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Tibetan Exile Government Blasts China's Shangri-La Plan

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/07/27; July 27, 2002.]


DHARMSALA, India 26 July 2002 (AP) -- The Tibetan government in exile Friday criticized China's plan to promote a rugged area on the edge of the Tibetan plateau as a so-called Shangri-La for tourists, saying it was an attempt to cover up its suppression of the Tibetan people.

The government in exile was reacting to China's announcement Wednesday of plans to designate 50 counties in Tibet and two provinces, Sichuan and Yunnan, as "The China Shangri-La Ecological Tourist Zone."

The official Xinhua New Agency reported that the government would invest $9.6 billion over eight years to develop a profitable vacation and ecotourism destination for Western travelers.

If the Chinese authorities "were serious about Tibetan culture, they should preserve what's in Tibet -- religious rituals and the ability of the monks to teach freely to their followers," said Thubten Samphel, spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile in the northern Indian mountain town of Dharmsala.

Samphel accused the Chinese government of being hypocritical in promoting a part of Tibet as a mythical paradise while suppressing Tibetan culture and religion.

"Tibet's true strength is its Buddhist culture which has been constantly assaulted by the Chinese authorities," Samphel said.

Shangri-La, supposedly a long-forgotten Tibetan word for paradise, became legendary after British writer James Hilton's "Lost Horizon" (1933) portrayed it as a Himalayan kingdom where youth is preserved and dreams are fulfilled.

The Tibetan government in exile accuses China of pursuing a deliberate policy of population change by relocating ethnic Chinese into Tibet and said tourist traffic there would not benefit Tibetans.

"Tibet is no Shangri-La at all. The political reality is people living under oppression and by going there, (tourists) are abetting and encouraging a system which oppresses people," Samphel said.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and set up his government in exile in Dharmsala.

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