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Dalai suffered a huge loss after his failed armed rebellion against the central government in 1959. But the biggest thing he lost is the slavery and the theocracy that he stood for and protected and all the luxuries and privileges that came with that pre-Medieval system maintained at the expense of a million slaves who hardly knew such things as literacy, medical care, modern life, equality, human dignity, freedom from being owned by slave owners, and what抯 more, human rights.|
If we call the abolishment of the 250-year-old slavery system in North America a single great chapter in human rights in the 19th century, we have to regard the ending of slavery in Tibet, China as a most significant chapter in human rights in the 20th century. Call it another Great Emancipation.
The slavery in North America started in the 17th century, shortly after the permanent European settlement began, while the slavery in Tibet had been in practice for centuries longer, virtually intact, reinforced over the years, until 1959 when Dalai rebelled.
The former slaves in North America were captured young black men and women from Africa, shipped across the ocean and sold to white slave owners on the slave market. The former slaves in Tibet were native Tibetans who made up over 95% of the local population, and who had been born slaves generation after generation.
The former black slaves were forced to obey their white masters, while the former Tibetan slaves were made to obey not only their owners, but also the entire theocratic ruling structure, embedded into every fabric of life and society, enforced from top to bottom.
The American black slaves were subject to severe punishments such as whipping for disobedience and offense, while the Tibetan slaves were subject to more barbarous forms of punishment such as skinning.
The black slaves in America were meant as cheap labor to facilitate productivity and profitability of the large number of plantation owners seeking to expand capitalist mode of production, while the vast number of slaves in Tibet were meant to live at the bottom of the society serving the exclusive pleasure, will, and rituals of a tiny minority of rulers sitting on the top of the social ladder and governing by a theocracy designed to perpetuate the feudalistic and primitive mode of life and social structure.
The American slavery was ended through a four-year civil war that claimed over 600,000 lives. The Tibetan slavery was ended after its ruler fled from a botched riot. On both sides, the slave owners put up a fierce fight to defend a system being threatened by changing attitudes and social progress. Both failed, unavoidably.
The ending of slavery in the United States paved the way for American industrialization and a rising United States. The ending of slavery in Tibet smoothed out the way for a rising China.
Half a century ago, when Dalai fled, he probably never expected to witness the kind of earth-shaking changes in Tibet that his failed revolt helped to shape and hasten, inadvertently at least. He has no claim to make on the vast improvements the Chinese government has accomplished in Tibet in terms of increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, higher literacy, better healthcare, natural population growth, as well as in the field of culture, education, transportation, economy, business, industry, management, telecommunication, mass media, tourism, science and technology, etc. He did not expect that his slaves of yesterday, despised and down-trodden, would be living as dignified individuals today, and that he himself, a former ruler and owner of slaves, would be living in self-imposed exile.
It would be extremely hard to imagine Jefferson Davis, president of the defeated Confederate States of America, to ask Abraham Lincoln or Andrew Johnson to be allowed to return to Congress as a senator without coming clean on what he had stood for and had done to safeguard slavery and split from the Union, let alone asking to carve out the same former slave states or even a larger piece of land on which to rule again by professing to have become a changed man.
It would be equally hard to imagine the self-respecting and sovereign Chinese government not to take Dalai抯 shifting proposals with a grain of salt, or not to give Dalai more time to figure out what exactly he stands for fifty years later, and how he should live up to his new claim and how he could be useful to a new Tibet that has emerged without him.
Slavery in Tibet is gone. Time has moved on. The Great Emancipation has kicked off, and it is still steaming on. Tibet has joined the other nationalities of the homeland to blaze a new future.
More than a century ago, when General Robert Lee of the Confederate Army surrendered to General Ulysses Grant of the Union Army in 1865, it marked the end of the era of slavery in the United States. General Lee抯 sadness at the South抯 defeat could hardly be concealed by his defiant look and his spick-and-span uniform at the surrender ceremony. But as history had it, one side抯 loss turned out to be the whole nation抯 gain.
Nearly fifty years ago, Dalai fled from his homeland only to watch the old Tibet transform into a new Tibet, and a weak China grow into a strong China. He probably realized how much he lost in his failed gamble. But indeed, as history has played out, one man抯 loss in Tibet was a million men抯 and women抯 gain.
When it comes to Great Emancipations, history will not shed many tears for shedding a slavery system, in America, or in China.