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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China's Crises in Tibet and Xinjiang

February 22, 2010

Beijing believes investment is the way out
By Ji Da
New Epoch Weekly
February 19, 2010

While those in charge of propaganda work to
intoxicate the country with the image of a
"harmonious society" at the behest of party
leader Hu Jintao, frequent uprisings in China’s
western ethnic provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang
have, to the embarrassment of officials, laid bare the lie.

In fact, the intensifying social conflicts in the
west have pushed China’s teetering stability to the limit.

Official Chinese media reported that a Tibetan
protest on March 14, 2008 resulted in 13 deaths
and an economic loss of 200 million yuan (US$29
million). Over the following nine months,
numerous other protests broke out in Tibet and surrounding areas.

Neighboring Xinjiang Province experienced street
protests on an even larger scale in the capital
city of Urumqi on July 5, 2009. Beijing reported
a death toll of 175, but overseas Uyghur groups
claimed at least 1,500 people died in the clash.
At the time, Chinese authorities cut phone and
Internet services to the province and tried to
keep it isolated from public scrutiny.

No doubt, Beijing is quite concerned over the
situations in the two provinces which together
cover about one-third of China’s total territory.

The Jan. 18 Fifth Tibetan Work Conference in
Beijing, held by the central government, was the
largest in history. At the same time, Beijing
announced plans to hold the First Central Conference on Xinjiang.

Beijing: increased investment will resolve the crisis

While Tibetan and Uyghur people protest against
ethnic discrimination and injustice, Beijing
interprets their protests as symptoms of an
economic problem and stresses that the solution lies in economic development.

Regime leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao
reiterated that the future emphasis in the two
provinces will be economy and education.
According to Beijing, increasing investment is
the way out of its crisis in the west.

Beijing calls its Tibetan strategy "leapfrog
development." Its goal is to push Tibet to
leapfrog from a "slave society" to a socialist
society. Ye Xiaowen, the former head of China’s
State Administration for Religious Affairs is very familiar with the policy.

In one of his articles about Tibetan issues, Ye
said the new strategy for ruling Tibet is to
"inhibit the growth of the monasteries." He also
wrote that the Tibetan people are still very
"primitive," and that the monasteries have too
strong an influence over people in terms of
social, political, and cultural issues. By
suppressing the monasteries, Ye said, the
authorities plan to diminish the Dalai Lama’s influence.

A Tibetan official, who requested anonymity, told
the New Epoch Weekly, "This has been Beijing’s
strategy for the past two decades. Nothing has changed."

But many analysts do not believe economic
development can solve the problem. Dilshat
Reshit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress,
said that the Uyghur people have not benefited
much from Xinjiang’s economic growth over the
past two decades, and have been deprived of
control over their own local economy.

He said the economic efforts would not help
because the roots of the problems in Xinjiang are
ethnic, religious, cultural, and political suppression.

"Chinese authorities have been trying to mislead
the outside world with its economic focus in
order to cover up issues in political and
religious areas," Reshit said. He also pointed
out that the economic growth which has taken
place has been accompanied with ever-tightening political control.

Data appears to support Reshit’s argument. By
2008 Xinjiang had maintained around 10 percent
annual growth for over 10 years. But the economy
is dominated by two organizations: the oil
industry and the Xinjiang Production and
Construction Corps. They accounted for almost 70
percent of Xinjiang’s GDP in 2008 (420 billion
yuan or US$61.5 billion). Both are dominated by
Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China.
Less than one percent of the 40,000 employees of
the Xinjiang Petroleum Administration are Uyghurs.

The petroleum industry contributes to over 60
percent of Xinjiang’s economy. Though Xinjiang is
one of China’s largest oil-producing provinces,
the gas price here is higher than in Shanghai. A
Urumqi resident complained that Beijing
sacrifices Xinjiang to benefit the much-richer Shanghai.

The Production and Construction Corps is a
semi-military governmental organization
consisting of 2.5 million people. It occupies
about 40 percent of Xinjiang’s farmland, and
enjoys monopolies in both cotton and textile production.

"The economic issue in Xinjiang is an immigration
issue. Encouraging economic growth means to
encourage more Han Chinese to move to Xinjiang,"
Reshit said. "It is the outsiders who will
eventually benefit from the increased economic investment."

In Tibet, Beijing invested 90 billion yuan (US$13
billion) between 2001 and 2005, 6.5 times as high
as Tibet’s 2001 GDP, and 32,000 yuan (US$4,683)
per capita. But the colossal investment did not
stop the large-scale protest of 2008.

The need to preserve the culture

"We Tibetans are not pursuing a high standard of
living or more money, but rather, the existence
and development of the Tibetan race," said exiled
government official Ghangkar. He believes that
the existence of the Tibetan-Buddhist culture is essential for the people.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on the other
hand, emphasizes economics and suppresses
Buddhism. "In reality, it is trying to buy the
disappearance of our culture with money,"
Ghangkar said. He believes that Tibetans will not accept these terms.

Beijing’s new policy includes promoting free
childhood education, free education and medical
care for school-age children until high school,
free medical treatment for nomads, and an
increase in the cost-of-living allowance. This
policy will be implemented not just in the
autonomous region, but in all Tibetan regions.

The regime’s approach in Xinjiang varies
slightly. According to reports by Radio Free
Asia, Beijing is hastily transporting Uyghur students to other provinces.

A teacher in Urumqi says that mainland Chinese
high schools and junior high schools are open for
enrollment to Xinjiang students each year. "The
result is that our young people leave Xinjiang
for the mainland, where they stay permanently
after completing their education. The population
is thus slowly diluted. The class of Xinjiang
students in the mainland expands each year -- it
started with 700 and has now expanded to 5,000.
Even more are expected this year.”

The teacher said that 80 percent of the students
in these mainland classes are Uyghurs, with Hui
and other ethnic minorities making up the
remaining 20 percent. They pursue jobs in the
mainland after completing their education. "The
government has its agenda -- the Uyghur
population will slowly decrease, the teacher said.

These mainland classes are the result of a policy
launched in 2000. The stated purpose is to
provide a better education for minority Xinjiang
students. Minority students with the best grades
are transferred to a mainly Han ethnic secondary
school, and are given first priority for good
jobs, thus encouraging Uyghurs to adapt to the Han culture.

"No Islam means no Uyghur race," a resident of
Urumqi said. "Beijing disallows religion among
the students to diminish the effect that Islam has on binding Uyghur culture."

The Western crisis will continue

The Fifth Tibetan Work Conference and the First
Central Conference on Xinjiang found nothing
wrong with the Chinese regime’s current policy,
though regime leaders say that local officials
have not fully carried out the policy.

Tibetan officials in Lhasa warn that suppressing
Tibetan Buddhism will actually lead to a
deterioration of Han-Tibetan relationships.

Wang Juntao, a political scientist in the U.S.,
believes that Beijing’s approach of using
economics to suppress religion and culture is
"Beijing using its atheistic ideas to tackle the
problems in Xinjiang and Tibet." He says the
popular thought in mainland China is no faith, no
values, and no morals, with complete domination
through violence and money. He asserts that the
CCP believes money and violence can solve any problem.

"This approach, however, would have no effect on
groups that are deeply rooted in religion and culture," he added.

Exiled Tibetan government official Ghangkar also
feels that Tibetan culture is religious culture,
in which Buddhism plays a distinct role.
Therefore, he said, it is absurd for the CCP to
think that they can trade money for this.

Communist officials, speaking anonymously in
Lhasa, said that the CCP has also realized this
problem. "In 2008, the people of the Tibetan
regions had a motto, ‘Long live the Dalai Lama.’"
He told the New Epoch Weekly that "the government
has also realized that discrediting the Dalai
Lama will only arouse more resentment among the Tibetan people."

He also said that using economics as bait has not
yielded positive results. "The past ten years
have proven that corruption is a serious problem
at all levels of the government, and so the
general public never reaps the benefit. All the
money in Beijing could not satisfy the greed of the officials."

Wang Juntao said he personally hopes that
Xinjiang and Tibet will develop within a larger
Chinese framework, where all ethnic groups can solve problems together.

"However, the CCP itself is a big problem," he
added. "We cannot ignore this fact when
considering the future of Xinjiang and Tibet.
Therefore, the crisis in western China will continue."
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