[Buddha-l] U.S. ambassador to China on rare Tibet visit

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 27 17:47:29 MDT 2013

>From the L.A. Times.


U.S. ambassador to China on rare Tibet visit

By Barbara Demick

June 27, 2013, 12:34 p.m.

XINING, China -- The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, paid a rare visit 
to Tibet this week as human rights advocates blasted the Chinese government's 
policy of luring Tibetan nomads into concrete housing projects with little 
job opportunities.

In meetings with residents and officials, Locke stressed the need to 
preserve Tibetan culture and urged authorities to allow foreigners to travel 
more freely in the tightly controlled region, according to the Associated 

The Tibetan Autonomous Region, as it is known, has been mostly closed to 
western diplomats and journalists since an uprising in 2008 against Chinese 
rule. Locke's three-day visit to Lhasa, which concludes Friday, is the first 
time the U.S. Embassy has gotten approval for a visit since 2010, the 
embassy said.

Nearly 120 Tibetans have immolated themselves since 2009 in protests against 
Chinese rule.

A report released by Human Rights Watch said more than 2 million others had 
been lured into "new socialist villages" since 2006 in one of the largest 
upheavals of the population since the 1950s.

"The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being 
remodeled by mass rehousing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the 
post-Mao era,'' said Sophie Richardson, China Director of the New York-based 
human rights group, in a statement Thursday.

According to the report, many Tibetans have been duped into giving up the 
herds of yak and sheep that traditionally provided their livelihood and 
settling in cheaply constructed housing projects. Although the housing is 
subsidized, the report found that the Tibetans bore 70% of the costs of the 
new homes, often signing loan documents they did not understand because of 
high illiteracy.

Meanwhile, the report stated that "they are unable to compete in markets in 
which native Chinese-speaking laborers and entrepreneurs have a distinct 

"It may be true that some Tibetans have benefited," Richardson said. "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 

The housing projects are being constructed not only in the Tibetan 
Autonomous Region, but also in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, which are home 
to large Tibetan populations.

South of the Qinghai provincial capital of Xining, the new villages look 
like vast gulags made up of identical, tightly packed blocks of concrete and 
brick. Although the Chinese government claims they are more hygienic and 
modern, many of the villages lack adequate toilets and do not have a 
reliable electricity supply.

Human Rights Watch said in its report that it had not found evidence that 
Tibetans were forced into the projects, but that they were easily 
intimidated into relocating. 

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