By Tendar Tsering
DHARAMSHALA, July 19: Tibet experts have panned China’s recently announced multi-billion dollar tourism projects in Tibet as eyewash and described them as plans to encourage Chinese migration into the sparsely populated region.
“Opening Tibet to domestic tourists from mainland China while blocking tourists from outside the country goes to show that Beijing is aiming to encourage Chinese immigration into Tibet,” Thubten Samphel, the director of Tibet Policy Institute based in Dharamshala said.
A senior bureaucrat, Samphel adversely noted that China is planning its big tourism projects in Tibet in favour of the Chinese people and not the local Tibetans in Tibet.
“If China is aiming to earn tourism money for the locals, why then allow only Chinese tourists and not welcome international tourists,” Samphel argued. “It is very clear that they want to encourage their people to move into Tibet.”
China in recent weeks announced a $4.8-billion tourism project in Lhasa, the restive capital city of Tibet, and a $63.5 million project in Nyingtri, southeastern Tibet, a region near its disputed border with India known for its natural beauty.
Chinese government authorities see developing tourism as “crucial to the economic future” of Tibet and have set a goal of attracting 15 million tourists a year by 2015.
However, following the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, the entire plateau is reeling under a heavy security clampdown with growing restrictions on the basic freedoms of the native Tibetan people.
Speaking to Phayul, the Director of Chennai Centre for China Studies, D. S. Rajan said that the purpose of the China’s multi-billion dollar tourism projects in Tibet is to distract the world’s attention from the Tibetan self-immolations.
“Dozens of Tibetans are setting themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese government, and to distract the attention of the world, China is announcing the projects in Tibet,” D. S. Rajan said.
“China is trying to tell the world that nothing is happening there in Tibet but development.”