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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."

Report: Railway Hasn't Helped Tibetans

February 28, 2008

BEIJING, 28 Feb (AP) — China's railway to Tibet is allowing the
government to exploit the region's natural resources while threatening
its Buddhist culture and traditional way of life, an activist group
said Thursday.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet did not
prominently mention the upcoming Beijing Olympics, but the report was
released amid increasing criticism of China over a variety of issues,
including its policies on ethnic minorities.

The report said the nearly two-year-old railway has accelerated the
migration of Han Chinese, the country's majority ethnic group, to
Tibet.

Though the train was touted as part of a plan to bring economic growth
to the far western region, the traditionally nomadic Tibetans have
been relegated to unskilled work while Han business owners reap the
benefits of development, it said.

The railway allows efficient transport of raw materials — iron,
copper, zinc and others — out of Tibet to manufacturing centers where
they are used to make the world's televisions, DVD players and other
electronics, ICT said.

"The large-scale extraction of these resources is a key element of the
authorities' motivation for building the railroad, together with
strengthening the state's authority and control over Tibetan areas,"
said the report, titled "Tracking the Steel Dragon."

China has defended its work in Tibet, saying improvements in
infrastructure and health care, along with campaigns to settle nomadic
herders in permanent communities was improving quality of life.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries and its forces
occupied the region in 1951. But the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled
spiritual leader, is still widely revered and the Chinese government
seeks to demonize the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as an outcast seeking
to "split the motherland."

The culture of Tibet, where Buddhism pervades every aspect of everyday
life, is distinctly different from the rest of China. But the railway
has brought increasing numbers of Han settlers who don't speak the
Tibetan language and noisy tourists who flock to sacred religious
sites.

The ICT report also noted that Chinese military presence has increased
in Tibet since the railway opened. Its now-accessible mineral
resources have increased its strategic importance, and forces
apparently were dispatched "to prepare for any contingencies that
might threaten the interest of the state."

The multibillion dollar "Sky Train" debuted with great fanfare in the
summer of 2006. Specially engineered to protect delicate frozen earth
under much of the last third of the rail line, China boasts that the
710-mile railway that links Beijing to Lhasa is the highest in the
world.

China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics has made it a target of activist
groups, who want to shame the host country into changing its policies
on human rights, international relations and treatment of minorities.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg recently backed out as an artistic
adviser to the games because he felt China wasn't doing enough to
pressure its ally Sudan into ending the humanitarian crisis in its
Darfur region.

The criticism has been detracting from Beijing's hopes of using the
event to showcase a glittering, dynamic "new China." Part of its plans
include an ambitious Olympic torch relay that will make a stop at the
top of Mount Everest in Tibet.
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