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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China's Upbeat Governor in Tibet Promises Investment

December 14, 2007

By ERIK ECKHOLM
The New York Times
Thursday, December 13, 2007

China's top official here said today that a determined influx of
investment from Beijing over the next decade would bring prosperity and
social harmony to Tibet, and he dismissed any notion that the money was
intended to dilute the culture of a region occupied by Chinese Communist
troops more than 50 years ago.

''Conditions for large numbers of Tibetans are still quite backward,''
the official, Guo Jinlong, said in a rare interview inside the sprawling
government compound here. ''This is all for the good of the people and
to strengthen national unity.''

Mr. Guo, who is the Communist Party secretary of Tibet, provided details
of a strategy adopted by Chinese leaders last summer: to put Tibet on a
fast track to development while giving no ground to the Dalai Lama, the
spiritual leader who fled Tibet during an uprising against Chinese rule
in 1959.

While the Dalai Lama has called for talks on autonomy for Tibet and has
become a global spokesman against Chinese repression, Chinese officials
portray him as a deceitful separatist and appear to have no intention of
letting him return.

Instead, they have undertaken a new push to integrate the region through
a vast tide of government investment and subsidies. Altogether, Mr. Guo
said, central government spending in Tibet in the next five years will
be double what it was in the last five.

Some foreign experts have characterized the Chinese plan as unrealistic,
economically and politically, given the region's status as an economic
backwater and the fervent though largely hidden popular support for the
Dalai Lama.

Past development here has improved the welfare of many Tibetans but also
brought new problems and resentments as ethnic Chinese from surrounding
provinces have been enticed to migrate, often displacing Tibetans in the
economy.

But Mr. Guo, an urbane and polished official who has served in Tibet
since 1993, becoming secretary in autumn 2000, dismissed any potential
negative impact on the culture of Tibet's deeply spiritual people.

He scoffed, for example, at claims that Han Chinese, the country's
dominant ethnic group, are overwhelming the Tibetan population, pointing
to census data last year indicating that 93 percent of the region's 2.6
million people are ethnic Tibetans.

Critics say that the data omit large numbers of unregistered migrants in
cities as well as the large military presence, and that new projects,
like Tibet's first railroad to the outside world, may further
marginalize the native population.

Through the crash efforts, Tibet's economy will grow at more than 12
percent a year in the next five years, Mr. Gao predicted, well above the
rate in the rest of China. Incomes here will match the national average
by 2012, he said.

As for the Tibetan spiritual leader, Mr. Guo asserted today that
''public support for the Dalai Lama has drastically declined'' and that
he is seen by most residents as a ''schemer, a split-ist and an
opportunist.''

The droves of pilgrims -- some carrying forbidden pictures of the Dalai
Lama -- who pray at major Buddhist temples, the private comments of many
Tibetans and the assessments of many foreign experts all suggest that
this may be wishful thinking. But the evident spirituality here also
calls into question charges that the Chinese are destroying the
religious culture.

Since he assumed power here, Mr. Guo has been praised for taking a
somewhat softer line on some religious conflicts than his predecessor,
who had offended Tibetans with his crusade to end Buddhist practices by
all party members, government officials and even their relatives.

Mr. Guo is said to have relaxed the pressures on government employees
and their families. But today he defended the prohibition on religious
practice by party members, noting that atheism is an inherent part of
the Communist creed. He denied that this resulted in discrimination,
even though top government positions usually require party membership.

The government officially supports religious freedom but it keeps a
tight leash on monasteries, limiting the number of monks and arresting
those who are defiant, as well as anyone suspected of aiding the Dalai
Lama. It has supported the rebuilding of numerous monasteries that were
destroyed during Mao's Cultural Revolution.

The mixed official stance was evident during the interview.

Behind Mr. Guo in the ornate conference room was a wall-sized copper,
silver and brass image of the Potala, the former residence of the Dalai
Lama. Mr. Guo placed on his guests traditional Tibetan scarves, which
are religious symbols, and a brass plaque celebrating the Potala, --
which, however reviled its last resident, is now proudly protected by
China as a World Heritage Site and a big tourist draw.

In response to a question, Mr. Guo said he did not view China's struggle
against the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists as part of the global war
on terror. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, while declaring support for
the American campaign, has added that it expects sympathy for its own
struggles against terrorism, particularly mentioning the mostly Muslim
province of Xinjiang.

That expectation has led to speculation that China would use the global
antiterror campaign as an excuse to crack down even more harshly on
''separatist'' enemies at home, like monks who show support for the
Dalai Lama.

But Mr. Guo expressed confidence about China's rule in Tibet.

''Tibet has had some violence in the past, but it is basically stable
today,'' he said. ''I think that as the economy develops further and
people become more prosperous, it will be even more so, and the peoples'
commitment to socialism with Chinese characteristics will be even
stronger.''

While the Beijing government has long provided subsidies to ethnic
minority regions, the new plans appear to go far beyond any previous
ones and Tibet will be a special beneficiary of the grand Western
Development Program.

Over the next five years, Mr. Guo said, the central government will
greatly increase direct payments to the Tibetan government, providing 90
percent of its regular budget to permit increased spending on education
and training, and will finance numerous large projects in
transportation, power supply and agriculture.

Through such subsidies, farmers here have been relieved of the taxes
that cause strife through much of rural China. And, unlike the schools
in most of China, schools here may not charge fees to any students, from
primary through high school.
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