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Tibetan settlement project should not be misread

By Li Yang ( Updated: 2015-08-06 14:46

Tibetan settlement project should not be misread

The Potala Palace in Lhasa. The palace is one of only three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the region - the others are the Jokhang Temple and the Norbulingka Park. [Photo by Song Wei/Provided to]

Some Western media has raised questions over the settlement project in Tibetan areas in China, quoting critics and activists who have not seen the project or talked with the nomads, that the project "represses Tibetan religious freedom and culture", and is to "control a restive population", and "Tibetans have been given little options but to cooperate".

However, what I saw and heard in Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province, in one week last month was completely different.

The settlement project in Aba benefited 210,000 Tibetans, among whom more than 60,000 were nomads, and 150,000 lived in shabby houses built with mud, wood and stone before 2009. In the following four years, the Aba prefecture government helped the Tibetans build 608 new villages in 11 counties, which cost the government 2.9 billion yuan and the Tibetans' 4.5 billion yuan, among which nearly 700 million yuan was interest-free loan and 3.8 billion yuan were paid by the Tibetans directly.

The most beautiful buildings in Tibetan communities are temples, and Tibetan culture is well protected not only because they are deep in the Tibetans' blood, but also to attract tourists.

Compared with the Han people that I am myself, Tibetans are more peaceful than restive. Their calmness at heart, and detachment from the material wealth and reverence to the unknown makes them may be one of the most docile citizens. I assume, that's an important reason most of them were ruled in serfdom as quasi-slaves for about 1,000 years.

The Tibetans are sincere supporters of Chairman Mao. They see Mao with a kind of religious reverence, because the revolution and reform started by Mao brought them freedom and property.

That it takes much shorter time than the authority expected for the Tibetans to transform their attitudes towards settled life indicates the Tibetans' strong desire to pursue happy and comfortable life. The government fully respects Tibetan herders' freedom to make an option between the settlement project and nomadic life. In fact, the two choices do not conflict with each other.

The nomads have new houses, together with schools and clinics, apart from their tents and pastures through the project. It is by no means what some Western media try to convey to their readers that the government forces them to live in houses to make the rule and control easier.

Most of the critics about settlement project come from the separatist clique led by on-exile Dalai Lama. What they are good at is resorting to some Western people's prejudice against the Communist Party of China left by the Cold War mentality, and portraying Beijing's rule over Tibetan area is a rebellion story of a small ethnic group against a strong nation.

What they intentionally ignore is the constant improvement of people's livelihood, harmonious co-existence of different ethnics and religions in Tibetan areas in China, and the modernization of Tibetan society. A question they should answer is whether the spread of Buddhism in Tibetan area in history also an invasion of strong culture that marginalized local culture?

Seeing is believing. But the people wearing tinted glasses will never see the true picture of the world.

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