Jeane Kirkpatrick's Dec. 21 column,"Second-Class Citizens in Their Own Homeland" {op-ed}, clearly reveals the author's irresponsible attitude in attempting to depict Tibet as a separate country from China and quoting concocted figures provided by the Dalai Lama and his followers, who fled the country after an abortive rebellion in 1959. One has every reason to believe that the purpose of this article, which is inflammatory, was to throw mud at China and to stir up hostile sentiments toward China.

It is a historical fact that Tibet has always been an inalienable part of Chinese territory. It officially came under the jurisdiction of the central government in the 13th century during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). And from the 13th century to the 18th century, the political and religious systems in Tibet were gradually laid down by the successive central governments of China.

The functions, powers and organization of the Tibetan local government were defined by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). After the founding of the People's Republic of China, an agreement on the peaceful liberation of Tibet between the central government of China and the local government of Tibet was signed on May 23, 1951.

The fact that Tibet is a part of China is universally recognized by all the countries of the world. Therefore, any affairs of Tibet are entirely China's internal affairs. It is totally groundless and preposterous to regard the situation in Tibet in the same category with foreign aggression in Afghanistan and Cambodia and to liken China to a foreign government that uses force to subdue an ethnically and culturally distinct people. Kirkpatrick surely must be aware that we have 55 different minority nationalities in China, and Tibetan is one of them.

The article alleged that "today Chinese outnumber Tibetans in their own homeland (some 7.5 million to 6 million)." The fact is, the number of Han people in Tibet is only about 73,000, while that of the Tibetans is 1.93 million. Moreover, those educated and skilled Han people are mostly engaged in economic development programs for the sole purpose of helping raise the living standard of the Tibetan people.

The article alleged that "as the Dalai Lama notes, the Chinese government has made Tibetans 'second-class citizens in their own homeland.' " The fact is, the central people's government has, since the founding of New China in 1949, always carried out the policy of equality among all nationalities. The democratic reform in 1959 abolished the cruel and barbaric serf system in Tibet and liberated tens of thousands of slaves. It provided a fundamental basis for the Tibetan people to enjoy the rights to democratic freedoms. Under the serf system, a small minority of serf-owners were free to punish, torture or kill their serfs, who were deprived of most of their means of production and personal freedom, let alone human rights and human decencies.

Abraham Lincoln wrote to his friend Joshua Speed in 1855, saying that the sight of slaves shackled together with irons was a "continual torment" to him. I am certain that every justice-loving American will endorse what we did when we abolished a cruel and horrendous system and institution in Tibet where more than a million serfs used to live in constant misery and fear, a situation no better than that of black American slaves before 1863.

Today, the Tibetans are building a new life, enjoying full political and democratic rights as well as the rights of autonomy as vested in China's constitution. Tibet will continue to march forward as a proud member of the Chinese family. The Dalai Lama's activities aimed at restoring the serf system will never succeed. And any attempt to reverse the tide of history is certainly doomed to failure.

Zheng Wanzhen

The writer is press counselor at the Embassy of the People's Republic of China.