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Former Tibet serfs say they cherish present happy life more than ever
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16:00, April 12, 2008

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"Only those who have experienced harsh winter know most the warmth of sun," said Saijor Zhoigar, the former vice president of the Tibet University, after comparing his life before and after the democratic reform of Tibet in 1961.

Zhoigar became a grazing serf at the age of seven, and didn't have enough to eat and wear at that time

Even in the first half of the 20th century, Tibet remained a society of feudal serfdom under theocracy.

"An earthquake hit my hometown Biru County in 1953, with cattle buried and tents destroyed, which made our miserable lives even harder," recalled Zhoigar.

"But the Tibet local government continued to levy head tax, and they even snatched the only small piece of butter which my family stored for the Tibetan new year."

"In 1957 the north Tibet was swept by a snowstorm, I was 11 years old then. As the only labor force in my family, I had to herd for the serf owner and collect cow dung for heating, despite the snow half my height."

"My family worshipped living Buddha. Every time I was struggling to get myself out a snow pit, every time I was starving in freezing weather, I kept wondering where was the god and the living Buddha," said Zhoigar, tears on his face.

The 62-year-old man removed the tears, "a huge snowstorm hit the north Tibet in 1987, also left cattle dead. At the critical moment, the central government sent helicopters to drop food, fuel and other life necessities for residents there, what a sharp contrast," said Zhoigar.

Serfs made up more than 95 percent of the population in the old Tibet. Owners sold, mortgaged and bartered serfs as just one more kind of property.

"The People's Liberation Army (PLA), who helped Tibetan people to quell an armed rebellion with an attempt to separate Tibet from China in 1959, saved me and sent me to a school in Lhasa. I was later sent to study in a school in the inner land."

Like many children of former serfs, Zhoigar eventually entered a college and had a decent job upon graduation.

"A serf became a government official, and even a leader of modern university. It's like a dream. But it;s a real story of me.I often said to myself: how great is my country, and how great is the new Tibet," said Zhoigar.

Yangzom, a former serf of a Shannan District manor, has enjoyed life after his retirement from the regional transport bureau.

"I had thought being a serf was my destiny," said Yangzom, "Shannan was the base of armed rebellion in 1959, I saw armies of the Dalai Lama looting and setting fires everywhere. They were so cruel with people who supported the Communist Party. They gouged their eyes and cut off their noses."

"The Dalai Lama group are talking about human rights. No people knows better than us, who experienced both old and new Tibet. We will never allow them to reverse of the wheels of history."

Yanglag, who and her husband helped Han nationality people to hide from the mobs attack during the March 14 riot, said the dearest wish of her childhood was to have enough to eat.

"I herded for my owner at the age of eight, and never imaged that I would go to school. I was liberated from the serfdom in 1959 and was provided free education, and became a civil servant."

Now Yanglag, the former director of the Jiangda county women's association in Changdu prefecture, bought a house in Lhasa after her retirement. She enjoys her retired life and would go out for walks in the neighborhood every day as an exercise.

"I feel so happy with my life now. We can not allow those to sabotage the ethnic unity and ruin our happy life. They will lift stones only to hit their own feet," said Yanglag.

Gaisang Doje, a retired official with the legislature of the Shannan prefecture said: "I never had a piece of new clothes before I was 15. In old Tibet, we worked like a dog and still got whipped by the owners.'

"The Dalai group wants to restore the old system, (because) that is the paradise for them. But for us it is the hell on earth."

Cangmolag, a former cadre of the Tibet University, said he and his sister both worked as servants in the house of a noble.

"My greatest wish then is to have a pair of shoes. That is the best life I can image," he said.

Cangmolag was sent to a school after the democratic reform and became a government official upon graduation from university.

"Without the democratic reform, I would have remained a servant of the lowest kind in the house of the noble," he said.

"The new Tibet forms a sharp contrast to the old one. No one can deny the facts in history," said Cangmolag, "we former serfs will never allow them to shade the sun from the sky of Tibet."


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