Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, March 31, 2003

Tibetans Live with Democracy for Half a Century

Gyai'ra Losang Dainzin, a Tibetan with no political party affiliation, was recently elected as vice-chairman of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.


Gyai'ra Losang Dainzin, a Tibetan with no political party affiliation, was recently elected as vice-chairman of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

His father Lhalu Cewangdoje, a hereditary aristocrat in old Tibet, had been appointed by the Dalai Lama to be one of the four principal ministers in the old Tibetan government.

"There was no election of any kind in old Tibet," Lhalu Cewangdoje said.

Though the term "democracy" originated in ancient Greece some 2,000 years ago, it was not introduced to Tibet until 1959, when a democratic reform was launched in the region.

Since the Tibet Autonomous Region was established in 1965, the systems of Tibet Regional People's Congress and Tibet Regional Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference also came into being.

Later, terms related to democracy, such as single-candidate election, scrutineer, autonomy and human rights, gradually appeared in Tibet.

Consequently, more and more Tibetans have become familiar with these political terms.

"I have turned from an ordinary citizen into a senior official with the emergence of such political terms. I have learned something new in the process of getting in touch with each new term," Gyai'ra Losang Dainzin said.

Qabai Cedain Puncog, a noted Tibetan linguist, said that "Each new word appears on the basis of social realities. They can't be concocted out of nothing."

The Tibetan language excluded these political terms in the past because democracy and election did not exist in the feudal serf society, Qabai Cedain Puncog added.

In the past, the linguist said, Tibetans were classified into three types with nine levels. Slaves, who made up 95 percent of the region's total population, had no right to profit from their production, let alone rights of electing and to be elected.

Even for the remaining five percent of Tibetans, many of whom were noble lords and Buddhist monks in the upper strata, few were endowed with democracy of any kind, he added.

All the officials of Kasha, or the former local Tibetan government, were appointed by the Dalai Lama. The most wide-ranging meeting held in old Tibet was only attended by the Dalai with his four principal ministers and heads of three leading lamaseries, he said.

Nowadays, Tibet has more than 70,000 officials, all of whom took up their posts through election. Citizens of all ethnic groups aged 18 or above in Tibet have rights of electing and to be elected, according to the Law Committee of the Tibet Regional People's Congress.

"Villagers in Tibet began direct election of village committee heads last year, which indicates that the political and democratic system in the region is steadily improving," said Zha Si, an official with the Tibet Regional Civil Affairs Department.

"Democracy is spreading to every corner of Tibet," he said.

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