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BEIJING - Acknowledging the challenge posed by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's government chief Padma Choling said Wednesday that the government's popularity in Tibet depends on its work to benefit the people.
"Let's face reality. The Dalai Lama and his followers do try to attract young Tibetans, but what we need to do is not to compete with them," Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet autonomous region, said during a panel discussion of the national parliamentary session, when asked by the press to comment on young Tibetans going abroad to follow the Dalai Lama.
"Instead, the key is to improve people's livelihood, especially in education. Also, in monasteries we respect religious practice (instead of trying to compete with someone)," he said. "The popularity of the government will depend on its work."
Tibetan governments at various levels will strive to fulfill the task of benefiting the public and allow residents to enjoy the tangible benefits brought by the central government's policies, he said.
According to the chairman, Tibetan children enjoy 15 years of free education until senior high school. As high as 98 percent of school-age Tibetan children have been enrolled in primary schools.
Official statistics showed that all of the 16,600 college students graduating in Tibet last year have found jobs, marking a significant contrast to the tough employment market in inland provinces that has left many graduates jobless.
The 100-percent employment rate of college graduates, compared to an average of 84 percent from 2006 to 2010, was the result of the Tibetan government's ramped-up efforts to expand the employment market for educated young people.
Beginning from last year, the regional government started to offer cash incentives to graduates who were employed by private businesses and promised to reimburse university fees or write off student loans for graduates who work in the private sector for more than five years, officials said.
With six universities and junior colleges, Tibet only reformed its higher education system in 2006. Before then, each university student was assigned a job upon graduation - a cradle-to-grave social system abolished in other parts of China in the 1990s.
Officials said they also encouraged college graduates to work in inland provinces by holding job fairs that were attended by more than 100 businesses from wealthy coastal regions such as Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang.
The regional government is also planning to raise the higher education gross enrollment rate in Tibet to 30 percent in less than five years, meaning that three out of every 10 Tibetan students will enter college by 2015, education officials have previously said.
Tibet's current gross enrollment rate stands at 23.4 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 26.5 percent.
Well-being in monasteries, villages
Tibet is also working to include all monks and nuns in pension and health care programs.
Any monk or nun above 18 is free to choose whether to join pension and health care programs in Tibet, no matter where their hukou, or household registration, is.
More than 14,000 monks and nuns have joined pension programs in Tibet and about 27,000 have joined health care programs, Xindra Tenzin Chodrak, deputy director of the Standing Committee of People's Congress of Tibet, said at the same meeting.
Moreover, about 4,300 monks and nuns from needy families received allowances for minimum living standards.
About 46,000 monks and nuns are currently living in monasteries in Tibet.
The regional government also sent their officials to check and help settle problems the needy monks and nuns might face.
Under a program to help improve livelihoods in rural areas, about 21,000 officials, or more than 25 percent of the region's total, have been sent to about 5,400 villages in Tibet, Odser, a senior official with the regional government, said at the meeting.
"It is the first time in the autonomous region's history that such working teams have reached every village in Tibet," he said.
In the next three years, the team will work closely with villagers to reduce poverty and settle problems and disputes. Each team is also entrusted with a fund of 100,000 yuan ($15,800) to help locals solve urgent problems.
They will also work to foster grassroots organizations, including party organs.
"Through these efforts, we hope to reinforce public support and fight against any separatist activities," Odser said.