July 27, 2010

Chinese migrants and money pouring into Tibet

Military truck convoys and high-altitude speed trains are bringing Chinese migrants and money into remote areas of Tibet as part of an effort to increase wealth and tourism in the area. From the New York Times:

Han Chinese workers, investors, merchants, teachers and soldiers are pouring into remote Tibet. After the violence that ravaged this region in 2008, China’s aim is to make Tibet wealthier---and more Chinese.

Chinese leaders see development, along with an enhanced security presence, as the key to pacifying the Buddhist region. The central government invested $3 billion in the Tibet Autonomous Region last year, a 31 percent increase over 2008. Tibet’s gross domestic product is growing at a 12 percent annual rate, faster than the robust Chinese national average.

Yet despite the efforts to increase tourism and build up the local economy, the influx of wealth has not trickled down to Tibetans. According to the Times, Han migrants take valuable jobs and business opportunities away from Tibetans, then return to China in the Winter with their profits. Meanwhile, Tibetan Buddhists continue to face religious intolerance from Chinese officials, especially in the area of the sacred city of Lhasa:

A heavy security presence is needed to keep control of Lhasa. Around the Barkhor, the city’s central market, paramilitary officers in riot gear, all ethnic Han, march counterclockwise around the sacred Jokhang Temple, against the flow of Tibetan pilgrims. Armed men stand on rooftops near the temple.

Limits on religious freedom have been a major cause of discontent. In the Jokhang itself, and in the Potala Palace, the imposing white-walled winter fortress of the Dalai Lamas, images of the exiled 14th Dalai Lama have been banned. Pilgrims carry the Dalai Lama’s photograph in hidden lockets or amulets. As the pilgrims circle the Potala, a loudspeaker in a small park blares Communist Party propaganda: “We are part of a Chinese nation contributing to a great future — we are Chinese people.”

Unrest between the Tibetan and Chinese population in Tibet is nothing new, though it is a complicated relationship that is often oversimplified. Read more about the pitfalls of demonizing or idealizing the "Tibet issue" here. Read the full New York Times article here.

Image: blog.loaz.com

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