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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."

Renovation of palace home of Dalai Lamas complete

August 25, 2009

By HENRY SANDERSON
The Associated Press
August 24, 2009

BEIJING -- China has completed a seven-year
renovation of Tibet's Potala Palace -- home to
the Dalai Lamas until the region's current
spiritual leader fled during an aborted uprising
against Communist rule 50 years ago.

China says the project is part of its plan to
promote Tibetan culture and language in the
region as it develops its economy, of which
tourism forms a major part. The renovation, which
also repaired the Norbu Lingka, a summer palace
for the Dalai Lamas, cost 300 million yuan ($43.9
million), according to a report Monday from the state-run news agency.

But many Tibetan exiles say the Himalayan
region's cultural heritage has been threatened by
Beijing's restrictions on the native Buddhist
religion and the Tibetan language as well as a
government-orchestrated mass migration of Han
Chinese in the last three decades. A large number
of monasteries and other artifacts also were
destroyed during China's Cultural Revolution,
from 1966 to 1976, although the Potala was spared in the violence.

In March 2008, riots erupted in Lhasa, the
Tibetan capital, to protest Chinese rule. In
response, Beijing poured troops into Tibetan
areas and intensified its vilification of the
Dalai Lama, accusing him of instigating the unrest.

The spiritual leader, who fled China in 1959 and
now lives in exile in India, has said that
restrictions on Tibet's religious practices have
resulted in a "cultural genocide."

A ceremony was held Sunday on the square in front
of the Potala -- whose facade looms over the city
of Lhasa -- according to the Xinhua News Agency.

"The reparation of the three key cultural relics
is an important part in the conservation of the
Tibetan culture," said Liu Yandong, a member of
the Communist Party's Politburo, who attended the ceremony.

More than 189,000 workers were involved, and the
government also spent 94.74 million yuan ($13.9
million) repairing the Sagya Monastery, which
houses classical Buddhist texts, Xinhua said.

Xinhua quoted a former director of the Potala's
administration office saying the palace could now
accommodate 1,000 visitors a day.

The renovations are part of a 570 million yuan
($73 million) plan to promote tourism to Tibet, a
mainstay of the region's economy, and include the repair to 22 cultural sites.

Earlier this year China tightened restrictions on
advertising and construction outside the palace,
following calls from the United Nations to better
preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site's natural setting.

Although palaces have existed on the grounds of
the Potala since the seventh century, the current
building dates from the rule of the fifth Dalai
Lama, known as the "Great Fifth," who started its
construction in 1645. It was then used as living
quarters and a winter palace by the Dalai Lamas.
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