China plans big investment in Tibet


THE CHINESE government has launched a major new development plan aimed at raising living standards in the restive region of Tibet, the latest high-level effort by Beijing to promote stability and quell Tibetan dissatisfaction with Han Chinese rule in the territory.

Chinese troops occupied Tibet following the 1949 communist revolution, sending the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in India.

Beijing says the People’s Liberation Army rescued Tibetans from a feudal system run by Buddhist monks and insists the remote Himalayan territory has been part of Chinese territory for centuries.

However, Tibetan rights activists are seeking more autonomy and say investment has also involved huge migration by Han Chinese which could overwhelm the region’s distinctive Tibetan Buddhist culture.

A high-level working group on Tibet, attended by President Hu Jintao and other leaders, found that “more efforts must be made to greatly improve living standards of the people in Tibet, as well as ethnic unity and stability,” ran a report on the Xinhua news agency.

Violent protests in March 2008 in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, focused on Han Chinese settlers there, left 22 dead according to the government, although Tibetan rights groups say the figure was far higher. Officials blamed protest activity across the plateau on separatists loyal to the Dalai Lama.

Mr Hu also asked for greater efforts to prevent “penetration and sabotage” by Tibetan independence groups. The aim, he said, was to “leapfrog” regional development. Beijing has spent 310 billion yuan (€32 billion) in Tibet since 2001, and this outlay has increased since the 2008 riots as Beijing tries to boost the economy.

Significantly, the new measures to boost Tibetan development will apply to more than just the province called the Tibetan Autonomous Region and will include the scattered areas of China where Tibetans live, such as the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai.

Details from the meeting gave an insight into China’s priorities for the region. Mr Hu “stressed Tibet’s significance in ensuring China’s national security, and efforts in building the region into a strategic reserve of natural resources, an agricultural production base, a land with unique culture and a world-class tourism destination”.

The funding in the plan will be spent in all areas, including agriculture, animal husbandry, infrastructure, science and technology, education, government facilities and environmental protection, Xinhua reported. There would also be more money for medical services, telecommunications, and a social security network covering both urban and rural residents.