Update: Had to add this photo, via this excellent blog.
Is this too much?
Saturday, March 28, China will observe a newly created holiday: Serf Emancipation Day, which commemorates the day in 1959 when the Tibetan government was dissolved after the Chinese government crushed a Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama went into exile. The holiday was established following last year’s Tibetan protests and riots against Chinese rule and is intended to highlight what Beijing says is the social and economic progress that Tibetans have made over the last 50 years.
In conjunction, China’s state media has unleashed a propaganda blitz surrounding the holiday. Over the last twenty-four hours, headlines on state-run Xinhua news agency have included: “Ending serfdom in Tibet, a giant step in human rights progress that deserves commemoration,” “China calls on overseas Tibet report to be objective” and “Former female serfs recollect tragic past.” (None, however, quite reach the extremes of this report from a few of weeks ago: “A religious ceremony for the Dalai Lama used human blood, skulls and skin“).
I’m reading in Peter Hessler’s River Town about how every time he turned on CCTV, they seemed to be featuring happy minority children performing folk dances, and how most of the time they were Tibetan. Always bouncing with joy and glee. The propaganda never stops, and it never improves. (At least Goebbels and Karl Rove did it with flair and imagination.) Whether or not China’s claims to Tibet are legitimate and whether or not things are better for most Tibetans now than they were pre-Liberation isn’t the point. The point is looking ridiculous in the eyes of the rest of the world for the scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners media blitz that everyone’s going to laugh at. Serf Emancipation Day.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.