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China begins work on rail spur to Tibet monastery town

September 28, 2010

The Star (Malaysia)
September 26, 2010

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China began work on Sunday
on a rail spur that will connect the Tibetan
capital of Lhasa with Shigatse, the monastery
town that is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the
second-most powerful figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

The 13.3 billion yuan ($1.98 billion) spur
follows the 2007 completion of a rail link to
Lhasa, which critics charged would speed the
Sinofication of the Tibetan plateau and enable a
sharp increase in mining and other industry in
the environmentally fragile region.

A Tibetan pilgrim spins his praying wheel as he
stops to pray on the road from Shigatse to
Tsedang Tibet Autonomous Region November 26, 2009. (REUTERS/Nir Elias/Files)

Many Tibetans chafe under Chinese rule and
believe that a sharp influx in central Chinese
investment primarily benefits Han Chinese migrants.

The spur will "play a vital role in boosting
tourism and promoting the rational use of
resources along the line," the Xinhua news agency
cited Railway Minister Liu Zhijun as saying.

The spur, which will take four years to complete,
is designed to transport 8.3 million tonnes of freight annually.

By opening up transport of ore to the industrial
regions of China, the rail line has accelerated a
number of mining projects, including the massive
Yulong copper mine, under development by Western
Mining and Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd.

The new line may also open tourism and migration
to Shigatse, traditionally the seat of the
Panchen Lama, who is second in importance to the
Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism. Many of
Shigatse's historic structures were left in ruins
after the Cultural Revolution.

Much of Tibet is still remote and very poor. In a
separate report, Xinhua said one person had died
from pneumonic plague in Tibet's Nyingchi
prefecture. Four others were diagnosed with the
disease, all of whom had contact with the victim.

(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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