Posts tagged ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’

17/09/2016

The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

AN ELDERLY woman with long, grey plaits, wearing a traditional Tibetan apron of wool in colourful stripes, has spent her day weaving thread outside her home near the southern end of Qinghai Lake, high on the Tibetan plateau. She is among hundreds of thousands of Tibetan nomads who have been forced by the government in recent years to settle in newly built villages. She now lives in one of them with her extended family and two goats. Every few months one of her sons, a red-robed monk, visits from his monastery, a place so cut off from the world that he has never heard of Donald Trump. Her grandson, a 23-year-old with slick hair and a turquoise rain jacket, is more clued in. He is training to be a motorcycle mechanic in a nearby town. Theirs is a disorienting world of social transformation, sometimes resented, sometimes welcome.Chinese and foreigners alike have long been fascinated by Tibet, romanticising its impoverished vastness as a haven of spirituality and tranquillity. Its brand of Buddhism is alluring to many Chinese—even, it is rumoured, to Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s president, Xi Jinping. Many Tibetans, however, see their world differently. It has been shattered by China’s campaign to crush separatism and eradicate support for the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader who fled to India after an uprising in 1959. The economic transformation of the rest of China and its cities’ brash modernity are seductive, but frustratingly elusive.

The story of political repression in Tibet is a familiar one. The Dalai Lama accuses China’s government of “cultural genocide”, a fear echoed by a tour guide in Qinghai, one of five provinces across which most of the country’s 6m Tibetans are scattered (the others are Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and the Tibet Autonomous Region, or TAR—see map). “We know what happened to the Jews,” he says. “We are fighting for our existence.” Less commonly told is the despair felt by many young Tibetans who feel shut out of China’s boom. They are victims of Tibet’s remote and forbidding topography as well as of racial prejudice and the party’s anti-separatist zeal. They often cannot migrate to coastal factories, and few factories will come to them. Even fluent Mandarin speakers rarely find jobs outside their region.

Yet Tibetans are not cut off from the rapidly evolving culture of the rest of China, where more than 90% of the population is ethnic Han. Mayong Gasong Qiuding, a 26-year-old hotel worker in Yushu in southern Qinghai, listens to Mandarin, Tibetan and Western pop music in tandem. He can rattle off official slogans but can recite only short Tibetan prayers. His greatest wish, he says, is to go to the Maldives to see the sea. Tibetan women in Qinghai use skin-whitening products, following a widespread fashion among their Han counterparts; a teenager roller-skates anticlockwise around a Buddhist stupa, ignoring a cultural taboo. Young nomads frustrate their elders by forsaking locally-made black, yak-hair tents for cheaper, lighter canvas ones produced in far-off factories.

Han migration, encouraged by a splurge of spending on infrastructure, is hastening such change. Although Tibetans still make up 90% of the permanent population of the TAR, its capital Lhasa is now 22% Han, compared with 17% in 2000. Many Tibetans resent the influx. Yet they are far more likely to marry Han Chinese than are members of some of China’s other ethnic groups. Around 10% of Tibetan households have at least one member who is non-Tibetan, according to a census in 2010. That compares with 1% of households among Uighurs, another ethnic minority whose members often chafe at rule by a Han-dominated government.

Core features of Tibetan culture are in flux. Monasteries, which long ago played a central role in Tibetan society, are losing whatever influence China has allowed them to retain. In recent years, some have been shut or ordered to reduce their populations (monks and nuns have often been at the forefront of separatist unrest). In July buildings at Larung Gar in Sichuan, a sprawling centre of Tibetan Buddhist learning, were destroyed and thousands of monks and nuns evicted. Three nuns have reportedly committed suicide since. Of the more than 140 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves since 2011 in protest against Chinese rule, many were spurred to do so by repressive measures at their own monastery or nunnery.

Cloistered life is threatened by social change, too. Families often used to send their second son to a monastery, a good source of schooling. Now all children receive nine years of free education. “The young think there are better things to do,” says a monk at Rongwo monastery in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, who spends his days “praying, teaching [and] cleaning”. New recruits often come from poorly educated rural families.

Mind your language

In the TAR (which is closed to foreign journalists most of the time), the Tibetan language is under particular threat. Even nursery schools often teach entirely in Mandarin. A generation is now graduating from universities there who barely speak Tibetan. Some people have been arrested for continuing to teach in the language. In April last year Gonpo Tenzin, a singer, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for his album, “No New Year for Tibet”, encouraging Tibetans to preserve their language and culture.

In some areas outside the TAR, however, the government is less hostile to Tibetan. Since the early 2000s, in much of Qinghai, the number of secondary schools that teach in Tibetan has risen, according to research there by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology at Korntal, Germany. The range of degrees taught in Tibetan has expanded too. Unlike elsewhere, someone who has studied mainly in Tibetan can still get a good job in Qinghai. A third of all government roles advertised there between 2011 and 2015 required the language. Despite this, many parents and students chose to be taught in Mandarin anyway, Mr Zenz found. They thought it would improve job prospects.

Karma chameleon

But work can be difficult to get, despite years of huge government aid that has helped to boost growth. Government subsidies for the TAR amounted to 111% of GDP in 2014 (see chart), according to Andrew Fischer of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Eleven airports serve Qinghai and the TAR—they will have three more by 2020. A 156-mile train line from Lhasa (population 560,000) to Shigatse (population 120,000), which was completed in 2014, cost 13.3 billion yuan ($2.16 billion). A second track to Lhasa is being laid from Sichuan, priced at 105 billion yuan.

Better infrastructure has fuelled a tourism boom—domestic visitors to the TAR increased fivefold between 2007 and 2015—but most income flows to travel agents elsewhere. Tourists stay in Han-run hotels and largely eat in non-Tibetan restaurants (KFC opened its first Lhasa branch in March). Tibetan resentment at exclusion from tourism- and construction-related jobs was a big cause of rioting in Lhasa in 2008 that sparked plateau-wide protests. Other big money-spinners—hydropower and the extraction of minerals and timber—are controlled by state-owned firms that employ relatively few Tibetans. The Chinese name for Tibet, Xizang, means “western treasure house”. But Tibetans have little share in its spoils. The rehousing of nomads has helped provide some with building jobs, but has also brought suffering: those relocated sometimes find it harder to make a living from herding.

In most other parts of China, villages have been rapidly emptying as people flock to work in cities. In the country as a whole, the agricultural population dropped from 65% to 48% as a share of the total between 2000 and 2010. On the plateau it fell only slightly, from 87% to 83%. It is hard for Tibetans to migrate to places where there are more opportunities. Police and employers treat them as potential troublemakers. In 2010 only about 1% of Tibetans had settled outside the plateau, says Ma Rong of Peking University. They cannot move abroad either. In 2012 Tibetans in the TAR had to surrender their passports (to prevent them joining the Dalai Lama); in parts of Qinghai officials went house-to-house confiscating them.

Karma chameleon

For university graduates, the prospects are somewhat better. There are few prospects for secure work in private firms on the plateau. But to help them, the government has been on a hiring spree since 2011. Almost all educated Tibetans now work for the state. A government job is a pretty good one: salaries have been rising fast. Few Tibetans see such work as traitorous to their cause or culture. But the government may not be able to keep providing enough jobs for graduates, especially if a slowdown in China’s economy, which is crimping demand for commodities, has a knock-on effect on the plateau.

Many of the problems faced by Tibetans are common in traditional pastoral cultures as they modernise. But those of Tibetans are compounded by repression. They are only likely to increase when the Dalai Lama, now 81, dies. The central government will try to rig the selection of his successor, and no doubt persecute Tibetans who publicly object.

In private, officials say they are playing a waiting game: they expect the “Tibetan problem” to be more easily solved when he is gone. They are deluding themselves. They ignore his impact as a voice of moderation: he does not demand outright independence and he condemns violence. Tibetan culture may be under duress, but adoration of the Dalai Lama shows no sign of diminishing. Poverty, alienation and the loss of a beloved figurehead may prove an incendiary cocktail.

Source: The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

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12/01/2015

Han cadres required to learn Tibetan language – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Mastery of the Tibetan language will become a requirement for non-native cadres in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

All seven prefecture-level cities in Tibet have started organizing Tibetan language training for non-native cadres, according to the regional bureau of compilation and translation on Monday.

Qoizha, deputy director of the bureau, said they have handed out 40,000 books on basic Tibetan language for daily conversation.

President Xi Jinping stressed at a conference on ethnic work in September 2014 that in ethnic regions, ethnic minority cadres should learn Mandarin, and Han cadres should also learn ethnic languages. The language skill should become a “requirement” for cadres.

“One cannot serve the local people well if one cannot speak the local language,” Xi said.

Tibet has adopted a bilingual policy since the regional legislature passed a law in 1987 stipulating both Tibetan language and Mandarin as official languages in the region.

Qoizha said over 90 percent of Tibet’s population of 3 million is of Tibetan ethnicity. Breaking the language hurdle can help non-native cadres better interact with local communities.

In the past 20 years, close to 6,000 cadres and technical professionals from various Chinese provinces and municipalities have been sent to help develop the southwestern autonomous region of Tibet. Cadres usually stay in the region for three years.

via Han cadres required to learn Tibetan language – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

23/10/2013

Swelling lakes in Hol Xil pose railway threat – Xinhua

Swelling lakes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, a notable sign of global warming, are threatening the safety of the world\’s highest railway, according to climate and ecological experts.

One flooded lake is now only 8 km away from a section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in the depopulated area of Hol Xil Nature Reserve, according to the latest satellite monitoring by the Qinghai Provincial Academy of Meteorological Sciences.

Liu Baokang, engineer with the academy\’s remote-sensing and ecological evaluation center, said several lakes in the nature reserve have been overflowing since 2011 after receiving an increasing volume of melted snow from glaciers on the plateau, known as the \”roof of the world.\”

Liu said the center\’s research shows that the lakes have become a threat to the railway\’s roadbed and roads on the Qinghai-Tibet Highway as well as important oil pipelines, cables and power facilities that run through the region.

Sitting 4,600 meters above sea level, the 45,000 square km Hol Xil nature reserve is China\’s largest unpopulated area and is home to wild yaks and endangered Tibetan antelope.

Major lakes in the reserve, namely Zhuonai Lake, Qusay Lake and a salt lake, are all holding water at historically high levels.

Following a dyke breach in 2011, water has flowed from Zhuonai Lake and fed into Qusay Lake. The latter\’s overflow has resulted in swelling of the salt lake downstream, which has more than tripled its 2011 size, endangering the rail line.

Wang Xinwen, a spokesman with the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Co., said the company has \”prepared a comprehensive set of contingency plans to cope with an emergency.\” But he declined to give details of measures to be taken if the rail track were to become submerged in lake water.

Wang affirmed that, so far, no harm to the railway\’s foundation from the flooding lake has been monitored.

The railway boasts a length of 1,956 km at an altitude of over 4,000 meters, connecting northwest China\’s Qinghai Province and Lhasa, capital of southwest China\’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Data from the provincial weather bureau showed that temperatures in the Hol Xil region rose by an average of 0.38 degrees Celsius every ten years.

\”Rising temperatures have accelerated the melting of glaciers. Increased precipitation in the region has also contributed to the expanding lakes,\” said Liu.

He said lake flooding has also triggered changes in the landscape.

Rangers patrolling the region this year discovered that a gorge, which appeared after the 2011 dyke breach on Zhuonai Lake, is blocking the migration route of a herd of about 3,000 Tibetan antelope. The animal has lately grown accustomed to giving birth by the lakeside instead of travelling to its traditional pasture for breeding, which has affected vegetation in the area as the antelopes graze on nearby plants.

\”This has accelerated desertification by the lakeside,\” said Zhao Xinlu, director of the Zhuonai Lake Conservation Station.

The provincial government has organized meteorological, hydrological and environmental protection experts to closely monitor flooding on the lakes.

via Swelling lakes in Hol Xil pose railway threat – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

21/06/2013

Tibet policy: Bold new proposals

Finally some one with a new idea for Tibet. Hopefully some progress will be made.

The Economist: “FEW outside China think the Communist Party’s strategy for Tibet is working. A combination of economic development and political repression was meant to reconcile Tibetans to Chinese rule and wean them off their loyalty to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader. Instead disaffection is still rife, especially among the young. And all across Tibetan areas of China, Tibetans still display the Dalai Lama’s portrait, sometimes openly. Since March 2011 more than 100 Tibetans—especially in Tibetan areas of provinces bordering what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)—have set themselves on fire. Most have done so in part to call for the Dalai Lama’s homecoming. An overwhelming security presence and the Dalai Lama’s commitment to non-violence mean that the unrest is easily contained. Hence little has suggested that China’s leaders are concerned about the bleak implications for the future: that their rule in Tibet can be maintained only by the indefinite deployment of massive coercive force.

So for a Chinese scholar, Jin Wei, who is director of ethnic and religious studies at the Central Party School in Beijing, to call for a “creative” new approach is startling. For her to do so publicly, in an interview this month with a Hong Kong magazine, Asia Weekly, suggests that she has high-level backing. A report from a Beijing think-tank in 2009 challenged the official line that rioting in Tibet the year before was instigated from abroad. But Robert Barnett, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University in New York, describes Ms Jin’s intervention as a sign that, after two decades, “debate has re-emerged within China about the government’s hard-line policies in Tibet”. Ms Jin even accused former party chiefs in Tibet of being “biased against the practice of religious affairs”. This, she said, “foreshadowed the accumulation of grievances today.”

Bold new proposals

One former party secretary in Tibet (from 1988-92) was Hu Jintao, who went on to head the party nationally for ten years until last November, when he gave way to Xi Jinping. Those who have forecast that Mr Xi might prove a bolder reformer than the cautious Mr Hu have so far seen little to back them up. Here, on Tibet, is at least a hint of a crack in the hardline consensus. Some have detected another in the appointment of Yu Zhengsheng to head the party’s main policy group on Tibet and Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region in the north-west. Mr Yu is the head of an advisory body designed to promote national unity. Previous heads of the group have been security specialists.

This is new

Ms Jin’s analysis, though couched in the terminology of party orthodoxy, is similar to that of many foreign observers. She argues that, by demonising the Dalai Lama, and viewing any expression of Tibetan culture as potentially subversive, the party has turned even those Tibetans sympathetic to its aims against it. The struggle has evolved from “a contradiction between the central government and the Dalai Lama separatist clique into an ethnic conflict between Han Chinese and Tibetans”.

She is not advocating a new soft approach to “political” issues, such as the Dalai Lama’s call for greater autonomy for Tibet and Tibetans’ hankering after a “greater Tibet”—ie, within its historic borders, beyond the TAR. But in fact, most protests in Tibet are not about “politics”, defined like this. Many have been sparked by anger at Chinese repression—of Tibetan culture, language and tradition, or of individual protesters. It is a vicious circle, made worse by anger at the large-scale immigration into Tibet of Han Chinese.

Ms Jin has ideas on how to break the impasse. Talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, stalled since the most recent of nine fruitless rounds in 2010, should resume, she says. They should concentrate on “easy” issues first, setting contentious debate about Tibet’s status to one side for now. China should consider inviting the Dalai Lama to visit one of its semi-autonomous cities, Hong Kong or Macau, and eventually allowing him back to Tibet. It should also try to defuse the crisis his death will bring by agreeing with him on a chosen reincarnation from inside China’s borders. Otherwise, China risks having to deal with two incarnations: one it endorses and one in exile who is more likely to be revered by most Tibetans.”

via Tibet policy: Bold new proposals | The Economist.

25/01/2013

* Tibet to invest $563m to protect environment

China Daily: The government of the Tibet autonomous region plans to invest more than 3.5 billion yuan ($563 million) in 2013, 10.5 percent more than last year, in environmental protection.

Potala Palace, Lhasa

Potala Palace, Lhasa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the draft budget of 2013, which the regional finance department submitted for the legislature’s approval on Thursday, the investment will also support the building of an ecological safety screen on the plateau.

More than 3.23 billion yuan will be used for major forestation projects and for compensating and rewarding locals who protect and grow grass and forests and conserve wetlands, lakes and water resources.

More than 50 million yuan will be allocated to support environmental improvement projects and preserve resources, according to the draft budget.

According to the autonomous region’s environmental protection department, the plateau’s fragile and sensitive environment faces a worsening situation of land desertification, soil erosion and threats to deteriorating biodiversity.

New challenges are emerging from increasing urban pollution related to tourism, traffic and mining.

However, environmental protection has also received “unprecedented” attention over the past five years, the department said.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, listed the protection and building of a safety screen of environment in Tibet as a State-level major eco-project in February 2009.

The project aims to pour in 15.5 billion yuan to basically finish building the screen by 2030.”

via Tibet to invest $563m to protect environment |Society |chinadaily.com.cn.

13/01/2013

* China-wary Army for mountain strike corps

Times of India: “The Army has come up with a fresh proposal for the new mountain strike corps, apart from two “independent” infantry brigades and two “independent” armoured brigades, to plug operational gaps along the LAC (line of actual control) as well as to acquire “some offensive capabilities” against China.

The raising of the new formations will cost around Rs 81,000 crore, spread primarily over the 12th Plan period (2012-17), with a little spillover into the 13th Plan if necessary, say sources.

“The approved 12th Army Plan, as part of the LTIPP (long-term integrated perspective plan), already ca-ters Rs 62,000 crore for the corps. The Army is now asking for another Rs 19,000 crore,” said a source.

With additional armoured regiments and infantry units based in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, the new mountain corps (around 40,000 soldiers) will for the first time give India the capability to also launch a counter-offensive into TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) in the event of a Chinese attack, say sources.

As with the development of the over 5,000-km Agni-V and 3,500-km Agni-IV ballistic missiles — coupled with the ongoing progressive deployment of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones, helicopters and missile squadrons in the northeast — the overall aim is to have “strategic deterrence” in place to dissuade China from embarking on any “misadventure”.”

via China-wary Army for mountain strike corps – The Times of India.

29/05/2012

* Tibetan men in first self-immolations in Lhasa

BBC News: “Two men set themselves on fire in the Tibetan city of Lhasa on Sunday, Chinese state media said, confirming earlier reports. One of the men died and the other “survived with injuries”, Xinhua news agency said.

The self-immolations are thought to be the first in Lhasa and the second inside Tibet. But they follow a series of self-immolations, mostly involving monks and nuns, in Tibetan areas outside Tibet. “They were a continuation of the self-immolations in other Tibetan areas and these acts were all aimed at separating Tibet from China,” Hao Peng, head of the Communist Partys Commission for Political and Legal Affairs in the Tibet Autonomous Region, was quoted as saying.”

via BBC News – Tibetan men in first self-immolations in Lhasa.

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