China celebrated 50 years of direct control over Tibet Saturday with an international Buddhist forum in the eastern city of Wuxi and a new holiday, "Serfs' Emancipation Day."
The forum featured a rare appearance by Beijing's hand-picked Buddhist leader, Panchen Lama, who told the gathering the event fully demonstrates that today's China enjoys social harmony, stability and religious freedom.
In Tibet's capital, Lhasa, Chinese authorities held a televised ceremony outside the Potala Palace and raised the Chinese flag.
The region's Communist Party boss Zhan Qingli told the crowd that 50 years ago the communist government overturned Tibet's feudal system. The communists presented selected Tibetans, who praised the Chinese administration and denounced Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile said the holiday was offensive and was aggravating problems. It said it would be a day of mourning for Tibetans around the world.
March 28th marks the date when China ended the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, sending the Dalai Lama into exile in India.
The Dalai Lama says that over the past five decades China has killed hundreds of thousands of Tibetans and turned the region into "hell on earth."
While the Chinese government is trying to paint a positive picture of life in Tibet, authorities are also stepping up security to prevent more unrest.
The Chinese government has repeatedly accused foreign journalists of distorted reporting about Tibet. At the same time, Beijing has made it nearly impossible for foreign reporters to travel there to verify what is sparking continued unrest.