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Development

China Should Give Tibetans More Say in Development, Culture: UN

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/06/26; June 26, 2002.]

BEIJING, June 25 (AFP) - Tibetans should be allowed more say in the development of their homeland and the protection of their cultural heritage if Beijing wants increased foreign aid to the region, United Nations officials warned Tuesday.

"A major guarantee for the success of any development process is the active participation and capacity building of the local population," said Kerstin Leitner, resident representative of the UN Development Program in China.

"Without their active engagement and cooperation, any development program will not take root in the Tibetan community and thus will only have a very limited impact," she said.

Leitner was speaking at the first-ever forum on international aid for Tibet jointly organized by China's central government and the Tibet Autonomous Region government.

The symposium was aimed at raising international aid for the Himalayan region as part of Beijing's drive to develop the country's impoverished western regions.

Tibet's unique location and history, its language, religious practices, arts, architecture and customs were deeply rooted and not easily replaced or modernized, Leitner said.

"Hence the active participation in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development programs is indispensable to obtain the necessary balance for sustainable and culturally viable development."

However Leitner refrained from directly blaming the Chinese government for destroying Tibetan culture and religion, accusations regularly levelled at Beijing by the Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government as well as Western human rights group.

China views the Dalai Lama, Tibet's primary spiritual leader, as a separatist and has refused to hold talks with him on his hoped-for return to his homeland.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after an aborted uprising in 1959 and has established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

China has ruled Tibet in an often brutal fashion since it occupied the Himalayan area in 1951, and has been accused of trying to wipe out Tibet's culture through a flood of ethnic Chinese immigration as well as repression.

Preserving Tibetan's culture and its spiritual and religious heritage were central to how the West viewed the region and would affect international funding aid, Ngouemo Moukala of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said.

"The international community is very interested in protecting Tibet's cultural heritage, but unfortunately the Chinese government has put up a lot of obstacles blocking us from working in this area," Moukala told AFP.

An official at the Tibet Autonomous Region's trade department said that the UN, Western governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) had already pumped around 90 million dollars in aid into Tibet over the last 20 years.

Regulations governing overseas NGOs in the region had recently been changed, said Wang Shouwen, urging more such groups to set up projects.

However he stressed that these should come with no political strings attached.

"We welcome aid from outside China, but the aid should be provided without any political conditions ... If the projects are aimed at splitting China then the aid will be unwelcome," Wang said.


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