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Five Year Development Plan
Though most of China is now urbanized, some parts of the third-largest country in the world still remain cut off from industrial society. Tibet is the western part of China, dominated by high planes and an agriculture-based economy. The region can almost be considered its own country, given that the isolated culture differs so much from that of other more populated places in China such as Beijing or Hong Kong. Not only does Tibet differ in population and culture but in poverty as well. China’s 13th Five-Year Development Plan hopes to change this.

The current President of China, Xi Jinping, has stated that getting rid of poverty in rural areas such as Tibet would be the hardest part of building a “prosperous society.” In addition to building better access to transportation, the government plans to expand access to water, the internet, education and health care.

While the poverty rate in China was measured at just about 6.5% in 2012, the rate in Tibet was a staggering 32.9% by the end of 2015. The Chinese government is now being forced to strategize and increase its efforts to support Tibet. Through many provisions in China’s 13th Five-Year Development Plan (2015-2020), Tibet will benefit greatly. Included in the Five-Year Development Plan is the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, which has recently begun construction.

The China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group states that the railway will go from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, all the way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This line will connect the most remote villages of Tibet with the most globally connected parts of China, making travel easier and faster. The $36 billion project will promote and increase economic prosperity, which is exactly what the Five-Year Development Plan set out to do.

Since the construction of the Qinghai–Tibet Railway increased the tourism economy of the region, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway is sure to have the same effect. This construction project will be a huge job-creator, and, with more money from tourism, government jobs and increased access to industrialized markets, the people of Tibet will have many more opportunities to escape from poverty.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Google

Preserving Tibet
For many centuries, Tibet lay peacefully on the Tibetan Plateau, its people cultivating a sense of community that lived a life of peace with their leader, the Dalai Lama. However, with increased globalization and pressure for development, their migratory way of life and secluded nature no longer seemed feasible in the grand scheme of things, and their neighbor China invaded them. This invasion forced several Tibetan people to seek refuge in the village of Dharamsala, a small part of northern India. It became home to the Dalai Lama and his followers, but several Tibetans still attempt to live on the Tibetan plateau and are constantly fighting the arrest and destruction that China has thrust upon them.

For those few remaining souls, life can be very difficult as they face increasing pressure to either join China, be arrested, or flee to Dharamsala, leaving their homes and families behind. The main reason these individuals must make a decision is because they have very limited means of supporting themselves. After living in a migratory way for the majority of their lives, adapting to the new landscape, which includes a train that goes directly to China, has become very difficult. Some Tibetans are attempting to preserve their culture by acting as tour guides and performers, but with limited access, this is becoming a job that only few can hold. Luckily, there is an NGO that is willing to help.

The Bridge Fund (TBF) is an organization that is “working to improve the lives of Tibetan communities in China through locally driven, integrated development programs and overarching initiatives. The program supports education, health care, cultural heritage preservation, environmental conservation and business development. TBF exists to literally bridge resources technical, financial and advisory for Tibetan communities so they can meet their own economic, social, cultural and environmental needs.”

TBF allows local Tibetans to produce goods that can be sold in stores throughout the world. It also strives to preserve Tibetan heritage and has recently launched a music and mural preservation initiative that has proven to be very successful. By providing business education to Tibetans young and old, The Bridge Fund is succeeding in making Tibetans more independent as they face hardships imposed by China. By providing counsel and connections, the organization is effectively creating business-savvy individuals who will be able to compete on the global market while simultaneously preserving their own culture.

Several other Tibet-based NGOs have come into effect and have been working alongside The Bridge Fund to help the Tibetan people preserve and protect what is rightfully theirs. While it is understandable that China may want to push their borders further west in order to accommodate a growing population, it is imperative to understand the importance of preserving a nation that is home to a rich cultural background. As the Dalai Lama once said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you cannot help them, at least do not hurt them.” This is a prime opportunity to help people who, at the present moment, are struggling to help themselves.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: The Bridge Fund, International Campaign for Tibet
Photo: Karmapa

poverty-in-tibet
Tibetans have long been among the poorest people in Asia, and despite some improvements over the past decade, poverty remains widespread. Poverty in Tibet has a high rating in China, where 34 percent of the population live in extreme poverty. The poorest villagers live on only $100 per year.

The Chinese government has spent millions of dollars in its efforts to develop Tibet and lift people out of poverty. The government in Beijing has been eager to highlight its successes, and to its credit, it has helped to raise the living standards for many Tibetans. It has also significantly improved access to medical care, raised life expectancies and reduced child mortality rates.

But of course all of this has come at a heavy price. The Chinese annexation of Tibet was well documented for its brutality, and human rights violations remain widespread. Periodic protests and crackdowns continue. Millions of Han Chinese have settled in Tibet and dominate the local government and economy. Ethnic Tibetans are now a minority by many counts.

The Chinese government has recently claimed that it has reduced poverty amongst Tibetans by half over a three year period. According to government figures, the poverty rate fell from 34 percent to 18 percent between 2010 and 2013. It attributes this success to pension programs aimed at supplementing income and a housing relocation program.

But many are skeptical of the government’s claims and the housing relocation program has attracted a lot of outside criticism. More than two thirds of the Tibetan population has been forcibly resettled and provided with a government subsidy to build a new house. But in many cases the amount of money provided was not enough to pay for the construction and many impoverished Tibetans have been forced to go deep into debt to cover the cost.

Many resettled farmers have lost their source of livelihood and are struggling to find other ways to earn a living. A lot of Tibetans are now completely dependent on government subsidies.

There is still a long way to go in the fight to end poverty and improve the human rights situation in Tibet. But there has definitely been progress and even the Dalai Lama admits this. In fact, the Dalai Lama has backtracked on his demands for Tibetan independence and, recognizing China’s resources to develop Tibet and improve living conditions, says he believes Tibet will be better off staying with China. His main wish is for the government to improve the human rights situation and respect Tibetan culture and autonomy.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: CNTV, Financial Times, Ref World, Tibetan Review 1, Tibetan Review 2,
Photo: Flickr

 

Learn about education in Tibet

 

tibet_mining
The Tibetan Autonomous Region, a territory of China, is a resource-rich land, ripe with large stores of copper, oil, lithium, chromite, uranium and gold.

As a result, the government of China displaces numerous Tibetans. The Central Tibetan Administration reports that around 240 mining sites have replaced once-nomadic sites. The China National Gold Group is a government-sponsored organization that owns mines in the Tibetan plateau.

The Stop Mining in Tibet movement states that local Tibetans do not benefit in any capacity from the numerous mines that have sprung up. Stop Mining in Tibet equates the process as looting and calls for its immediate termination. Canadian corporations, in collaboration with the Chinese government, exploit the mines and not only negatively affect the Tibetans in the area, but also do ecological damage to the Tibetan plateau.

Mining sites created near the continent’s largest rivers, such as the Yangtze and the Yellow, are threatened with pollution of its waters. The pollution poses such a danger that India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh may also be affected by polluted waters because they are downstream.

Historically, Tibetans limited their mining, considering the land to be sacred. Now, many of Tibet’s resources are funneled straight into the rapidly industrializing China, with very little benefit towards the pastoral Tibetan community.

Furthermore, with over 6 million nomadic Tibetans in the region, this displacement comes at a time when Tibetan refugee acceptance is in a current decline, according to the BBC.

Displacement of the pastoral communities in Tibet was alleged to have begun in the early 2000s, but recent reports have seen the phenomenon gain more ground. Further information is largely limited, as foreign reporters are restricted in their coverage by the Chinese government.

This past April, a landslide found over 80 miners trapped in the Jiama mine. The Chinese government stated that mining did not cause the landslide, but the Tibetan government in exile, operating from India, claims otherwise.

The majority of the miners found trapped were Han Chinese, with a report of only two Tibetan miners. The majority of miners are not Tibetan themselves, but rather hail from outside the Tibetan region.

With the Chinese government claiming Tibetan land for the betterment of China and a Tibetan government operating from a large distance away, pastorals are left to the whims of governmental decree. In this case, scores of their community are largely displaced. Protest movements exist – but what is a land-rich in resources is sorely lacking in human rights.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: BBC 1, 2, Central Tibetan Administration, The Economist, Stop Mining Tibet
Photo: Asia News

tibet_opt
An ethnic Tibetan who grew up under the Chinese Communist regime and currently works as a high-ranking Communist Party official has decided to speak out against the Tibetan atrocities currently taking place. Choosing to remain anonymous, the government official claims that the current state of Tibet is “far worse than people in the West suspect.”

When the Chinese military invaded Tibet in 1950, many Tibetans thought the Chinese would modernize the region and bring order to the land that was previously ruled by monks and monasteries. These thoughts were quickly dashed when the Chinese began erasing any signs of Tibetan culture and forcibly removing people from their homes into communes. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, Tibetan leaders were sent to Maoist reeducation camps and hundreds of monasteries and relics were destroyed. Many of these injustices are still occurring today.

The streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, are still patrolled by Chinese security forces that act like occupiers. The Communist official claims that the security forces often take property and beat residents at their own discretion and without cause. During another Lhasa revolt surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the military arrested 6,000 people. The practice of self-immolation, or the public death by lighting oneself on fire, has gained popularity with monks to raise awareness for their struggle. Since 2011, over 100 people have resorted to self-immolation to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Another horrifying byproduct of Chinese rule has been the destruction of the Tibetan plateau. The Communist official alleges that the increase in cultivation due to Chinese immigrants coming to Tibet has resulted in diminished grasslands and desertification. The number of rivers that feed into Qinghai Lake decreased from 108 to 8 due to extensive irrigation systems. Furthermore, the area as a whole is said to be a toxic dumping ground for Chinese industries.

Human Rights Watch recently published a 115-page report corroborating many injustices that the Communist official is claiming. Their report focuses on the re-housing project currently underway that has relocated over 2 million Tibetans since 2006. Hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders have been placed into “New Socialist Villages” destroying their livelihoods without adequate compensation.

These obvious and blatant human rights abuses are occurring all across Tibet. The Communist official hopes to publish a book in the West detailing his eyewitness accounts of the current state of Tibet and hopes that the Chinese will someday allow public debate on the matter. He says that a style of democracy tailored to the culture and people of Tibet would be the best solution if such an option were possible.

– Sarah C. Morris 

Sources: Spiegel, Human Rights Watch
Sources: New York Times

The program is known as the New Socialist Countryside, and has provided up to 2.1 million Tibetans with running water, electricity, and access to improved healthcare and education in the past 7 years. Run by planners in Beijing, the program is ostensibly aimed at raising living standards and improving the economy of Tibet, one of the poorest regions within China.

However, a recent report by Human Rights Watch suggests that the program has had a severe effect on the traditional Tibetan way of life. Says Sophie Richardson, China Director for Human Rights Watch, “…while it may be true that some Tibetans have benefitted, the majority have simply been forced to trade poor but stable livelihoods for the uncertainties of a cash economy in which they are often the weakest actors.”

Having observed the income disparity between rural and urban dwellers, the Chinese government has relocated nearly three-quarters of Tibetans to urban areas. However, upon arriving in cities, rural Tibetans can’t compete with immigrants from other regions of China, nor with educated locals who speak Mandarin. As such, large portions of the population are being moved, supposedly voluntarily, but not being given a support structure once resettled that would allow them to survive in a setting wholly foreign to their previous nomadic lifestyle.

There are many claims for the motives of the government, including protecting the ecologically fragile grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, and facilitating improved utility distribution for the population, but at the same time the thought lingers that the relocations have more to do with control of the population and improving rural incomes to avoid unrest.

120 self-immolations have taken place in Tibet in the past five years. Sadly, civil unrest is an ongoing theme in Tibet, and with governmental policies such as New Socialist Countryside, improvement is a double-edged sword.

– David Wilson

Sources: NY Times, Huffington Post

Interesting Facts About the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is a holy figure within Tibetan Buddhism and an ardent advocate for Tibetan independence from China. Discussed below are interesting facts about the current Dalai Lama and his life.

Top 5 Facts About the Dalai Lama

 

  1. The Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso was born Lhamo Dhondup on July 6, 1935 to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet. He was found by Tibetan monks at age two and passed all tests and had the physical traits of the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He took the throne at age 4 at an enthronement ceremony in Lhasa, Tibet and became a monk at age 6.
  2. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work advocating nonviolent means to free Tibet from China. He has lived in India in exile since 1959 when the Chinese Army eliminated an uprising in Tibet.
  3. The Dalai Lama has a variety of hobbies. His favorite activities include meditating, gardening, and repairing watches.
  4. The Dalai Lama is said to be a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion who has chosen to reincarnate to serve the people. The current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso is is the 74th manifestation of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. Tibetans refer to him as Yeshe Norbu, the Wish-fulfilling Gem, or Kundun, meaning The Presence.
  5. The Dalai Lama has continuously emphasized his desire to see Tibet democratized. He has publicly declared that once the Tibetans are capable of achieving independence from the Chinese government, he will not hold political office, choosing instead to remain as a purely religious figure despite his current status as the Tibetan Head of State and Government. He wishes to continue to travel and spread his message of religious and cultural tolerance and peace.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: US News, CNN
Photo: Vagabond