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Rights Group Knocks Planned China-Tibet Railway Link

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/12/24; December 24, 2000.]

BEIJING, Dec 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) An international rights group has criticized China's proposed railway line to Tibet, saying it would lead to increased Chinese migration into areas mainly populated by ethnic Tibetans.

Chinese state media said earlier this month the government was studying four possible routes for the line, one of China's most ambitious efforts to open the resource-rich Himalayan region to economic development.

"The railway will enable the authorities to move army and security forces more easily for the purposes both of border defense and of internal control, and will be a further step towards the integration of Tibetan areas into the Chinese state as a means of achieving stability," the London-based Tibet Information Network said in a statement.

Tibet, an isolated plateau ringed by vast mountain ranges, is China's only province-level region without a railway network. Half a century after Chinese troops invaded, Beijing is trying to absorb the region into the mainstream Chinese economy.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has launched a campaign urging multinational corporations and international lending agencies to keep their distance.

The group said some Tibetans could benefit from the railway, which could make the export of meat and other products to other areas cheaper and more efficient.

But it added others would have greater benefits.

"Past experience suggests that incoming migrants attracted by these new commercial opportunities are likely to benefit to a greater extent than the resident Tibetan population," it said.

"In the case of mineral exploitation, the Chinese state and the mining companies will be the main benefactors of increased access to the mineral wealth of Tibet."

FOUR ROUTES CONSIDERED

Official media said China's parliament was expected to decide the railway's route at its annual session in March next year. The Ministry of Railways had completed feasibility studies on four possible lines.

The shortest would be from Golmud in the northwestern province of Qinghai to the Tibetan capital Lhasa that would cost up to 20 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) and take seven to eight years to build.

However, some researchers were arguing for a rail link from the southwestern province of Yunnan that would open up previously inaccessible areas of Tibet and Yunnan for agricultural and tourism development.

The two other proposed routes originate from Gansu and Sichuan provinces.

The Tibet Information Network said the high altitude and rugged terrain of Tibet would present difficulties for the construction of the line.


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