BEIJING: Countering US' criticism of its governance in Tibet, China on Wednesday defended its polices and highlighted major economic development and improvement of lives of people in the remote Himalayan region since a failed uprising against Beijing's rule 60 years ago.
Releasing a white paper on Tibet showcasing the region's development under the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) here, Tibet's executive vice governor Norbu Dondrup denied there was any significant support for Tibet as a separate political entity.
"The issue of Tibetan independence does not exist," he told the media.
About 150 Tibetans committed self-immolations in different parts of Tibet since 2009 calling for the return of 83-year-old Dalai Lama from his exile and improvement of human rights in the Himalayan region.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, crossed the border into India following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet on March 31, 1959.
China says Tibet for centuries has been its territory well before People's Liberation Army (PLA) took control of it in 1950.
The white paper coincided with the US State Department report that documented access problems to Tibet in a report to Congress mandated by the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, passed with bipartisan support in December.
China's white paper said Tibet's GDP in 2018 reached 147.76 billion yuan (USD 22 billion), about 191 times more than the 1959 figure calculated at comparable prices.
Through 60 years of hard work, the people in Tibet have seen agriculture and animal husbandry become increasingly modernized, the white paper, titled "Democratic Reform in Tibet -- Sixty Years On" said.
The life expectancy of the people in Tibet increased from 35.5 years before 1959 to 68.2 years now, it said.
Tibet's population has grown from 1.23 million in 1959 to 3.44 million in 2018, with Tibetans accounting for over 90 percent of the total, it said.
The living condition of people in Tibet has improved, the white paper said, noting that in 2018, the average per capita disposal income of urban residents was 33,797 yuan (USD 5,035) and that of rural residents was 11,450 yuan.
The white paper also criticised the Dalai Lama for attempting to maintain feudal serfdom.
"For centuries Tibet was ruled by feudal serfdom under theocracy. Millions of serfs were subjected to cruel exploitation and oppression until democratic reform in 1959," it said.
Under the system, the three-major estate-holders (government officials, nobles, and upper-ranking lamas in monasteries) deprived all rights of serfs, held in their hands the serfs' life and death, monopolized land, pastures and other means of production, it said.
Education has also been improved.
In 2018, the net enrolment rate in primary school was 99.5 per cent, and gross enrolment rates in junior high, senior high and higher education were 99.5 per cent, 82.3 per cent and 39.2 per cent respectively, it said.
The childbirth mortality rate of people in Tibet fell from 50 per 1,000 at the beginning of the reform to 1.02 per 1,000 in 2017, and the infant mortality rate from 430 per 1,000 to 10.38 per 1,000, it noted.
The freedom of religious belief of all ethnic groups is protected by the Constitution and the laws, with all religions and religious sects being equally respected and protected, it said.
Currently, Tibet has 1,787 sites for the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, over 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and 358 Living Buddhas, it said.
There are four mosques and over 12,000 native Muslims, and one Catholic church, it said.