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    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and The Second Invasion of Tibet

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway: What China Says
    What are the tangible benefits for locals?
    President Hu attends launching ceremony of Qinghai-Tibet railway
    Railway won't bring influx of settlers to Tibet: official
    Railway makes room for Tibetan culture: experts
    Tibetans hope to sew their own "hadas" after new rail link opens
    Qinghai-Tibet Railway expected to be extended from Lhasa to Xigaze
    Qinghai-Tibet railroad no harm to environment
    Booming tourism in Tibet not to affect environment much: official
    Endangered antelopes adapt to Qinghai-Tibet railway
    Mineral water in Tibet to be first resource tapped following new rail link
    Tibet railway opens the gates for mining
    The same railways, but different psychologies

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway:
    Exile Tibetans and the World Respond

    The Train Arrives Lhasa
    Political Repression Intensifies as Tibet Railway Opens
    Crossing the Line: China's Controversial Railway in Tibet
    Railroad to Perdition

    Dissent and Protest
    Tibetans in Tibet speak against Qinghai-Tibet Railway
    Tibetan exiles to protest China's new Lhasa rail link
    50 Tibetan protesters held for trying to scale embassy wall
    New railway line threatens Tibetan Plateau
    China's Tibet railway sinking and cracking

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and The Second Invasion of Tibet

    In reading through more than one hundred postings from Chinese media in the past two months concerning the recently inaugurated Qinghai-Tibet Railway, one would surmise that the railway is about to create, well, a Shangri-La of environmental stewardship, economic development, and social well-being.

    Indeed, in the first set of articles presented in this special issue of TRIN-GYI-PHO-NYA, Chinese state media state that the tourism industry is a “non-polluting industry” and that the millions of tourists expected annually won’t impact Tibet’s environment.[1] China has also declared that it has committed nearly 39 billion yuan (some US$5 billion) to “buildup of environmental protection capability, [to create] the state ecological safety barrier on Tibet Plateau, pollution preventing and controlling project… the project to boost farmland and pasture well-off [,] and environmental protection.”[2] In turn, China has determined that Tibetans will not only benefit economically, [3] but that they will not be impacted by increased migration of Han Chinese – because there will be none. [4] There is even a special garbage train that will run weekly to clean up any rubbish that visitors might discard. [5]

    In marked contrast are those articles that illustrate the competing claims of Tibetans in Tibet and in exile, along with those from Tibet-watchers from around the world. In these we find a decidedly darker vision of the consequences of the railway, typified by this recent web posting by the Free Tibet Campaign, a Tibet support group in the UK:

    …Tibet's environment. Included are the escalation of the ongoing mineral and resource exploitation, damage to wildlife, disruption of migration patterns, soil erosion and contamination of water bodies including the Drichu (Yangtse), Ngochu (Salween) and Zachu (Mekong) rivers. It is alarming that Tibetans are denied any decision-making role in a project that so profoundly effects their environment and livelihood.[6]

    Competing claims to be sure, but in this case, the truth does not lie somewhere in between. More than a half-century of history of Chinese dominion in Tibet validates the veracity of these latter claims, and so while the Tibet-Qinghai Railway does not change anything, it does intensify everything. In this light, the railway constitutes a second invasion of Tibet.

    And as with all invasions, we on the sidelines must prepare to do more than just monitor and count casualties.

    Ai Jiang Shan
    Guest Editor

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    What are the tangible benefits for locals?
    July 8, 2006

    At 8.55 pm on July 3rd, the T27, the first ever passenger train from Beijing, pulled into Lhasa Station. History shows the construction of a railway line often changes the economic and social life of a region. In what way will the full operation of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway alter and influence the daily life of local people?

    100 Yuan increase in annual income for farmers and herdsmen

    Farmers and herdsmen on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau often suffer badly from a low slaughter rate when livestock including yak die in great numbers from heavy snow and drought in winter and spring, as the region is mostly cut off from outside markets.

    The construction and operation of the railway will bring Qianghai and Tibet closer to other regions and help them merge into markets nationwide, said professor Zhu Guoren with the China National School of Administration. Better conditions in transport and information will help decrease the number of risks and disasters. Every 1 percent rise in the slaughter rate alone would increase the per capita annual income by more than 100 Yuan. The rail will also boost road transportation, benefiting farmers and herdsmen on this vast stretch of land.

    Tibet residents to have great purchasing power

    Commodity prices in Tibet have been much higher than in other provinces and autonomous regions because of the high costs of transportation. In Lhasa markets, for example, coal and cement are priced at 700 to 800 Yuan a ton, including a 600 Yuan transit cost. Nearly half of the annual national fund for local construction is spent on transportation. Their purchasing power is only half that of the eastern coastal areas.

    The railway is expected to carry 75 percent of the entire region's cargo. It boasts a single-way capacity 40 times that of auto transport and can reduce the cost by half. It would completely break the transportation bottleneck and ease the tension significantly. As more and more low-price and high-quality goods enter Tibet via the line, the purchasing power of local residents will be greatly enhanced, said officials with the Ministry of Commerce.

    Traveling to and from Tibet more affordable

    Restricted by transportation options, the huge tourism potential of Tibet is yet to be tapped. Traveling as part of an agency group, a Beijing-Lhasa return ticket would cost more than 4,000 Yuan after discount….

    Happily, the railway line has made it possible to travel 4,064 kilometers from Beijing to Lhasa in 47 hours. A hard seat ticket costs 389 Yuan (ed.: US$47), and a hard or soft sleeper is only around 1,000 Yuan….

    According to a study done by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute of Industrial Economies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the railway is likely to boost annual tourist arrivals by 30 percent. By 2010, the number may reach 5.28 million, leading to a direct tourism income of 5.8 billion Yuan.

    More Tibetan people to come to the outside world

    Tibet has had an enormous imbalance in personnel entry and exit. In 2005, 1.8 million tourist arrivals were registered, but the number of people going out was below 1/10 of that figure during the same period.

    Local residents will have more opportunities to leave home for study, business and work, therefore enjoying closer ties with other parts of the country, said Professor Zhou Tianyong with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

    More farmers and herdsmen to enjoy benefits of urbanization

    The urbanization level of Tibet is only 40 percent of the national average. Many farmers and herdsmen cannot enjoy the conveniences of urbanized life, production and education.

    The railway presents a golden opportunity for towns to be constructed along it, said experts from the Ministry of Construction. It would link up various towns of rich resources and unique features.

    It is predicted that passengers transferring in Xining will exceed 600,000 each year. Authorities of both Qinghai and Tibet have vowed to build more towns with a larger population and on a bigger economic scale.

    Keep the blue sky and white clouds forever.

    Currently, household fuel at the plateau comes chiefly from cow manure and a kind of short pine, the latter usually having a growth period of decades. Another threat to the vulnerable ecology is the tail gas discharged by the huge motorcade running on the Qinghai-Tibet road.

    The 1.54 billion Yuan of additional funds have made the line a huge green project. Now rich coal and oil resources in northwestern areas will be transferred into Tibet economically and conveniently to meet the local demand for energy. This will help preserve ecology by reducing damage to forest and grassland.

    The railway will serve as the major means of transportation for passengers and cargo which will reduce the amount of road traffic and therefore improve air quality. As China's first eco-friendly plateau railway, officials with the State Environmental Protection Administration said it serves as an example for environment efforts in the construction of future infrastructure.

    By People's Daily Online

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    President Hu attends launching ceremony of Qinghai-Tibet railway
    July 1, 2006

    GOLMUD, Qinghai, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday attended a launching ceremony of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the first ever rail link to the "roof of the world", Saturday….

    Hu, who also General Secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered a keynote speech at the gala held at the Golmud Railway Station, which was decorated with blossoming flowers and fluttering colorful flags.

    Hu said that the opening to traffic of the Qinghai-Tibet railway is another magnificent accomplishment we have achieved in our socialist modernization drive. Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad is a long-cherished dream of generations of the Chinese people….

    "The project is not only a magnificent feat in China's history of railway construction, but also a great miracle of the world's railroad history," according to the president.

    Abridged from a fuller report. Photos and video at the URL noted above.

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    Railway won't bring influx of settlers to Tibet: official
    July 7, 2006

    LHASA, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The newly opened railway that has linked Tibet with the rest of China for the first time will not bring an influx of permanent settlers to the plateau, the region's vice-chairman has said in response to an Austrian reporter's question.

    "Tibet's unique natural conditions make it impossible for the Han people and other ethnic groups to settle down here," said Wu Yingjie, also a top publicity official of the regional government.

    Wu made the remark in response to a question over whether immigrants will flood in and destroy the plateau ecology after the railway opens, raised by Burkhard Bischof, a reporter with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse….

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest that opened on July 1, has promised easier traffic, enhanced communication and economic progress to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Yet some people overseas have voiced concern over a "cultural genocide" by an influx of the Han people, China's largest ethnic group.

    "The Tibetans and the other 55 Chinese ethnic groups are members of one big family," said Wu. "It's natural for them to conduct exchanges freely."

    He said there are some Han people and other nationals working in Tibet. "They're helping with Tibet's construction. Their efforts in medical, public health, education and other sectors are aimed at bringing the Tibetans closer to modern civilization and improving the quality of local people's life."

    Fifty years back, Wu said Tibet was an isolated land with 960,000 people and almost negative population growth. "Today, its population has expanded to 2.7 million, with Tibetans accounting for 95 percent."

    Tibet is a vast land of 1.2 million square kilometers, so tourists won't overburden the local ecology in the short run, he said. "But the regional government is aware of the environment issue and has started to take measures to minimize the impact of tourism."

    Yan Zhonghua, Editor

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Railway makes room for Tibetan culture: experts
    July 2, 2006

    When China opened the first railway linking Tibet with the rest of the country on Saturday, a group of Tibetologists cheered for an extended "living space" the " engineering marvel" will bring to the splendid, unique Tibetan culture.

    "The influx of tourists will not only bring revenue into the region but will also lead to more cultural exchanges between Tibet and other parts of China," said research fellow An Caidan with China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), the country's largest academic institution for Tibetan studies.

    The development of the traffic network in Tibet means more opportunities for cultural exchanges between different ethnic groups in China, making it possible for Tibetan culture to be better inherited and enriched, said Dazhag, curator of the Museum of Tibet Autonomous Region.

    Tibetan culture's full bloom between the seventh and ninth centuries was partly a result of extensive cultural exchanges between the ethnic group and others, An said.

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Tibetans hope to sew their own "hadas" after new rail link opens June 27, 2006

    With a new railway in sight, shrewd businessmen are hoping to localize the production of "hadas", a token of Tibetan culture, which for centuries have been manufactured elsewhere and transported to Tibet on horsebacks and trucks.

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway that is set to operate on Saturday will bring in quality silk from eastern China provinces, out of which Tibetan workers will make their own hadas, said Bianba Ciren, a 31-year-old businessman in Xigaze, southern Tibet.

    When Bianba Ciren set up his private company last year to produce Tibetan specific commodities, he was keeping his fingers crossed that the new rail link, whose track laying was completed last October, will enable him to set up the first ever local hada brand.

    His company, a joint venture with a hada workshop based in Qionglai city, southwest China's Sichuan Province, involves an initial investment of 1.8 million yuan (225,000 U.S. dollars) and has 30 modern weaving machines.

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Qinghai-Tibet Railway expected to be extended from Lhasa to Xigaze March 13, 2006

    The eye-catching Qinghai-Tibet railway, which will begin its trial runs this July, is expected to be further extended from Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, to Xigaze City in the southwestern part of the region, according to Tibetan chairman Qingba Puncog.

    The projected section between Lhasa and Xigaze is expected to be completed in the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2006-2010), Puncog said Saturday in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body.

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Qinghai-Tibet railroad no harm to environment
    July 6, 2006

    The newly launched Qinghai-Tibet Railway will certainly bring a lot of travelers to Tibet, but it won't have a great impact on the local environment, Qiangba Punco, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said at a press conference in Lhasa on July 4.

    The tourism industry will become Tibet's pillar industry because of the new railroad, the Chairman said. As a smokeless industry, tourism could greatly stimulate the development of correlative industries, but will have little impact on the region's ecosystem and environment….

    The Travel Bureau of the Autonomous Region predicted that there would be about 5,000 people arriving in Tibet every day after the railroad was completed, three or four thousand of whom would be arriving by train.

    A study predicts that the annual number of travelers to Tibet will grow to 5.28 million in 2010, generating revenue of 5.8 billion yuan for the region.

    Qiangba Punco pointed out that Tibet's ecosystem was drawing the attention of the whole country, with many citizens expressing concerns about its preservation now that the new railway has been launched.

    The central government has taken a series of measures to protect Tibet's frail environment, including the construction of the National Environmental Safety Defense for the Tibet Altiplano,which will cost 38.7 billion yuan.

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Booming tourism in Tibet not to affect environment much: official

    LHASA, July 4 (Xinhua) -- While the number of tourists flocking to Tibet are expected to increase significantly, their presence will not have a big unfavorable impact on the local environment, a senior official of the Tibet Autonomous Region said Tuesday.

    Qiangba Punco, chairman of the regional government, said at a news conference that the operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway will make tourism a pillar industry for Tibet….

    "Tourism is itself a non-polluting industry," said Qiangba Punco. "It helps drive other industries and has little impact on the ecology."

    People who come to Tibet by train are mostly tourists or businessmen, and few of them will reside here, so they will not change the permanent population of Tibet or put much pressure on the environment, he said.

    The central government will invest 38.7 billion yuan (about 4.8 billion U.S. dollars) to build nature reserves, protect forests and prevent soil erosion, said Qiangba Punco.

    "The Tibetan people have been living here for generations, and we will protect this land just as we take care of our eyes," said Qiangba Punco.

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    Endangered antelopes adapt to Qinghai-Tibet railway
    June 17, 2006

    Endangered Tibetan antelopes are getting used to the Qinghai-Tibet railway scheduled to open to tourists on July 1, said officials with the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve Administration.

    A first batch of 67 pregnant antelopes from the eastern part of the reserve crossed Wubei bridge of the Qinghai-Tibet railway on May 16 to give birth in the hinterland, according to Gelai, head of Wudaoliang station in the Hoh Xil reserve.

    About 1,000 antelopes have crossed the railway via special passages so far, Gelai said.

    "Tibetan antelopes started migrating earlier this year than the past few years. They no longer hesitate and cross the railway with ease," said Cega, director of the reserve administration in Qinghai Province.

    China has put environmental protection on the top of its agenda in the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, Cega said.

    Workers built 33 passages for animals along the railway, the first time in China's history of railway construction.

    Rangers and volunteers in the Hoh Xil reserve also stopped vehicles on highways when they found antelopes were crossing….

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    Mineral water in Tibet to be first resource tapped following new rail link
    July 24, 2006

    Mineral water from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is likely to become the first resource commercially tapped following the recent opening of the altiplano railway.

    A group of scientists and experts made the conclusion after researching the region's development prospects, which have been significantly increased by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

    "Development of Tibet's mineral water resources will not only contribute to cargo transportation on the railway, it will also increase the value of local mineral water resources," said Dorji, a Tibetan academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who made the suggestion to the geological and mineral exploitation bureau of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

    The bureau has located over 100 drinking water springs with the largest source found in Damxung County, which can produce 3,000 tons of drinking water a day.

    The daily output of the lake in Damxung could fill 50 train cars or two trains, said Lu Yan, a senior engineer with the bureau.

    "Bottling the Damxung mineral water could generate an annual output value of one billion yuan (125 million U.S. dollars)," said Lu.

    Dubbed Asia's Water Tower, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the source region for the major rivers in China and is home to the largest lake resources in China.

    The 1,956-kilometer-long Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the first railway connecting the Tibet Autonomous Region with other parts of China, reduces the transport costs of exploring resources in the virgin land.

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    Tibet railway opens the gates for mining
    July 28, 2006

    With the opening of the new Qinghai-Tibet railway earlier this summer, an unhindered path has been carved to the lofty region that has long been wrapped in romantic ideas of isolation. And with the new access could come a rampage of exploitation by many Chinese companies chasing the expansive mineral resources hidden in the mountain province.

    China's Tibetan Autonomous Region could be the largest mineral resource in the country, with a potential value of more than RMB 1 trillion (USD 125 bln).

    Tibet has the largest chromium and copper deposits in the country, and prospecting has already discovered deposits of 101 other minerals and more than 2,000 more potential mining sites.

    The potential of severe environmental impacts on the largely untouched region has even gotten the Dali Lama warning Western mining companies to stay out of the region.

    Because of a lack of funds and transportation, few of Tibet's mineral deposits have so far been explored. In Tibet, less than 1% of discovered mines have been prospected, only 15% of mines under commercial operation have completed reconnoiter works, and only 10% of mining companies have passed resources assessment by local authority.

    But this was all before the railroad came to town…. ….Western companies have also begun exploration work and have acquired rights to mineral sites throughout Tibet, sparking protests from western activists.

    The annual general meeting of Continental Minerals Corporation, a Canadian firm developing a copper-gold property southwest of Lhasa, was met with protests from 'Free Tibet' activists in June of this year.

    And the Dali Lama has also gotten involved.

    The Dali Lama urged western mining companies to reconsider their activities in Tibet in a 2003 letter.

    "I appeal to all foreign mining companies, and their shareholders, who are thinking about working in Tibet to consider carefully about the ethical values when embarking on such a venture," said the Dali Lama.

    Activists have reason to be concerned. In 1996, the head of a monastery was sentenced to six years in prison for protesting increased mining activity near the monastery.

    Source: INTERFAX China

    Abridged from a fuller news report.

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    The same railways, but different psychologies
    July 14, 2006

    The Qinghai-Tibet Railway becomes a major event of world focus, and some Western media have sent reporters to take trains along the new rail route for field coverage.

    However, we feel quite soured and saddened after reading some of these reports and commentaries from the Western media colleagues. The wheel of history has run into the 21st century, but the mentality of these people remained in those days over a century ago, still with doubts and some hostilities against China.

    Why the railways, which had "worked wonders for industrialization in United States and brought "benefits for the people in India", would sabotage the "ethnical culture of Tibet."

    More than a century ago, American President Abraham Lincoln signed the "Pacific Railroad Act", so that a railway linking coasts of the Pacific and the Atlantic became a reality. Even today, we can still read such high evaluations from textbooks and history books as the one that "railway has written down a new chapter in American history."

    Last year, the "Guardian" newspaper from Britain spoke highly of Indian railways, noting that "in India, nothing can link up the whole country but rail route¡­ From a broader sense, railways gives India a sense of unity." But in their eyes, nothing seems worthwhile for a new railway is built in China. A recent article in the New York Times is entitled "Last Stop Lhasa: Rail Links Ties Remote Tibet to China". But Tibetan and foreign critics say that "the railway benefits Han Chinese, China's dominant ethnic group, at the expense of Tibetan natives."

    Likewise, the British Broadcast Company on its website said in the words of critics that the Qinghai-Tibet Railway built at a cost of 4.2 billion US dollars constituted part of Beijing's destruction of Tibetan culture. As a mater of fact, railroads all over the globe are more or less the same, and they are featured by a line with two tracks. But the psychologies and eyesight of the people who look at these railways are different.

    Some personages from the West have passed themselves off as those who are very much concerned with the development of Tibet for a long period of time. But, in fact, they only care for their own ideas politically and how to use the political ideology to appraise China's development, whereas the interest of the Tibetan people is merely the tool they use to realize the political aim.

    In so doing, they have enabled us to see what is on their mind as well as the "objectivity" and "fairness" preached by the Western media.

    By People's Daily Online

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    The Train Arrives Lhasa
    Tibetan Bulletin Online
    May - June 2006
    Volume 10, Issue 3

    What is viewed as the longest high- altitude railway, the Golmud-Lhasa [Ch: Qinghai-Tibet] railway completed its maiden voyage in about 47 1/2 hours.

    On the margins of a booming economy in China, the recent decades in Tibet has seen development in infrastructure. “Some of which, we have always considered as positive,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said earlier this year in his 10 March statement. Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche has also said that this rail line will present greater prospects for trade in Tibet.

    The position of exile administration vis-a-vis China’s “development” in Tibet has always been that “Development in Tibet is welcome and much-needed; and Tibet should not be off-limits or beyond the reach of the global community of development and environment organisations. However, development is only welcome if it benefits Tibetans themselves. Projects will be opposed by Tibetans if, in their opinion, such undertakings would harm Tibetans, their land or their best interests.”

    “We firmly oppose any development projects or activities that promote or result in: violence, environmental destruction, social exclusion and economic marginalisation of Tibetans, direct or indirect population transfer of non-Tibetans to Tibet, violations of basic human rights, including involuntary displacement, confinement and eviction.” [Editor’s Note: Please visit www.tibet.net/en/diir/enviro/guide/data /file1.html to access The Guidelines for Development in Tibet.]

    History validates the efficacy of railways, when employed as tools of empire to sustain control and accelerate resource exploitation. As railways are essentially neutral technology, and in themselves, do not necessarily cause negative impacts, it is thus the political and economic forces that determine the impacts of railways.

    “Our main concern is, this railway will swamp Tibet with Chinese migrants. Its impacts on the Tibetan culture and the fragile environment of Tibet would be catastrophic,” Kalon Tripa has often said. The Tibetans and their supporters across the world will therefore continue to wait and watch closely how the Golmud-Lhasa rail line impacts the physical and cultural landscape of Tibet. For, when “development” goes wrong, more often than not, it goes seriously wrong.

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    Political Repression Intensifies as Tibet Railway Opens
    International Campaign for Tibet
    July, 2006

    The world’s highest railway across the Tibetan plateau opened on July 1, 2006 in Lhasa in an increasingly repressive political climate. Security was tight in Lhasa as the government stepped up its patriotic education and “strike hard” campaigns, and Tibet’s Party chief emphasized a “fight to the death struggle” against the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

    Described by the official press as the “center-piece” of China’s high-profile campaign to develop the Western regions, the $4.1 billion rail link connects Lhasa with Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou via Xining, bringing Beijing much closer to achieving the goal set by Mao Zedong over 40 years ago to integrate Tibet with China.

    Chinese President Hu Jintao, a former Party chief of Tibet, was in Golmud for the opening as Beijing drew attention to its technological and engineering achievements in constructing the railroad, approximately half of which is built on permafrost, or frozen earth. New methods have been pioneered in order to build a fixed track on the unstable, moving ground of the high plateau.

    In the buildup to the railroad opening, senior Party leaders intensified their focus on the “anti-separatist struggle” in Tibet, indicating their determination to crack down on any dissenting views and actions. At a meeting in Lhasa, the new TAR Party Secretary Zhang Qingli called for the intensification of the political “patriotic education” campaign, as he said the Party is engaged in a “fight to the death struggle” against the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

    TAR Party leaders also focused on the need to “strike hard” against any possible “illegal activities along the railroad” and to “assure the harmony and stability of the Qinghai-Tibet area, particularly the safe operation of the railroad” through legal mechanisms, at a conference in Lhasa on June 15. Over the past ten years in Tibet, administrative and legal mechanisms have been developed by the Chinese government that enable them to clamp down on any activities such as religious practice or peaceful protest that could be described as a threat to social stability and national unity, while claiming that they are operating according to a “rule of law”.

    The Qinghai-Tibet railway is the most visible and costly element of China’s “Great Leap West” (Chinese: xibu da kaifa), a high-profile political campaign, initiated by the then Party Secretary and President Jiang Zemin in 1999-2000…. [affecting] 56% of China’s land area and almost a quarter of China’s population, including Tibetans, Uighur Muslims and other “national minorities”. Chinese workers came from all over China to work at the site of the railway station in Lhasa

    Abridged from a 14-page report, with photos, released in July 2006.

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    Crossing the Line: China's Controversial Railway in Tibet International Campaign for Tibet
    July 10, 2006

    In 2006, China completed construction of a major railway link between China and Tibet, a politically motivated project that will bring with it the prospect of vast economic exploitation, environmental damage, and demographic upheaval. The railway will increase China's ability to project military power over the Himalayas, and promotes a key political aim of assimilating Tibet into the Chinese state….

    Consolidating China's Control over Tibet

    As with previous railways built in Mongolia and East Turkestan and like much of China's development strategy in Tibet, the railway risks accelerating the resettlement of non-Tibetans in Tibet while exploiting Tibet's natural resources for consumption in China. Deposits of oil and natural gas, and chromite, gold and zinc will be shipped east to China, with most economic benefits bypassing the many Tibetans who live on the outskirts of Tibet's centrally controlled economy, beyond the reach of the railway.

    Since 1992 when Deng Xiaoping initiated economic reforms to liberalize the Chinese economy, the migrant population in the TAR, and Lhasa in particular, increased markedly. The influx of Chinese settlers contradicts policy established in the 1980s under former Party Secretary Hu Yaobang aimed at "restricting the growth of the Han population" in Tibet. By many accounts, Lhasa, designated a special economic zone, now hosts a Chinese population larger than its Tibetan one, fueled by subsidized wages and other government incentives.

    China has made no secret of its military interest in the railway either. A corridor into the heartland of Tibet would facilitate the movement of troops, supplies and heavy armaments, including missiles, across the Plateau. Over time, it would also enhance the mobility of China's Rapid Reaction forces, and enable the expansion of airfields and other military installations. These last elements would allow China's military to project force into India and other neighboring countries, adding a destabilizing element to the region….

    Western Corporate Involvement

    One of the most threatening projects undertaken by the Chinese government in Tibet is the construction of a railway from Gormo to Lhasa, Tibet's capital, that will connect Tibet for the first time with China's nationwide railway grid. The project is described as the 'centerpiece' of China's Western Development Campaign, which aims to consolidate China's political and military power over Tibet. To build it, China reached out to at least four western companies: Canada's Bombardier, Power Corporation, and Nortel, and U.S. corporate giant GE. By partnering the Chinese government on the construction of the railway, these businesses have made themselves partners in China's occupation of Tibet.

    Bombardier, a manufacturer of airplanes, recreational vehicles and rail transportation equipment, has lead a consortium that includes Power Corporation of Canada, a financial holding company, and state-owned China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry (Group) Corporation, to supply the Chinese Ministry of Railways with 361 specially designed rail cars for the Tibet line. Nortel Networks, global telecommunications provider, has supplied a digital wireless communications network (GSM-R), while GE has built the locomotives for the train.

    Editor’s Note: In 2003 The International Campaign for Tibet published a 70-page report that “analyzes the economics of transportation, interviews with transportation experts and satellite imagery to demonstrate that the primary purpose of the railway China is constructing across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa is to serve the Chinese government's stated goal of increasing political control over Tibet.”

    To access the report, please go to

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    Railroad to Perdition
    July 15, 2006

    Editor’s Note: This op-ed essay originally appeared in the New York Times 15 July 2006.

    The opening this month of the final segment of world’s highest railway, from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet, is a staggering engineering achievement and a testimony to the developing greatness of China. But it is also the most serious threat by the Chinese yet to the survival of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity. In the words of a well-known Tibetan religious teacher who died after many years in a Chinese prison, the railway heralds “a time of emergency and darkness” for Tibet.

    This railway across the roof of the world will result in an expanded Chinese military presence in Tibet, accelerate the already devastating exploitation of its natural resources and increase the number of Chinese migrants, marginalizing the Tibetan people still further. In the capital, Lhasa, Tibetans are already a minority….

    Many Tibetans lost their land to make way for the railway, and Tibetan nomads are being forced to settle in cities. Without land and religion, cultures disappear. This is particularly true in Tibet, where the land itself is regarded as sacred.

    And even as their culture is undermined by the railway, most Tibetans are unlikely to enjoy any economic benefits from it. With a price tag of more than $4 billion, the Tibet railway is the most ambitious and costly element of China’s current drive to develop its western regions, known as the Great Leap West. But its construction was based upon the Communist Party’s old strategic and political objectives, and its main beneficiaries will be the Chinese military units stationed there, Chinese companies and Chinese settlers. Most Tibetans don’t have access to education that would allow them to compete in the economic environment created by China’s policies, nor are they welcome to share the fruits of its success….

    A true “great leap” would make room for a Tibetan role in economic development, protect Tibetan religious culture and identity, and welcome the involvement of the Dalai Lama in decision-making on Tibet’s future. Since 2002, there have been several rounds of dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s representatives, following a decade-long diplomatic stalemate, but at present China’s commitment to the process is uncertain.

    Tibet’s precious culture and religion, with its principles of wisdom and compassion and its message of interdependence and nonviolence, are rooted in the Tibetan landscape and Tibetan hearts. The survival of Tibetan Buddhist knowledge in its own land is vital for the world, as well as the Tibetan people. China’s journey toward greatness must not include the further destruction of this heritage.

    Richard Gere, an actor, is the chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.

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    Tibetans in Tibet speak against Qinghai-Tibet Railway


    By Tenzin Choephel
    June 29, 2006

    The past few days saw a string of protests by the Tibetan exiles against the railroad built by the People's Republic of China to connect Lhasa, capital of occupied Tibet to the Chinese capital Beijing . More protests and demonstration are being scheduled by various Tibetan NGOs and Tibet support groups all over the world. Tibetan activists outside Tibet have said that the demonstration must be carried out by the Tibetans in free countries where freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right since for Tibetans in Tibet, this right do not exist.

    Phayul met a group of recently-arrived Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu and interviewed them about the way the railway was being viewed by the Tibetans in Tibet. Following are the selected quotes from the interview:

    "No Tibetans like Railway coming to Tibet because many Chinese from Mainland China would come to Tibet and Tibet would be full of Chinese, people in our Township were ordered to build new houses on their farmland according to number of household members, we don't have enough space to keep our livestock, all these campaigns are to make room for Chinese settlers when they arrive in Tibet" says Tsering from Chushur County.

    Yamphel from Rebkong County says, " The Railway has become a matter of concern for all Tibetans, when older generation passes away, younger generations would be converted into Chinese".

    Yeshi Damdul from Tölung Dechen County says, "Large numbers of poor Chinese would come to Tibet and the Railway would transport mineral ores from different parts of Tibet even thouh the government says it is for carrying passengers".

    Sangye Dhondup from Meldro Gungkar County says, "When Railway comes, mineral ores of Tibet would be transported to Mainland China beyond limit, elders say we don't have any fortune, we would definitely face big problem in the future, Chinese would make life hard for us".

    Tenzin Dhargey from Damshung County says, "Nowadays Railway is harming livestock and nomads are very worried. Many livestock fell to death in pits dug up for Railway construction and some died consuming poison sprayed along Railway track to kill rabbits and picas but Chinese claim the death were caused by a pig disease to cover up the matter and no compensation were given; several nomad households of Choten Village were moved to give way for Railway track and several more households were ordered to move but they have to build their own house with small government compensation but no compensation was given for nomadic grassland".

    Tsering Dhondhup from Damshung County says…."Last year there was gold and lead mining from a holy lake called Sertso lake near the stone mining site and locals are very worried. Tibetans are not allowed to work there. Mining is done beyond limit and it would continue in the future also because the Railway track is also purposely made near mining areas, more mining tests are done in Nalung Township. The places that used to grow grass no longer grow grass. The fertility of the soil is deteriorating, when the Railway comes, many Chinese would come and we would lose all our land".

    Tashi Dolma of Tölung Dechen County says, "Many good farmlands of Tölung Dechen were destroyed for Railway track construction; the track was constructed in the middle of farmland. First a hump is made, then fertile soil of farmland were used to level it; then they brought soil from the hills also and livestock grazing areas were also damaged. Farmers are facing problems because both their farmland and livestock grazing land are either destroyed or damaged. Over 55 households of our village lost big parts of their farmland for Railway track. The government gave compensation but households received only a small amount and suffered big losses due to embezzlement of funds in between. One household did not receive any compensation at all. Our household also did not receive compensation for a part of our farmland but we could not complain and no one dares because government claims that the land belongs to the nation and whenever government needs land, people should be ready to give up their land. Some people became ill by worrying, all the people are living with worries and anxiety nowadays because their income have decreased. The compensation money was spent quickly, now they have to find alternatives".

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    Tibetan exiles to protest China's new Lhasa rail link

    By Tashi Dhondup
    The China Post, Taiwan (also appeared in The Daily Times, Pakistan June 23, 2006)

    Tibetan exiles said Thursday they will protest next month's opening of the world's highest railway, which links the Himalayan plateau with the rest of China.

    Exiles said they would hold rallies outside Chinese consulates worldwide against the July 1 opening of the railway which they fear will lead to a flood of Chinese settlers into remote Tibet.

    "This railway will have devastating consequences for our people as Beijing tries to overwhelm our population, dilute our culture and exploit our land," said Ngawang Woeber, head of a group of former Tibetan political prisoners helping organize the protests.

    "If the negative consequences (of the railroad) happen to be hampering the environment of Tibet, if the negative consequences happen to be bringing in more Chinese settlers, this is something which will have a very damaging effect on the lives of ordinary Tibetans in Tibet," a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala said.

    Tibetan exiles, including about 140,000 living on the Indian subcontinent, will hold protest rallies on July 1 to drew attention to the railway.

    They will wear black arm bands as part of a "Reject the Railway" campaign, according to a joint press release from Tibetan non-governmental organizations based in Dharamsala.

    "We are wearing these black arm bands to show solidarity with our Tibetan brothers and sisters inside Tibet who have suffered for so long under Chinese occupation," said Ngawang Woeber from the prisoner group called Gu Chu Sum.

    Tibetan shopkeepers and restaurants in Dharamsala will also close on that day in protest.

    "Through the campaign that we are doing, we want to create awareness among the international community to keep a close watch on how China is going to make use of this railway line," Bumo Tsering, president of the Tibetan Women's Association, told AFP.

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    50 Tibetan protesters held for trying to scale embassy wall

    June 26, 2006

    Express News Service

    As many as 50 Tibetan protesters, including nine women, were arrested for trying to scale the walls of the Chinese embassy in Chanakyapuri, claiming they wanted to hand over a ‘‘memorandum against the construction of a railway line through Tibet’’. However, six of them managed to get into the Embassy where they claim they burnt the Chinese flag.

    Members of the Central Tibetan Youth Congress in Delhi, the protesters were held by the New Delhi District Police for breaching peace and unlawful gathering. They have been produced before a magistrate, who remanded them in custody in Tihar Jail.

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    New railway line threatens Tibetan Plateau

    June 30, 2006

    With the opening of a new railway line through the Tibetan Plateau, and the increased number of travellers who will visit the area as a result of it, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and TRAFFIC are calling for conservation measures to protect the world's largest and highest plateau.

    With an average elevation of 4,000m and covering an area of 2.5 million km2, the Tibetan Plateau shelters a wide array of unique species, including the Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, wild yak, blue sheep, snow leopard, brown bear, Bengal tiger and black-necked crane. The plateau is also the source of almost all of Asia's major rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus.

    “Because of its high elevation, the ecosystem here is extremely fragile,” said Dawa Tsering, Head of WWF China’s Program Office in Lhasa.

    “Once damaged, it is extremely difficult to reverse. Integrating the needs of local development with conserving Tibet’s biodiversity is in need of urgent attention.”

    With the completion of the new line scheduled for 1 July, WWF and TRAFFIC plan on distributing brochures to train passengers and visitors to the region (in English and Chinese), asking them to refrain from buying products made from such endangered species as tigers and Tibetan antelopes.

    “The sale of souvenirs and other products made from endangered species is growing due to tourist consumption, and is increasing pressure on local biodiversity,” Tsering added.

    “Tourists can make a difference simply by not purchasing these products.”

    The Tibetan Plateau remained fairly “untouched” by travellers from outside the region before the 1980s, when tourism first began. In 1980, visitors numbered 1,059, of which 95 per cent came from abroad. However, the past few years have seen a surging increase of tourists, numbering 140,000 in 2002 and 1.22 million in 2004. This represents an increase of over 1,000 times the 1980 level. At present, 92 per cent are domestic tourists.

    “International and local laws have guaranteed that killing wild tigers and other protected species for their parts isn’t legal anywhere in the world,” added Dr Xu Hongfa from TRAFFIC’s China Programme.

    ”But the killing of these animals will continue until the demand for buying them stops.”

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    China's Tibet railway sinking and cracking

    July 29, 2006

    China's railway to Tibet, opened this month to great fanfare, is developing cracks in its concrete structures while its permafrost foundation is sinking and cracking.

    "The frozen ground that forms the foundation of the railway is sinking and cracking in some sections, making the railway unstable in some places," the Beijing News quoted railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping as saying.

    "The concrete is cracking on some of the railway structures and bridges, forming a hidden danger to the railway line quality”….

    Wang added that shifting sands in the region were also causing greater harm to the railway than expected, while engineers had still not figured out how to keep herds of yaks off the tracks, the report said.

    "These form dangers to passengers on the train," he said.

    Climatologists monitoring global warming last year said that rising temperatures could lead to the melting of the permafrost foundation of the railway, but said nothing about the frozen ground sinking or cracking.

    "By 2050, safe operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway will be affected if temperatures keep rising steadily as observed over the past decades," the China Daily quoted a climatologist as saying at a Beijing symposium last year.

    Railway spokesman Wang did not say how engineers would address the problems.

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