The Communist Party of China marked the 70th anniversary of its takeover of Tibet with a call for the region to accept the regime’s rule.
On August 19, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang spoke in front of a tightly-vetted crowd of 20,000 people at the iconic Potala Palace, a sacred Buddhist site in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, casting the Party as the savior who “peacefully liberated” Tibetan “peasant slaves.”
“Tibet can only develop and prosper by adhering to the Party’s leadership and the socialist path,” said Wang, who also heads the regime’s mostly nominal political advisory body and is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s top decision-making body.
In 1951, Chinese communist troops marched into the vast Himalayan region, forcing Tibetan leaders to sign a treaty promising to maintain Tibet’s existing political system, regional autonomy, and religious freedom.
After the Chinese military crushed a Tibetan uprising in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled on foot to India. He turned 86 this year. According to the exiled Tibetan government, 80,000 people quickly followed him.
While the regime claims to have “liberated” Tibetan peasants from an oppressive theocracy, critics and activists say Beijing has instead launched a campaign of “cultural genocide” in the unique Buddhist region, which had previously been largely independent of central Chinese rule for the majority of its history.
According to human rights organizations, the regime has forced monks and nuns to return to secular life over the years and sentenced some monks to harsh sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
A 2020 report by the think tank Jamestown Foundation also discovered militarized vocational training camps in Tibet, similar to those that house over one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Wang took a triumphant tone in his speech at the ceremony, gloating over what he called a “harmonious and stable” Tibet, where different ethnicities “love each other like tea and salt,” a reference to the smoky, salty local beverage known as butter tea.
He claimed that the party had “defeated the separatist and sabotage activities of the Dalai [Lama] group and overseas hostile forces,” as well as succeeded in eliminating extreme poverty in the region.