hhates us”??? This is too sophisticated for a regular Chinese fenqing, I’ll say whatever this Tibetan Wolf guy is his first language is not Mandarin.

  35. Maybe Religion is Poisin is right that the guy is not a Chinese. Some of the words sound middle English to me. Anyway I am not going to take back what I had said simply because what the Chinese did to the Tibetans are far worse than any words we would use about them.
    When the Indians cursed the British it wasn’t racism. It was self defense. So it is in this case.
    Out of over billion chinese there are few who sympathise with the Tibetan. But in all my life I have not come across one who would not rationalize about the merits of being under the chinese overlordship. What’s wrong with coexisting as friendly neighbors? Many of our old aristocrats are enamoured of their culture anyway.

  36. There appear to have been a number of Chinese people posting on this website pretending to be Tibetan so it is possible that there could be a non-Chinese person pretending to be Chinese. Whoever Tibetan Wolf actually is, he or she is not worth wasting any more of our time on.

  37. Thank you Professor.
    It is thorough, objective and lucid.
    A must read for anyone involved in the Tibet cause; especially bureaucrats and policy makers in Dharamsala.

    It is a shame that we have to navigate our way through crude comments from some of the contributors such as ANONI, Crazy Wolf and Tibetan wolf.

    Looking at some of the outrageous, crude comments, I wonder if these are not posted with a more sinister motive than simply to irritate us readers.
    Sinister motive such as making JN’s blog look cheap by flooding it with cheap, ad-homenim attacks filled, racist comments.
    Their ultimate aim could be to drive away intelligent participants from the blog.
    If they succeeded in doing that, then the blog will gradually sink into just another average site frequented by the bored and the gossip mongers.

    The motive behind doing it could be varied; personal as well as non-personal.

    Non-personal reasons:
    Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I am aware, this is the only blog run by a Tibetan in English which is dedicated to discussing aspects of Tibetan politics and history that our government and the general mass is too “coy” to think about, let alone discuss in the open. As it is in English, it can reach a much wider international audience.

    It is the only blog discussing Tibetan Independence openly. Such discussions pose a threat to both the Chinese as well as a section of Tibetan society.

    The articles posted on this blog are not tabloid type gossips. These are thoroughly researched articles backed with various published sources.
    And it draws objective discussions from dedicated, intellectually mature and interested readers, Tibetans as well as non-Tibetans.
    Knowledge and Information, especially correct knowledge & correct information, is the ultimate weapon. It lies at the heart of all inventions and discoveries, and it is the force that paves way to changes.
    And I am sure there are many out there who feel threatened by the information that his blog is disseminating; threatened that his blog provides a platform for purposeful, interactive discussion on Tibetan issues.
    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are Tibetans among those who are threatened by his blog. There are many Tibetans, government bureaucrats as well as common people, who are “conditioned” to react “epileptically” to any mention of the word “Rangzen”, just as Pavlov’s dog is conditioned to salivate at the sound of the bell.
    {In the famous Pavlov’s dog conditioned reflex experiment, a bell is rung before the dog receives food. Repeat this process several times and the dog automatically salivates upon hearing the sound of the bell…}
    2. Needless to mention, CCP are sure to be trying their best to sabotage the blog.
    3. And of course there are the Chinese racist zealots who would be contributing in their own ways.

    Personal reasons:
    1. Personal vendetta of those who are personally jealous of JN, both Tibetan as well as Non-Tibetans. Some of the comments directed at JN have nothing to do with the article in question. They are volleys of personal ad-hominem attacks. And these people try to veil their “thinly veiled” hatred and jealousy using pseudo-academic jargons!!

    In order not to aid them in their sinister mission:
    1. we must refrain from responding to such comments (though I sometimes can’t resist the temptation to lash back!!)
    2. web master to weed out as many of these people as possible, so that the decent, objective contributors do not become a “minority” (in the same way that Tibetans are becoming a minority in Tibet)
    Just a thought!

  38. Well said Tsering, I have noticed an uptick in attacks on this blog in recent months, it is very important to call out those who post racist attacks on a regular basis so they fail to diminish the impact of Jamyang’s work and the discussion about Tibet he has provided for us.

    The Chinese Communist cyber hackers are studying networking among groups, so no doubt they are attempting to infiltrate and disrupt all Tibet activist networks in ever manner conceivable.

    Meanwhile, the persecution of the Tibetan people under CCP control accelerates, as world leaders turn their heads away in uncomfortable silence.

    China will continue to exploit the financial crisis to keep western powers in a craven posture and silence all discussion of Tibet – therefore the work of activists, journalists and scholars is more important than ever.

    It is morally repugnant to see nations of the putatively “free world” go to such lengths to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power.


  39. After some thoughts I realize I should make some change to post # 29. The last sentence should read “most seedy…” instead of “every seedy…” Otherwise I am confident that what I said are facts supported by news stories or other published sources and of course from experience, mother of all validators.

  40. Sir Elliot on ‘serf emancipation day’ has tried to be just, unbiased, honest and straight with his presentation of arguments and the reasoning. Some responses to the article claimed that it was balanced and critically written. But I reckon that it has inadvertently or perhaps in a sub-terrainian fashion painted Free Tibet a slave Tibet and The Enslaved Tibet a free Tibet. To add to it a ‘zamindar’ Dalai Lama with his own zamindari and the funny part was that at certain point, the chinese were coming out with flying colors as the great liberator.

  41. ZZTOP,

    You assessment is forced. You have proven you really didn’t read the article nor did you read the responses of those who liked the article.

    You should back up what you say with examples. And not the strange CCPish lines of reasoning you seem to demonstrate. I would particularly like to know how you could read it and then pronounce that the chinese came out with flying colors as the liberator. Like how Julius Caesar liberated the Gauls? Or how the Americans liberated the several native nations? Is that it? Damn. The Tibetans must be so grateful that the new Chinese empire has taken up the racist mantle from the Europeans and have brought Tibet into something so wonderful as subservience and extinction.

    (But then China has always been racist towards it neighbors, in as much as Europeans have ever been. It is a shame that most of China ignores this parallel and still cries about a past colonialism that injured them, all the while gleefully carrying out their own racist projects.)

  42. Regards to Hugh and thanks for the response but are you sure that you have understood what I have tried to say? What I mean to say is that sir Elliot has actually helped the the chinese with their propaganda and that we should refrain from such articles and ideas as this gravely affects our cause than being constructive.

  43. ZZtop,

    You said:

    “What I mean to say is that sir Elliot has actually helped the the chinese with their propaganda”
    Could you please elaborate which part of Professor’s article is aiding Chinese propaganda?

    “we should refrain from such articles and ideas as this gravely affects our cause than being constructive.”

    Could you please enlighten us the logic behind your comment above?


  44. ZZTOP,

    I would like you to explain how the article actually helps the Chinese project in Tibet. I understand what you said, and would like clarification.

  45. The Tibet expert writes-
    “With “Serf’s Emancipation Day” now fixed on the calendar, a few observations are in order. There’s no doubt that Tibet’s traditional society was hierarchical and backwards, replete with aristocratic estates and a bound peasantry. And there’s no doubt that Tibetans, whether in exile or in Tibet, voice no desire to restore such a society. Many Tibetans will readily admit that the social structure was highly in-egalitarian. But it was hardly the cartoonish, cruel “Hell on Earth” that Chinese propaganda has portrayed it to be”

    Why make a fuss about this communist designed ‘Serf emancipation day’? People should know that Tibet of 21st century has had a taste of Capitalism, in which fortune can be made and a life of an aristocracy can be lived – indulging in extravagance and doing ostentation. With this confidence in mind that anybody could be one if one is enterprising, hardworking and fortunate enough gave vent to their disillusionment with the traditional society. The issue has almost been forgiven and forgotten. People don’t really want to talk about it as it is a thing of past. Older generations have stopped their orientations on such issues to the new generation as it would be nothing more than digging into the shit – The more you dig into it, more the stench it would give.
    The article only serves as a recollection of the days gone by. It seems as if it is asking the Tibetans not to forget things, which should have been better if forgotten.

    “It’s hardly likely that most Tibetans, after all these decades, are ready to buy into the government-enforced description of their past; such a ham-handed propaganda campaign may actually end up making many Tibetans view the past as far rosier than it actually was. It is also unlikely to win over large foreign audiences beyond those who already are, or would like to be, convinced. Most likely, it will simply reinforce a Chinese sense of a mission civilatrice in Tibet”

    Even if most Tibetans, after all these decades, are ready to buy into the government-enforced description of their past is well enough. Remember that we are not here to entertain the foreign audience. We have a truth to present and if that is not convincing enough, you are free to buy the Chinese interpretation of Tibetan liberation.
    Yes I do agree that china has a great role to play in this global financial crises except that Tibet issue. Of-course many have their eyes on this ‘financial injection’ but perhaps feeling a little handicapped morally because of the chinese track record and its treatment of the minorities. But now with this argument presented, It would be easier to submit to the wishes of this insatiable red giant with one bold face.
    Shouldn’t it be better if the author had given an introspection into the plight of chinese peasantry in mainland china rather than the emancipation of Tibetan serfs. They should know that charity begins at home.
    This is my supposed clarification to those wanting it.

  46. I believe that zztop’s negative appreciation of Prof. Sperling’s article has little to do with the fact that it “actually helped” the Chinese propaganda or with the above lines. The reason is to be found in paragraphs 7 and 11, where Prof. Sperling states that the “negotiating process is dead”, that it “has turned out to have been a one-way street almost from the beginning”, and that “all of this has worked to China’s advantage.”

    Recalling that zztop advocated elsewhere on this blog that Dharamsala should endorse all the PRC’s lies to get “a step closer” to the realization of “genuine autonomy”, Prof. Sperling’s conclusion must come as a disturbing blow…

  47. ZZTop wrote:

    “People should know that Tibet of 21st century has had a taste of Capitalism, in which fortune can be made and a life of an aristocracy can be lived – indulging in extravagance and doing ostentation. With this confidence in mind that anybody could be one if one is enterprising, hardworking and fortunate enough gave vent to their disillusionment with the traditional society. The issue has almost been forgiven and forgotten. People don’t really want to talk about it as it is a thing of past.”

    Reminds me of Sun Shuyun’s book launch (of “A Year in Tibet”), where she claimed that Chinese people choose to go to Tibet for the material rewards accompanying hard work (apparently government incentives don’t come into the equation) and that Tibetans could share in these material rewards if they would just get off their butts and do some work.

    On a different note:

    I’m wondering if the 50 cent Party bloggers are under instructions to try and distract attention from Serf Emancipation Day and the fact that it has been an “own goal” for the Party. Just a thought…

  48. See the pick of Tibetan dance performance? These are people who are liberated serfs according to China. Now where do you think all this rich song and dance tradition come from. For sure, if that’s the kind of life of wild merry these serfs had, let me be one of them.

  49. Tibetansurf,

    You have picked up on that contradiction well.

    Marxian liberation theory needs peasants, “lessor” nations (nations once deemed by Lenin to be to small to survive on their own and needed to be incorporated into the large socialist super-states like the USSR), and wretches in order for it to work. But when the party gains control of such peoples, all of a sudden there is pageantry, dances, costumes, music, song, and depictions of the rich life of the common person. I wonder where this rich life came from? Did it suddenly appear whole hog after the vanguard party takes power?

    The issue for communists isn’t this though. The issue is that such displays are for themselves as a self-congratulatory mechanism which gives them a sense of pride in their version of history. Truth in post-lenin marxism is not a searching of reality to see what is happening, but a result of the party struggling against “anti-revolutionary” forces. If this seems like moving the goal posts around a bit in a cheating game of football, you have the picture clearly.

  50. Dear fellow Tibetans:

    As you may know, there is an article by professor Sperling’s argument about Lobsang Sangay la. At first I believed Lobsang Sangay la’s response. Because I believe he is telling truth as a fellow Tibetan scholar. But after I read more about Elliot Sperling’s another article. I changed my mind. I do not want you to believe me, please read free online Elliot Sperling’s article, called The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics. The website is



  51. The Chinese government is composed of despicable goons no better than Hitler and Goebbels. Anyone who supports the Chinese government is either a despicable goon or an ignorant fool.

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