Lhasa (Tibet): Regional autonomy has been fully guaranteed in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), which has grown economically with the aspirations of the people of all the ethnic groups in the area, a top Chinese official has said.
"Politically speaking, regional autonomy has been granted fully in the TAR," Wu Yinggjie, the first deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China`s TAR committee, told IANS in an interview here on Thursday.
Countering the claims of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in the north Indian hill station of Dharamsala, which is demanding more autonomy for the people in Tibet within the Chinese constitution, he said Tibet has been an integral part of China since ancient times.
"Prior to the 1950s, Tibet was a society of feudal serfdom under theocratic rule. Government officials, aristocrats and monasteries collectively maintained tight control over Tibet`s resources and wealth."
Half a century later, Tibet is totally different from its "old world" before the 1950s, Wu added.
"Tibet has been one of the five autonomous regions of China and the Tibetans have been one communal member of the Chinese nation," he said.
He said before 1950 Tibet was totally backward.
"In 1959 (the year in which Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled Tibet and took refuge in India), Tibet carried out the democratic process and in 1965 the TAR was established. This year (2015) marks the 50th anniversary celebrations of TAR`s formation."
Wu said: "The millions of people ruled by the serfs have now become the masters of their own fate."
"The people of Tibet have gained freedom, equality and dignity. They are working hard in unison towards building a united, affluent, culturally and ethically advanced society in the TAR."
"Today we can say Tibet has leapt from a feudal serfdom society into a modern society. The development of Tibet has been a process in which people are gaining more and more freedom," he said.
"We believe in transformation from `deity` first to people first."
Economic growth and the improvement of people`s livelihood are the top-most priorities of the TAR, the official said.
"The economy of Tibet has now shifted from an agrarian society to a modern society. The gross domestic product (GDP) of Tibet in 2013 increased to 80.7 billion yuan ($13 billion/Rs.83,000 crore) and the per capita income of the farmers and the herdsmen was 6,578 yuan. A majority of Tibetans have now come out of poverty and are enjoying a relatively comfortable life," the official said.
"Tibet now presents a picture of mixing traditional and modern elements, featuring mainly economic, cultural prosperity and harmony. Of course, people`s freedom of religion is fully respected."
Justifying his claims, he said the central government has pumped in 648 billion yuan from 1952 to 2014 in the TAR.
"The central government has planned to complete 226 major projects in Tibet from 2011 to 2015 in sectors ranging from infrastructure to industrial projects, all improvement to day-to-day lives of the locals," Wu said.
"Tibet`s development can`t be separated from the concentrated efforts of all the ethnic groups in India," he added.
On promoting TAR, famous for the Potala Palace, the storehouse of the Tibetan ancient culture in Lhasa, as the tourist destination, he said last year 14 million tourists, both from China and abroad, came to TAR.
"We are going to promote TAR as a big tourist destination, provided more infrastructures are improved for the tourists," he added.