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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 Says ‘Sabotage’ by Dalai Lama Supporters Set Back Tibet

January 17, 2009

By James Peng
 
Jan. 16, 2009 (Bloomberg) -- Tibet would have developed faster without “sabotage” by supporters of the Dalai Lama, its exiled spiritual leader, said China’s ruling Communist Party chief in the region.
 
“It’s the current Tibet that allows Tibetans to enjoy the fruits of the reform and opening up and the feeling of being their own masters,” said Zhang Qingli, secretary of the party’s Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. “People with biased opinions are surprised to see that.”
 
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in March 1959, has campaigned for “genuine autonomy” for Tibetans within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. China says it peacefully liberated Tibet and saved its people from feudal serfdom.
 
Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, and some Tibetan-populated regions of western China, were wracked by the biggest pro-independence protests in about 20 years in March last year. China accused the Dalai Lama of organizing the unrest to try to sabotage preparations for the Olympic Games that were held in Beijing last August.
 
Economic growth in Tibet, one of the poorest regions in China, halved in the first six months of 2008 after the Lhasa riots led to a slump in tourism, consumption and output, its government said in August.
 
The region’s economy expanded 7.4 percent in the period from a year earlier, down from 14.7 percent in the year-earlier period.
 
Troops Deployed
 
China deployed troops in Tibet in 1950 and annexed the Himalayan region a year later. The Dalai Lama accuses the government in Beijing of committing “cultural genocide” there.
 
Tibetan legislators plan to mark the 1959 uprising by setting a date to commemorate “serfs emancipation day,” Xinhua said in a separate report. They will present a motion to the Tibet Autonomous Regional People’s Congress today, the news agency said.
 
“Former serfs have become masters of the new socialist Tibet,” said Legqog, director of the standing committee of the congress today. Legqog, who has only one name, grew up in a serf family in Tibet, Xinhua said.
 
China yesterday announced the construction of Tibet’s first expressway, a 37.9-kilometer (23.5-mile) stretch of road in southwestern Lhasa, Xinhua said, citing Yao Bohua, designer of the project that will cost 1.55 billion yuan ($227 million).
 
Lhasa Riots
 
Tibet’s government-in-exile says 209 people were killed in the crackdown by Chinese security forces in March. The unrest began when hundreds of monks marched to demand an end to religious restrictions and the release of imprisoned colleagues.
 
China says it has emphasized cultural protection in the region. “No dynasty or period in history could invest such a large amount to preserve local culture and maintain Buddhist temples,” Zhang said yesterday, according to Xinhua.
 
 The government-in-exile says its autonomy demands fall within the sphere of the Chinese constitution. Xinhua, in a Nov. 21 essay, accused Tibetans of trying to create a “covertly independent” political entity controlled by the Dalai Lama’s supporters. When conditions are ripe, they will seek to realize “total Tibet independence,” it said.
 
Tibet has a population of 6 million people and more than 120,000 Tibetans live abroad, according to the government-in- exile. About 98,000 live in India, 14,000 in Nepal and the rest in countries including Bhutan, Canada, Switzerland, Europe, the U.S., Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
 
Mass migration of ethnic Han Chinese has made Tibetans a minority in their own land, according to the exiled government.
 
China says Tibetans have the political rights of other ethnic groups in China and that the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965 introduced democracy.
 
To contact the reporter on this story: James Peng in Hong Kong at jpeng7@bloomberg.net  
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