LHASA – This week, China has marked the 50th anniversary of what they describe as the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet. The long and bitter feud between the two lands begun exactly 5 decades ago in 1950, when communist soldiers marched in to Tibet and declared it a Chinese sovereign. It wasn’t, however, declared an autonomous region until September 1, 1965.

Speaking in front of the Potala Palace, which was once home to the Dalai Lama, leading official within the communist party, Yu Zhengsheng – who is also the individual in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities – declared that: “People of all ethnicities are steadfastly engaged in a struggle against separatism, continuously thwarting the Dalai clique and foreign hostile forces’ splittist and sabotage activities.”

The hostility towards the figure head of the Buddhist religion comes from years of campaigns in which he encouraged the freedom of Tibet, his homeland. Also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the Dalai Lama fled China back in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule and who is now currently seeking refuge in India.

Local state run newspapers have also used the anniversary as an opportunity to denounce the Dalai Lama, naming him a “cheater” and a “cruel ruler in exile”.

Despite the general sensitivity of the anniversary, with much of the international community believing that China has ruled the country under an iron fist, no expenses were spared for the celebrations. Classical displays of Chinese ornate jubilance and powerful visual synchronization, it was attended by an estimated 20,000 people from all over Tibet and the streets were lined with an array of age groups all waving the Chinese flag in commemoration of the historical milestone. The delegation were also expected to present gifts to the Tibetan people, including solar-powered television sets. This follows the trend of 2005, which marking the independent region’s 40th birthday, the central government sent a solar cooker to the household of every farmer and herdsman.

This year also marks both the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama, as well as the 20th anniversary of the young boy named Panchen Lama who went missing after he was put under house arrest over two decades ago and hasn’t been seen since. He was only six years old when the Dalai Lama named him as the reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhism’s second highest figure. Chinese authorities have declared that he is living a happy, normal life away from the glare of the spotlight.

On Monday, Yu urged army, police and judicial staff in Tibet to be ready to “fight a protracted battle against the clique of the 14th Dalai Lama.”

 – Izzy Lyons, Correspondent (Politics)