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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Beijing boasts of 'leapfrog development' in Tibet

January 28, 2010

Despite $45.4 billion in investments since 2001
and more than a decade of double-digit economic
growth, some observers question whether Tibetans
have benefited as much as Han Chinese.
By Stephen Kurczy Contributor
The Christian Science Monitor
January 25, 2010

Boston -- The Dalai Lama says Tibet is "hell on
earth," but China’s central government is
boasting that $45.4 billion in aid to the region
over the past nine years has helped "boost
Tibet’s leapfrog development" and achieve "lasting stability."

The announcement came during a high-level
planning conference on Tibet from Jan. 18 to 20,
attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Whether Tibet is currently stable now, or will
remain so, is of course a hotly contested topic.
In 2008, rioting erupted in Lhasa, Tibet's
capital, after the arrest of Tibetan monks
seeking to commemorate a failed uprising against
Chinese rule. Last April, China executed two
Tibetan men for participating in that riot.

But China is claiming phenomenal economic growth
in the region. "Tibet has been able to maintain
double-digit growth in terms of GDP for 17
straight years, outpacing the national average,"
reports official Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Tibet’s GDP was expected to top $5.85 billion in
2009, up 12.1 percent year-on-year and up 170
percent from 2000, according to Xinhua.

This emphasis on economic development, reports
The New York Times, "indicates that Chinese
leaders still see the solution to the problem of
Tibet as one of supplying creature comforts." But
the issues of cultural suppression and political
restriction must be addressed to change Tibetan
attitudes toward the state, says Robbie Barnett,
director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at
Columbia University in New York.

"As far as one can tell," he wrote by e-mail
Monday, "Tibetans certainly appreciate improved
economic conditions and greater opportunities for
consumption and commodities, but this doesn't
explain why Tibet has to have mass tourism,
widespread mining, unrestricted migration of
non-Tibetans, or religious and cultural restrictions."

Ethnic Han Chinese civilians today outnumber
Tibetans in Tibet's capital, Lhasa. Longtime Han
migration to the region sped up in 2006 with
completion of a $4.2 billion railway linking
Lhasa to Beijing, leading some observers to
question whether Tibetans or Han Chinese have
benefited more from the region’s economic growth.

"They're developing the territories they have
conquered. No one would dispute that," says
Ganden Thurman, executive director of Tibet
House, a New York-based organization dedicated to
preserving the country's cultural heritage. "The
point is that ... it’s not being done to help the
Tibetans. It’s being done to exploit the natural resources of the area."

Mr. Thurman cited the bloody riots that broke out
in Lhasa in March 2008, sparked by the police
suppression of monks protesting to mark the 49th
anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising in 1959.

"The people have nothing to lose," he said by
telephone Monday. "People are fleeing the
country. That’s voting with your feet."

By 2020, President Hu reportedly said, the per
capita income of Tibetan farmers and herders
should be close to the national average.
Investments in Tibet have already expanded roads,
electricity, and safe drinking water. Beijing
also credits itself for increasing the supply of
Tibetan-made products, such as the first batch of
Lhasa Beer that was exported to the US in May 2009.

But Hu added that greater emphasis must be put on
increasing environmental protection and improving
the livelihood of Tibetan farmers and herdsmen.
And further growth must still overcome the
"separatist forces led by the Dalai clique," he
said. "Hu asked to substantially prevent and
strike 'penetration and sabotage' by 'Tibet
independence' separatists, in order to safeguard
social stability, socialist legal system, the
fundamental interests of the public, national
unity, and ethnic solidarity," Xinhua reported.

In October, President Obama became the first
president not to welcome the Dalai Lama to the
White House since the Nobel Peace Prize winner
began visiting Washington in 1991. The decision
drew ire from some quarters, as
Obama-the-presidential-candidate had called on
former President Bush to boycott the Beijing
Olympics opening ceremony in protest of the
government's response to the March 2008 riots.

However, Obama has said he will meet with the
Dalai Lama early this year. This, and Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton’s recent call for
worldwide Internet freedom, is expected to
increase bilateral tensions with China.

Websites that post content about the 2008 riots
or the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile are
blocked in China, and it is against the law to
have a picture of the Dalai Lama in China.
Tibetan monks are especially wary of the
government’s presence, as many monks are believed
to be undercover police, the Christian Science Monitor reported in September.

Even monks and workers at Lhasa’s Potala Palace,
a UN World Heritage Site and home to the Dalai
Lama until 1959, are believed to be undercover Chinese officials.

"If I go to Potala Palace, the monks there listen
to what I tell the tourists," one
government-approved tour guide told the Monitor then.
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