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Demolition of Lhasa's Historical Buildings Tibetans Appeal to the World for Help

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/05/02; May 2, 2002.]

Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR). Central Tibetan Administration.

Dharamsala 2 May 2002: "I am deeply concerned about the reports of demolition of the historical buildings surrounding Jokhang, Lhasa, said Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa of the Central Tibetan Administration based in north India.

"The fate of the area in question contains several historic Tibetan buildings, and their destruction is a matter of grave concern. If the old buildings are in dilapidated condition, wouldn’t it be better if these are renovated rather than being demolished?" asked Kalon Tripa.

Samdhong Rinpoche was responding to reports of demolition of traditional Tibetan buildings on the southeast corner of Lhasa, where Dekyi Shar Lam (also known as Beijing Dong Lu) and "Snowland Street" meet. Tenants of this building are reported to have been evicted without consultation. The city is planning to demolish the whole building complex, which includes an old residence called Samding.

Reports also that indicate that the city also plans to demolish the entire block to the south and east of this building complex."

This block contains some important old buildings which are the few remaining centres of traditional Tibetan buildings.

"These building are not only historical but physical symbols of Tibetan cultural heritage," added Samdhong Rinpoche.

China has also ratified the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which binds states to "the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory."

"To destroy them without community consultation would be a serious violation of China's duty to protect cultural heritage. There are no signs of any sufficient consultation process with local people or with relevant international bodies such as ICOMOS, which have long shown interest in the preservation of the physical and cultural heritage of Tibet," Samdhong Rinpoche said.

"I appeal to the International community notably UNESCO to take steps before it is too late, as these buildings not only of importance to the Tibetan people but also to the world at large" said the Kalon Tripa.

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