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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China approves "modern redesign" of Tibetan capital

March 19, 2009

Reuters
March 17, 2009

BEIJING - China has approved a "modern redesign" of Tibet's remote
and mountainous capital Lhasa, state media said on Tuesday, including
a limit on its downtown population.

Overseas rights groups have long complained that the Chinese
government has failed to protect historic Lhasa and accuse Beijing of
trying to flood the region with Han Chinese to dilute its ethnic
makeup and assert greater control.

China rejects these charges, saying it has invested billions to
improve lives in a region once blighted by serfdom and poverty, and
is committed to protecting its unique way of life and customs. By
2020, Lhasa will become an "economically prosperous, socially
harmonious, and eco-friendly modern city with vivid cultural
characteristics and deep ethnic traditions", according to a document
carried on the central government's website (www.gov.cn).

The official China Daily said the plan would make Lhasa "a
coordinated and distinctive modern metropolis by 2020".

Lhasa's downtown population would be capped at 450,000 -- the city
only has 500,000 residents in total today -- and just 75 sq km of
land would be allowed to be used for urban development, according to the plan.

Lhasa is divided between an older, more traditional, Tibetan section,
and a newer section where Han Chinese migrants dominate, complete
with shopping malls and night clubs.

The urban makeover plan said local authorities should "pay great
attention to protecting the historic, cultural and aesthetic
characteristics" of Lhasa.

That includes controlling the number, height and even colour of buildings.

"Pay attention to the legal preservation of sites of necessary
religious activities (and) satisfy the needs of the religious lives
of believers," the document said.

The China Daily pointed out that when Beijing conducted its first
census in Tibet in 1953, "Lhasa's residents totalled only 30,000, and
4,000 of them were beggars".

China has ruled Tibet with an iron hand since the arrival of People's
Liberation Army troops in 1950.

Rioting broke out in Lhasa on March 14 last year after days of
protests against Chinese rule by Buddhist monks, killing 19 people
and sparking waves of protests across Tibetan areas. Exile groups say
over 200 people died in the crackdown.

Beijing has promised the region will be calm and President Hu Jintao
has called for a "Great Wall" of stability there.

Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas of surrounding provinces are under
heavy military presence and strictly off limits to foreign
journalists and even tourists. Armed police manning road-blocks have
turned back would-be visitors.

A trickle of isolated protests in recent weeks, including a monk who
set himself on fire at the Kirti monastery in Western Sichuan,
suggest lingering discontent.

The Free Tibet group said in a statement that a monk in Lithang, a
restive Tibetan part of southwestern Sichuan province, was detained
last week after a one-man protest in which he shouted slogans and
threw leaflets.

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