China has declared today a holiday -- Serf Emancipation Day.
While there wasn't celebrating in the streets here in Beijing, Tibet saw President Hu Jintao visit his old stomping ground -- he was previously party boss of Tibet -- and was responsible for crushing a series of riots in December 1988 where thousands of Tibetans and martial law was declared in Tibet.
Meanwhile at today's events, the government's hand-picked successor to the Dalai Lama was present as well as some "living buddhas" participating in a Chinese Communist Party-style event, in that from the video clips relayed from CCTV, there wasn't much religious chanting or rituals going on.
The first-ever Serf Emancipation Day is the latest in a number of public relations tactics China is using to persuade not only Tibetans but mostly people outside the country that the government has definitely made things better for them in the past 50 years.
In various media stories, there are attempts to show that China has helped pull Tibet out of the feudal area into the modern age, with Tibetans themselves saying that now they have computers, they can choose their own spouses, they have access to education and their incomes have increased significantly.
But why then has the government blocked access to YouTube this week, apparently preventing people in China to have access to videos that supposedly show police brutality on Tibetans who were allegedly protesting?
And why has the government not allowed foreign journalists to travel to the area now to see for themselves how things are in Tibet? There are reports, mostly from human rights groups, that Tibetans are being beaten or dragged away by police for the slightest form of protest. Without third-party confirmation, it's hard to tell what's really going on there.
It seems no matter what Beijing does to try to put a positive spin on things, the west refuses to listen. Is it because the claims are so far-fetched that they're hard to believe? Or is it because of many other brutal crackdowns (6/4) that people have read about that have made them leery about trusting whatever the government says?
Celebrating Serf Emancipation Day doesn't really quite have a nice ring to it either...