China marks 50 years of direct control over Tibet

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China celebrated 50 years of direct control over Tibet with a lavish international Buddhist conference Saturday featuring a rare appearance by Beijing's hand-picked Buddhist leader — underscoring efforts to promote its image as a protector of the faith.

March 28 marks the date when China ended the 1959 Tibetan uprising, sending Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama over the Himalayas into exile in India and placing Tibet under its direct rule for the first time.

In China's official version of events, Tibet in mid-century was a remote medieval backwater where most people lived in servitude to the Buddhist theocracy and nobility until the Communist government stepped in. To support that contention, China commemorated a new political holiday Saturday — "Serfs Liberation Day."

The Tibetan government-in-exile said on its Web site that the new holiday is aggravating problems in the region and would be a day of mourning for Tibetans around the world.

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