Although some people claimed before 1959, ordinary Tibetan people could enjoy milk tea as they wished and a great deal of meat and vegetables, a survey conducted in eastern Tibet in 1940 showed that 38 percent of Tibetan families never had tea to drink, 51 percent could not afford butter, and 75 percent sometimes had to eat weeds boiled with ox bones and oat or bean flour. "There is no evidence to support the picture of Tibet as a Utopian Shangrila." said the American Tibetologist A. Tom Grunfeld, according to the white paper titled "Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet" published by the Information Office of the State Council, or China's cabinet on March 2,2009.
The white paper says that ruthless oppression and exploitation under the feudal serfdom of theocracy stifled the vitality of Tibetan society and reduced Tibet to a state of chronic stagnation for centuries. Even by the middle of the 20th century, Tibet was still in a state of extreme isolation and backwardness, almost without a trace of modern industry, commerce, science and technology, education, culture or health care. Primitive farming methods were still being used, and herdsmen had to travel from place to place to find pasture for their livestock.
The white paper also says that there were few strains and breeds of grains and animals, some of which had even degenerated. Farm tools were primitive. The level of both the productive forces and social development was very low. Deaths from hunger and cold, poverty and disease were commonplace among the serfs, and the streets of Lhasa, Xigaze, Qamdo and Nagqu were crowded with male and female beggars of all ages.
The white paper points out that plenty of evidence demonstrated that by the middle of the 20th century the feudal serfdom of theocracy was beset with numerous contradictions and plagued by crises. Serfs petitioned their masters for relief from their burdens, fled their lands, resisted paying rent and corvee labor, and even waged armed struggle. Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, once a Galoin (cabinet minister) of the former local government of Ti-bet, pointed out that "all believe that if Tibet goes on like this the serfs will all die in near future, and the aristocrats will not be able to live either. The whole Tibet will be destroyed." (The highest school of the Gelug Sect in Tibet. - ed.)
By People's Daily Online