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World Bank Loan for Tibet Resettlement Falls Apart

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/07/07; July 7, 2000.]

WASHINGTON, July 7 (UPI) - The directors of the World Bank stopped short of approving a loan package Friday to help finance the resettlement of thousands of Chinese farmers on to Tibetan grazing lands, but Beijing has announced it will forge ahead with the controversial project on its own.

The $40 million loan deal fell apart Friday in Washington when the bank's directors refused to approve the plan in the form that the bank staff originally recommended. The board wanted further study of the politically charged issue before it would give its approval.

The plan, included in the bank's China Western Poverty Reduction Project, calls for the relocation of 58,000 Chinese from their depleted farmlands to fertile lands in the western province of Qinghai that have traditionally been used by Tibetan herders.

"It is unacceptable to my authorities that other Bank shareholders would insist on imposing additional conditions on management's (World Bank's staff) recommendations -- namely coming back to the board for approval again for a project that was already approved last year," China's representative, Zhu Xian, said in a statement read at Friday's meeting. "If that is the case, China will therefore turn to its own resources to implement the Qinghai component of the project, and in its own way."

The overall poverty project for western China was approved by the World Bank last year, however, the directors decided to take a closer look at the Qinghai component in light of accusations that the resettlement was a move by China to overwhelm the native Tibetans and their culture.

The Dali Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, said that he opposed the loan during his recent speaking tour of the United States, as have Tibetan independence advocacy groups, such as Students for a Free Tibet. Members of the group spent nearly a week camped outside the bank's headquarters to urge the board to reject the plan.

Zhu scolded the board for injecting political considerations into what he said should have been purely an economic decision.

"From the very start, the whole process has been under enormous political pressure," he said in his statement. "We believe, therefore, it is once again necessary to bring to our shareholders' attention, the importance in this institution of separating economic considerations from politics."

World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, who no longer has to deal with the contentious issue since the deal is off, had no immediate comment on Zhu's accusations.

"We accept the decision by the Chinese government," he told the board. "We note that the project will be implemented by them. We look forward to a continuation of our long-standing relationship with China in the context of other projects."

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