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Traffic Jams Hit Once-Tranquil Tibet

November 9, 2007

12 hours ago

BEIJING (AP) — A boom in car ownership has brought traffic jams to
Tibet's once-tranquil capital and prompted it to open its first
underground parking lot, state media reported Wednesday.

Lhasa has 400,000 people and 70,000 registered vehicles, the Xinhua News
Agency reported. The numbers give it a per capita car ownership rate
close to Beijing's.

Such developments stem from the enormous sums of Chinese government
money flowing into Tibet, transforming Lhasa — a town of distinctly
Tibetan character and just 20,000 people 50 years ago — into a bustling
city whose modern architecture and growing ethnic Chinese population
increasingly resemble urban areas in the rest of China.

Car ownership appears to be the latest mark of modernization, with
Beijing and other Chinese cities already choked by traffic congestion.

China's government hopes pumping in money will help tap Tibet's mineral
wealth, open it up to new settlement and tourism, and tamp down
pro-independence sentiment among native Tibetans who consider their
homeland to have been a separate country for much of their history.
Communist troops occupied the region in 1951, and Tibet's former rulers
were overthrown following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Ethnic Chinese now go to Tibet to staff government posts, build
infrastructure and set up businesses, facilitated by cell phone
networks, new roads and a recently opened US$4.2 billion railway linking
Lhasa and Beijing.

Tibetans are especially concerned that an influx of China's Han
majority, which has grown since the railroad linked Beijing to Lhasa,
will overwhelm Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Beijing has demonized their spiritual leader, the exiled Dalai Lama, and
limited how and where they worship.

Communist troops took over Tibet in 1951. Beijing says the region has
been part of China for centuries, but many Tibetans say it was a
separate country for much of that time.

Tibetans object to the domination of commerce and society by ethnic
Chinese settlers and government controls on religion in a society where
Buddhist faith permeates daily life.

In the 1960s, Beijing destroyed thousands of monasteries and temples.
Today, monasteries are closely monitored by communist authorities, who
appoint their leaders and have sharply reduced the number of monks they
are allowed to train.

Ethnic Chinese now go to Tibet to staff government posts, build
infrastructure and set up businesses, facilitated by cell phone
networks, new roads and a recently opened railway linking Lhasa and Beijing.

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