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U.S. Activists Launch New Attack on Tibet Railway

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2003/09/04; September 4, 2003.]

Agence France Presse
September 2, 2003

A high-altitude railway China is building to Tibet is a ruse to increase control over the region, and does not even enjoy the support of Beijing's Ministry of Railways, US activists said here Monday.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) made the claim in a new 70-page report on the 1,142-kilometer (713-mile) railway to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, just days before Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is due to visit the United States.

"This is another example of Communist central planning in Tibet that puts Sino-centric security and development before the interests of the Tibetan people, most of whom will not benefit from a railway under the present conditions," said John Ackerly, ICT President.

"This railway not only lacks broad support among the Tibetan people, but it also lacks the support of the Chinese Ministry of Railways," he said.

The ICT backed up its complaints about the railway with interviews with transport analysts and satellite imagery in the report, titled "Crossing the Line."

It urged Beijing to ensure that the railway does not result in a greater influx of non-Tibetans into Tibet, and to prevent the persecution of Tibetans who oppose the railway.

ICT also urged other governments to avoid involvement in construction of the 3.2 billion dollar line, and to deny relevant export licenses.

It said economic data indicated the railway was a poor investment and the decision to build it was taken for political reasons.

Several Chinese railway experts, some of whom work with the Ministry of Railways, helped anonymously in the preparation of the report, ICT said.

Main beneficiaries of the line will be the People's Liberation Army which will welcome a new supply route to its tens of thousands of troops in Tibet, and Chinese settlers and migrants, the report claimed.

Rights groups accuse China of orchestrating a wave of immigration of Han Chinese settlers into Tibet in order to dilute the region's ethnic identity.

The line will link the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with Golmud in Qinghai province, becoming the longest railway at the highest elevation in the world.

Chinese officials have argued that the line is essential to accelerate economic development in Qinghai and Tibet and to raise living standards.

China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951, opposes any official contact between Dalai Lama, and foreign governments.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after an uprising against Chinese rule was crushed by the army.

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