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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China Tightens Grip on Tibet's Business Class

August 21, 2010

Austin Ramzy
TIME Magazine
August 18, 2010

Beijing -- Weeks after a prominent Tibetan arts
dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison on
charges his supporters say were trumped up after
he crossed powerful local officials, a second
Tibetan businessman has been sentenced to life in
jail. Dorje Tashi, a property developer and owner
of the Yak Hotel in Lhasa, was convicted of
funding overseas Tibetan groups, including the
office of the Dalai Lama, according to Urgen
Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center
for Human Rights and Democracy, an India-based
NGO. Dorje Tashi had been arrested in the spring
of 2008 following deadly unrest in the Tibetan
capital and was sentenced in June, although
details of his case have still not been officially released.

As one of China's richest Tibetans, Dorje Tashi
was an unusual target. In the past efforts by
Chinese authorities to root out dissent in Tibet
has focused on groups whose political loyalties
were considered suspect, like monks and people
who had recently made pilgrimages to India, where
the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader,
lives in exile. Tashi ran a business conglomerate
involved in hotels, tourism and real estate, and
was responsible for the employment of hundreds.
He was noted in the state-run press for
contributing to various charitable causes, and
his financial success was a symbol of the type of
prosperity and modernity China wanted to promote
in the restive Himalayan region.

His case has strong parallels to that of Karma
Samdrup, a 42-year-old arts dealer who had also
been touted in China for founding the Three
Rivers Environmental Protection group. He was
convicted in June of buying $10,000 worth of
antiquities looted from an archaeological site in
the northwest region of Xinjiang, charges that
had been dropped in 1998 after Samdrup showed he
was allowed to trade in relics, and denied
knowledge of any crime in acquiring the objects.
Samdrup's supporters allege the old charges were
reinstated to punish him for attempting to help
his brothers, Jigme Namgyal and Rinchen Samdrup,
who were arrested after accusing local police of
poaching. Rinchen Smadrup was sentenced to five
years for "inciting separatism," the
International Campaign for Tibet reported, while
Jigme Namgyal is serving a 21-month term in a labor camp.

The arrests and heavy prison sentences of these
men indicates that two years after the deadly
unrest in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas, Chinese
officials' suspicion of Tibetans has spread to
other levels of society, including to people
generally thought to be closely aligned with the
Chinese state. But while China's efforts to
encourage development in Tibet has helped build a
class of successful Tibetan businesspeople, that
prosperity hasn't built unswerving loyalty to
Beijing. "It does suggest that how ever much
money you pour into Tibet, you can change the
physical landscape and the actual social
landscape, but it doesn't change the cultural
topography," says Robbie Barnett, director of
Columbia University's modern Tibetan studies
program. "The fact is they can create people who
say this system benefits us financially, but it
may not change their sense of cultural values."

The convictions come as a prominent Tibetan
writer is facing trial for writing a book that
questions China's policies towards Tibet.
Tragyal, who goes by a single name and writes
under the pen name Shogdung, was a scholar and
editor in the western province of Qinghai who had
previously advocated the government line and
criticized Tibetans' religious bent. But in the
now-banned book "The Separation Between Sky and
Land," which was published this spring in Tibetan
in China, he wrote that the March 2008 protests
moved him to speak out, even though he fears for
his safety. While not calling for independence,
he asked for a review of the government's Tibet
policy. His trial on charges of encouraging
separatism has been delayed, according to the
International Campaign for Tibet, an overseas
activist group. But it seems unlikely he will
avoid punishment. "I may lose my head because of
my mouth," Tragyal writes in "The Separation
Between Sky and Land." "But this is the path I
have chosen, so the responsibility is mine."
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