Beijing: China will invest 100 billion yuan (Rs55,940 crore) in projects in Tibet, including an extension of its first railway, state media reported, as Beijing seeks to boost its image in the remote region through development.
The money will be spent on 180 projects in the years up to 2010, including upgrading an airport; extending availability of drinking water, electricity and telephone lines to herding communities; and building a railway from regional capital Lhasa to Xigaze, the region’s second-largest city, the Xinhua news agency reported late on Monday.
To critics, the railway connecting Lhasa to other parts of China that opened in July last year has become a symbol of Beijing’s efforts to subdue discontent among Tibetans by offering development and modernity.
The vice chairman of the regional government, Hao Peng, said the new wave of infrastructure investment would be tilted towards herding regions “so farmers and herders and the grassroots population will fully enjoy the fruits of reform and development,” Xinhua reported.
Between 1994 and 2005, the Chinese central government invested about 63 billion yuan in large infrastructure projects in Tibet.
The People’s Liberation Army occupied Tibet in 1950, and nine years later, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India after a failed uprising.
Critics charge that China represses Tibetans’ religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, whom China denounces as a “separatist”. They also say that China’s investment drive is enriching mostly Han Chinese outsiders while threatening Tibet’s environment and traditions.