Tibetans enjoy better lives after democratic reforms

LHASA: Two spoons of zanba, a traditional Tibetan staple food of roasted barley flour, were all that Padma’s parents earned after a hard day’s work at their landlord’s estate.
The little food could barely feed Padma and his four siblings, and starvation was the norm for the serfs’ family in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
“Living in a dimly-lit room of 15 square meters, the seven members of my family all slept on the floor, covered only by a ragged piece of sheepskin,” said Padma, recalling his childhood days.
Such a plight came to an end in 1959, when the family was granted 11 mu (0.7 hectares) of land to grow crops, after a democratic reform liberated more than 1 million people, or 90 percent of the population of the region at that time, from the feudal serfdom.
“Today, we have more than enough zanba to eat. We eat only the fresh one and give the rest to the livestock,” said Padma, now 66, who lives in a village near the city of Shigatse. “My wife and I have new clothes to wear every year, and my children all wear clothes made of cotton.” More than six decades after the reform, today’s Tibet is a far cry from the dark days of feudal serfdom, with residents enjoying rights and freedom unimaginable in the past, and their living standards greatly improved.
Tibet has basically eradicated absolute poverty, with all counties taken off the poverty list. The average life expectancy of the people in Tibet has risen to 70.6 from 35.5 before 1959. Qizhala, chairman of the regional government of Tibet, hailed the socialist path the region has taken after the reform in a speech on Saturday that marked the Serfs’ Emancipation Day. – Agencies