They once owned nothing but their shadows and footprints. As "walking and talking tools," the lives of serfs in Tibet 60 years ago were worse than those of their peers in Medieval Europe. Their misery finally came to an end in 1951 when the Central Government in Beijing and Tibet's local government signed the agreement that brought about the region's peaceful liberation. This year marks the 60th anniversary of that epoch-making event.
For 60 years, miracles have taken place on the "roof of the world." Millions of former serfs have become the masters of their own society and destiny. Tibet has marched from autocracy to democracy, from poverty to affluence, and from seclusion to openness. The region has undergone an extraordinary historic process: starting with democratic reform, proceeding to the establishment of Tibet Autonomous Region, and to the reform and opening up drive. The past six decades have witnessed remarkable progress in the region's political, economic and social development.
Native Tibetans now occupy Tibet's top jobs, including chairman of the regional government and chairman of the regional People's Congress. Tibetan and other ethnic minorities constitute 78 percent of all government employees at regional, municipal and county levels across Tibet.
A host of other figures attest to the remarkable changes. Per-capita GDP in Tibet topped 17,000 yuan ($2,631) in 2010, which is 34 times the figure in 1959. Tibet's population has increased to 3 million from 1.23 million in 1959. Of that population 95 percent are Tibetans or other minority people. The life expectancy of Tibet's residents has reached 67 years, almost double the 35.5 years of 60 years ago.
The time of a Tibet without roads, airlines or railways to connect its people to the outside world has long since come to an end. With the rapid development of information technology, Tibet is now going digital and is better connected to the world outside. Meanwhile, the eco-environment on the plateau continues to be well protected and the fine traditions of Tibet's unique culture are preserved and promoted.
All these successes have been achieved jointly by Tibetans and people from other parts of the country. Under the arrangement of partnership assistance program Tibet has, for decades, been supported by better developed provinces and municipalities. People from across the country have left their families behind to work for Tibet's construction and prosperity, thousands of them even lost their lives on the high plateau.
In addition, preferential policy measures have been adopted to facilitate Tibet's development. Tibet is the first place in China where compulsory education was made free, the first place where all rural residents received free medical care and the first place where urban and rural residents were both given a subsistence allowance.
Of course on the long road to development and prosperity, new difficulties and challenges are inevitable. But as long as Tibet sticks to the leadership of the Central Government, and continues on a development path with Chinese and local Tibetan features, the region will certainly enjoy greater prosperity and embrace a even brighter future.