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Beijing's imaginary Tibet re-opens to foreign tourists

April 7, 2009

A special permit is still needed to travel to
Tibet and the ban on foreign media remains.
Tibetan prime minister in exile says Beijing is
lying about Tibetans’ prosperity and happiness in
order to hide the cultural genocide that has been underway for decades.
Asia News (Italy)
April 6, 2009

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) -- China has reopened Tibet
to foreign tourists. Last Saturday a group of 11
German tourists arrived in Lhasa in an organised
trip to key local scenic spots. But for Tibet’s
Prime Minister in exile Samdhong Rinpoche,
Beijing is still lying about his country and is
still engaged in cultural genocide against it.

In the past two months the Tibetan Autonomous
Region and Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Gansu and
Sichuan were off limits to foreign tourists. The
ban was ostensibly imposed as a protective step
because of potential dangers associated with
important anniversaries. Martial law was de facto
in place as Chinese authorities deployed tens of
thousands of soldiers across these regions.

The current reopening is partial though since
Beijing requires foreigners to obtain special
permission to visit Tibet and it is unclear if
tourists can stray from organised tours. But not
everyone can even hope for a permit. For
instance, foreign journalists are excluded from
those who can travel to the mountain nation.

In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews Prime
Minister Rinpoche spoke about a recent report
released by the China Tibetology Research Centre,
an institution that depends from the central
government that has claimed that Tibet is a
prosperous region and that Tibetans are happy and protected.

"If this were true, why is it that not everyone
is allowed to see such happy Tibetan people? Why
is it that foreigners and journalists are not
allowed in? If people were really happy there
would be no complaints and protests, which do
occur even if China tries to deny them."

According to the Chinese report, in 2008 the
population of Tibet stood at 2.87 million people, 2.7 of which ethnic Tibetans.

Many experts have questioned these figures since
so many ethnic Han Chinese living in Tibet have
not been counted because they do not meet formal residence requirements.

For Rinpoche it is clear that "in Lhasa Chinese
immigrants are twice as many as Tibetans."

"First, the government has favoured mass
settlement by ethnic Chinese by providing them
with economic incentives. Tibetans have already
become a minority in their own country: six
million against at least 7.5 million ethnic
Chinese (figures include Tibetan areas in
Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai). [. . .] Statistics
show that Tibetans remain overwhelmingly rural in
all five Chinese provinces that incorporate
traditional Tibet. This ‘demographic aggression’
is threatening Tibetan culture.” Indeed ethnic
Chinese are a majority in the cities and dominate trade and commerce.

"Secondly, [Tibet’s] environment has been damaged
beyond repair," Rinpoche added. "The damage
caused by aggressive development of the fragile
high- altitude ecosystem is becoming
irreversible, and the melting rate of glaciers of Tibet is alarming."

"Thirdly, China routinely boasts about the
progress and development it has brought to Tibet
by investing millions of yuan for the welfare and
economic progress of the Tibetan people. The
truth however is completely different."

"The Chinese have routinely taken away immense
wealth and resources from Tibet. They have cut
trees from its vast forests and harvested
medicinal plants from the Tibetan plateau; a mere
6-7 per cent of the value taken out has been put
back in. Whatever development has taken place it
has been for the settlement of non Tibetans and the military.”

What is more, Rinpoche blames China for
plundering the country’s religious and cultural
wealth. "The Chinese have looted ancient
artefacts and relics from monasteries and homes
in the 1960s and 1970s, including precious jewels
and gems, gold and silver, as well as ornaments," he said. NC)
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