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China rebuilds Dalai Lama's village

September 26, 2010

Zee News
September 24, 2010, 21:54

Beijing (PTI) -- China has renovated the village
of the Dalai Lama rebuilding homes of its
inmates, including that of his close nephew who
is optimistic about the return of the India-based
exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

All the 54 houses of Hong'Ai, the birth place of
Dalai Lama in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau has been
renovated and rebuilt at the state cost including
that of Gongpo Tashi, the "stocky Tibetan whose
prime job is to maintain the birthplace of his
uncle, Tenzin Gyatso," (the real name of Dalai
Lama) state run Xinhua news agency said in a report.

Gongpo, 63 who has visited the Dalai Lama twice
in India, says he has not contacted his uncle for a while.

"If I call him some day, I will definitely tell him of the changes at home."

He built the new home with government subsidy
even though he is among the wealthier villagers, the report said.

He however is not sure the Dalai Lama will ever see the changes.

"Am I waiting for his return? Well, if he is
back, all problems will be solved," Xinhua quoted
him as saying. It is indeed rare to see a news
story about Dalai Lama figuring in Chinese
official media without any critical references.

The Dalai Lama lives in exile in Dharamshala in
Himachal Pradesh since fleeing Tibet in 1959
after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule.

The news item of renovation of his village laced
with remarks of his nephew came just days after
the Tibetan leader said in Budapest that he would
return to Tibet with a Chinese passport.

"I'm an optimist, I think I will return to Tibet
with a Chinese passport. A solution must be found
that is good for both China and Tibet," he said.

Tenzin was born in 1935 in Qinghai province which
was hit by massive earthquake this year in which
several thousand people were killed.

He was ordained when he was around six years old
and later left for Dharmashala in India on exile
in 1959 after Chinese troops moved in to establish control on Tibet.

If ever he returns the noble laureate will that
all the old Tibetan homes were replaced modern
structure built of brick and strong timber, says
Xing Fuhua, chief official of Shihuiyao Township, which administers Hong'Ai.

Xing says the overhaul took about 16 months and
cost the government 2.65 million yuan (about half a million dollars).

Half the sum went in subsidies to households that
built new homes on schedule and in accordance with safety standards.

"Everyone was enthusiastic. They tore down the
old homes," says Gongpo, a deputy head of Shihuiyao.

"Many of the mud and wood homes were about to
collapse, but villagers could not afford to have them repaired."

Xing says each household could receive 19,000
yuan for building new homes and have their
courtyard walls and the front door installed for
free, which would cost roughly another 20,000 yuan.

These two investments equal the income of a
family farming 1.67 hectares of land for 20 years, says Xing.

Hong'Ai remains a largely farming village with a
per capita income of only 3,399 yuan last year,
about two thirds the national rural averages.

Gongpo's new house has few Tibetan flourishes in
the design other than a framed Tibetan painting.
He says he could have built the house in
traditional Tibetan style with carvings and
paintings on the wooden pillars, but few artists
are still capable of such work.

"It is not so necessary anyway, as Tibetans here
have long been living a life not so different from the Han Chinese," he says.

"Tibetan was not even widely spoken at the time
when the Dalai Lama was born in 1935," he said.

Gongpo, the township official who is not related
to the Dalai Lama's family, says Tibetans in
Hong'Ai adapted to the Han (majority Chinese
race) way of life more than a century ago.

Every ethnic household was consulted for their
requirements before the overhaul, says Dong Jie,
head of the civil affairs bureau of Ping'An County, who oversaw the project.

The renovation of rural houses is part of the
central government's on-going drive to develop
the country's relatively poor western regions,
which have lagged behind since reform and opening up began in 1978.

In a bid to build an all-round xiaokang
(well-off) society, China launched a new round of
West Development initiatives in the summer.

In Hong'Ai, where farming incomes remain low, the
government has been pouring in funds to build
roads, provide stable power and water supplies,
and connect the village to the world via the Internet.
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