“Tibet: China’s policy paper on Tibet”. Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. May 2004 – “Even in the first half of the 20th century, Tibet remained a society of feudal serfdom under theocracy, one even darker and more backward than medieval Europe. The ecclesiastical and secular serf owners, though accounting for less than five percent of the population of Tibet, controlled the personal freedom of the serfs and slaves who made up more than 95 percent of the population of Tibet, as well as the overwhelming majority of the means of production. By resorting to the rigidly stratified 13-Article Code and 16-Article Code, and extremely savage punishments, including gouging out eyes, cutting off ears, tongues, hands and feet, pulling out tendons, throwing people into rivers or off cliffs, they practiced cruel economic exploitation, political oppression and mental control of the serfs and slaves. The right to subsistence of the broad masses of serfs and slaves was not protected, let alone political rights.
After the Opium War of 1840, China was reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country. Tibet, like other parts of China, suffered from the aggression of imperialist powers, which grabbed all kinds of special privileges by means of unequal treaties, subjected Tibet to colonial control and exploitation, and, at the same time, groomed separatists among the upper ruling strata of Tibet, in an attempt to sever Tibet from China. Therefore, the removal of the fetters of imperialism and feudal serfdom became a historically paramount task for safeguarding the unification of the country and realizing the development of Tibet.
The founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 ended the dark history of the semi-colonial, semi-feudal China, realized unification of the country, unity of ethnic groups and people’s democracy, and brought hope to the Tibetan people that they could control their own destiny in the large family of the motherland. It was expressly stipulated in the Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which had the status of the provisional Constitution, that “All ethnic groups within the territory of the People’s Republic of China are equal, unity and mutual assistance shall be practiced, discrimination against and oppression of ethnic groups, and acts undermining the unity of the ethnic groups shall be prohibited; the people of all ethnic minorities shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs and religious beliefs; and regional ethnic autonomy shall be practiced in areas where ethnic minorities live in compact communities.” In the first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, promulgated in 1954, the principles of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all ethnic groups, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy were officially included in the fundamental law of the state. Proceeding from the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people, the Central People’s Government has profoundly changed the destiny of Tibet and realized and developed the rights of the Tibetan people as masters of their own affairs through great strategic decisions and measures such as peaceful liberation of Tibet, promotion of democratic reforms, establishment of the autonomous region, carrying out socialist construction, reform and opening-up.”