Video: Tibet forced to observe holiday celebrating its 'liberation' by China

The Potala Palace in Lhasa
The Potala Palace in Lhasa

30th March 2017

China has imposed 'Serfs Emancipation Day' on Tibet since 2009

Free Tibet has acquired videos of Tibetans being forced to participate in "Serfs Emancipation Day", an annual celebration to commemorate what the Chinese Communist Party calls the ”peaceful liberation of Tibet”.

The videos, obtained by Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch, show Serfs Emancipation Day, which takes place every 28 March, being observed in Nagchu in central Tibet and Lhasa. It is rare for footage from these areas, both inside China’s heavily militarised ‘Tibetan Autonomous Region’, to reach the outside world.

An unpopular holiday

Serfs Emancipation Day has the status of a national holiday in Tibet. It was introduced by the Chinese government in 2009 to commemorate what it calls the 50th anniversary of the end of serfdom and feudalism in Tibetan society following an uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule in March 1959. Following the military crackdown by the Chinese military, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape from Tibet into exile in India, where he has remained ever since.

These same events are commemorated by Tibetans opposing the Chinese regime in Tibet and around the world every 10 March as the anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising.

In the video from Nagchu, Tibetans carry the Chinese national flag and march through a street in Amdo County.

Tibetans can be seen in the video wearing the chupa, traditional clothes made of animal skin. They are likely to have been coerced into doing so since the Tibetans’ spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, called on Tibetans to refrain from wearing animal skin in 2006. Large numbers of Tibetans came out in support of the Dalai Lama's appeal and burnt their animal skin clothes.

The video is accompanied by a Tibetan voiceover that says, "This is Amdo County. This is today's show. People donned in fox-fur hats and otter-skin chupa. Oh ho ho".

In the second video, a celebration can be seen being prepared in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. After the video was shot, the Chinese national flag was hoisted in front of the palace and various cultural performances took place.

According to one Chinese source, the event and commemorative activities held in the Potala Palace Square were attended by more than 3,000 people.

The same article claims, "58 years ago China defeated the local armed rebellion in Tibet and thus completely abolished Tibetan feudal serfdom. Since then, millions of serfs in Tibet have been liberated - an important milestone in the world's slavery and a major development in the international human rights cause."

Despite these claims, Tibetans in exile have denounced the celebration, while some Tibetans in Tibet have also defied China’s strict controls to show their opposition. In 2013, several Tibetans were arrested and tortured after they refused to comply with Chinese authorities order to hoist the Chinese national flag atop their house in Driru County, also in Nagchu Prefecture.

Take action

Tibetans in Tibet live under intense pressure. Their human rights are abused, their religion and language are under attack and even the ground beneath their feet is at risk. Chinese companies operating in Tibet extract valuable resources and do immense damage to the environment. One company operational in Tibet, the vehicle manufacturer BYD, sells its buses to public transport authorities around the world. Add your name to our petition calling on Paris not to do deals with a company that exploits Tibet.