Lhasa stable, recovering from riot, says mayor
Updated: 2009-03-06 15:51

LHASA -- The social and economic situations in Lhasa are turning for the better a year after violent riots scarred the Himalayan city, said mayor Doje Cezhug Friday.

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The city is now stable as economic and social situations are turning for the better, Doje Cezhug told Xinhua on the sidelines of the national parliament's annual meeting which started Thursday in Beijing.

Local economy, mainly driven by tourism, however, was "severely hurt" by the March riots last year, said Doje, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC).

Lhasa received 1.35 million tourists in 2008, down half from the previous year, and the tourism income dropped by 58.66 percent to 1.17 billion yuan (about 172 million U.S.dollars).

"We were also faced with other difficulties such as halt of factory production and investment outflow and shrink because of investors' panic after the riot," said the mayor.

The violent riots resulted in the deaths of at least 18 civilians and one policeman. It also left businesses looted and houses torched.

Doje noted that the city has taken a series of measures to restore normal economical and social order, including reinforcing social public security and promoting tourism by tax cut and tax exemption policies.

He is optimistic about the city's economic development this year, even though the riots and the global economic downturn have caused an immediate or indirect impact on the city.

Because of the unique geographic condition and industrial structure in Tibet, the overall economic growth of Lhasa still shows a favorable trend, though impact of the international financial crisis is being felt across China, the mayor said.

He admitted, however, the global crisis did contribute to the city's six-percentage-point drop of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 from the previous year.

"We will strive to ensure economic growth, people's well-being and social stability this year," said the mayor, expressing confidence on maintaining a 13-percent economic growth rate in 2009.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet regional government, told reporters Thursday "there will still be some time before a full recovery" of the region's tourism industry.

Last year, only more than 2.2 million tourists visited Tibet, down 44 percent over the previous year.

Qiangba also said the region will have no "big problems" of stability, and Tibetan people "have confidence in the Party and the government."