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China celebrates 50th anniversary of Tibet's autonomy

A grand ceremony is held in front of the Potala Palace to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tibet's founding on September 8, 2015. Photo: Xinhua

China staged a grand ceremony on Tuesday in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tibet's founding.

The event lauded Tibet's economic successes under Chinese Communist Party rule.

Top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng stressed Tibet's unity with the rest of China in his address in front of a crowd of thousands gathered in front of the stunning Potala Palace in the regional capital of Lhasa, once home to the Dalai Lama and now a museum.

"During the past 50 years the Chinese Communist Party and the Tibetan people have led the transformation from a backward old Tibet to a vibrant socialist new Tibet," Yu told the audience of schoolchildren, soldiers, armed police and party officials applauding and waving flags.

People's living standards have improved, infrastructure has been built across Tibet and its gross domestic product had grown 68 times, Yu said at the ceremony broadcast live on state television.

Yu's speech was followed by a parade of goose-stepping marchers carrying the national emblem of China, along with portraits of past and present leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. Dancers and musicians in traditional Tibetan dress also performed, although there was no visible participation by representatives of the Buddhist clergy that forms the backbone of the Himalayan region's traditional culture.

China established the Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965, one of five ethnic regions in the country today, after the election of the regional People's Congress, the local legislature.

Reinforcing the importance of strict control from Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party's central committee said in a statement that "only by sticking to the CPC's [Communist Party's] leadership and the ethnic autonomy system, can Tibetans be their own masters and enjoy a sustainable economic development and long-term stability".

Referring to the Dalai Lama who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, Yu said that activities by him and others to "split China and undermine ethnic unity have been defeated time and time again".

"People of all ethnicities are steadfastly engaged in a struggle against separatism, continuously thwarting the Dalai clique and foreign hostile forces' splittist and sabotage activities," Yu said.

There was no immediate comment from the 80-year-old Dalai Lama, who is in Britain this month for a series of speaking engagements. The monk, who is based in India, says that he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

On Monday, Yu urged army, police and judicial staff in Tibet to be ready to "fight a protracted battle against the clique of the 14th Dalai Lama", the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

This year also marks several sensitive anniversaries for Tibet. It marked the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama and the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of a young Tibetan who was chosen by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

On Sunday, a senior Chinese official said that the young man, six years old when he disappeared, "is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed".

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