After unrest, Beijing vows Tibet spending

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 January, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing has vowed to pour more money and aid into Tibet and areas with significant Tibetan populations in four neighbouring provinces in the next 10 years to contain ethnic unrest in the volatile Himalayan region, state media reported.

In what China Central Television described as the most important central government meeting on Tibet in a decade, President Hu Jintao said 'building Tibet with its own characteristics' would become a priority for the Tibetan plateau.

It is the first time that the development and stability of ethnic Tibetan areas beyond the boundaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region have been placed on the same footing as plans for the region itself.

Mainland analysts said the move was a direct response to massive rioting two years ago. Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan , Qinghai and Gansu were rocked by anti-government unrest that started in Lhasa on March 14, 2008.

The proposal came from a January 18-20 meeting, called a Tibet work symposium, that followed a recent series of high-level government gatherings dedicated to maintaining stability in Tibet and a high-profile government reshuffle, analysts noted.

It was only the fifth such meeting in the 60-year history of the People's Republic and the first since 2001, CCTV said.

'The Communist Party Central Committee will increase aid and roll out favourable polices for Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai, with tackling outstanding challenges to social and economic development being the most pressing task,' it said, quoting a statement after the meeting.

Professor Lian Xiangmin , director of the research office at the government-backed China Tibetology Research Centre, said the increased importance Beijing was attaching to areas next to Tibet was a major policy change.

'It is a big step forward for Beijing to seek co-ordinated development of the whole Tibetan-populated regions, which was apparently a result of comprehensive policy review and thorough considerations of major challenges,' he said.

Dr Tanzen Lhundup, another expert at the centre, said the new policy would have far-reaching impact, making Tibet and its neighbouring regions more integrated politically and economically.

Another highlight of the meeting was Beijing's renewal of pledges to protect the environment and Tibetan culture as part of a plan for pursuing long-term stability on the Tibetan plateau.

Hu even presented an upbeat prediction that by 2020, the income of Tibetan nomads would reach the national average and Tibetans would enjoy similar living standards to people in other parts of the country.

Hu said the source of ethnic grievances and deep-rooted mistrust between Beijing and Tibetans, most of whom revere the Dalai Lama, was the under-developed economy in the far western region.

'Contradiction between the rising material demands of the people and the poorly developed social production remains the primary problem in Tibet,' he said.

Hu also highlighted a shift in the focus of government funding. Instead of pouring money into infrastructure, which many critics say has failed to benefit to the poor in Tibet and win them over, as Beijing had hoped, he said more central government funding would go to improving livelihoods and social welfare, and boosting agriculture and animal husbandry.

The central government has spent more than 140 billion yuan on building infrastructure in Tibet since 2001, CCTV said.

The party would also strengthen its grip on grass-roots governments in the provinces and improve connections with the public, Hu said.

He described the Dalai Lama and his followers, whom Beijing accuses of seeking independence for the region, as 'a special problem'.

Tanzen Lhundup said Beijing would redouble its efforts to improve living standards and public services, such as hospitals and education, in a bid to woo Tibetans, who often complained about being left behind in China's economic boom.

Purse strings

Since 2001, CCTV says Beijing's infrastructure spending in Tibet has been more than, in yuan: 140b