I am sure Lhasa looks nothing like this.
Edward Wong of The New York Times has a story out of Lhasa about how “Han Chinese workers, investors, merchants, teachers and soldiers are pouring into remote Tibet.”
Wong specifically mentions that he was on a five-day “carefully managed…official” tour of Tibet. In other words he was taken by the Chinese government to see what they wanted him to see. Junkets are a necessary evil in journalism which, when used intelligently, can produce results exactly opposite to what the establishment had in mind.
The story may not have achieved a result contrary to the extent that I am suggesting but it certainly confirms the frequently expressed fears within the exile Tibetan community about the forced demographic integration of Tibet into China.
“Chinese leaders see development, along with an enhanced security presence, as the key to pacifying the Buddhist region. The central government invested $3 billion in the Tibet Autonomous Region last year, a 31 percent increase over 2008. Tibet’s gross domestic product is growing at a 12 percent annual rate, faster than the robust Chinese national average,” Wong writes. I cannot and must not second-guess Wong’s personal feelings about the Tibet question but “pacifying the Buddhist region” may not necessarily be all that he means.
To Wong’s credit he has captured the resentment among the local Tibetans caused by the growing Han Chinese presence as well as he possibly could given the circumstances of his visit. There is a comment by Hao Peng, vice chairman and deputy party secretary of the region, acknowledging that the current system “may have caused an imbalanced distribution,” he said. “We are taking measures to solve this problem,” he said.
The sheer numbers are so ridiculously stacked up against the Tibetans in the China-Tibet dispute that there is no way the Tibetans can effectively counter the Han Chinese infusion. This is somewhat like what some hardliners have suggested for decades that India do in Kashmir—open the state up for unfettered economic integration of the valley by allowing anyone and everyone to settle down there. Of course, there is no parallel between Kashmir and Tibet.
I have been wanting to visit Tibet, even on a “carefully managed official” tour, for a long time. However, considering my circumstances, I barely manage to visit a Chinese diplomatic mission. I first tried in 1998 to obtain a Chinese visa in New Delhi. I was discouraged even from applying. Then in 2001, I tried in San Francisco but was told not to bother. Yet again in 2004, I gently broached the subject with a Chinese diplomat in New York only to cause him to laugh at the absurdity of my request.
During my current stay in India I am going to make one more attempt to visit both China and Tibet. If there is anyone monitoring this blog from the Chinese side, treat this as an official request to take me on a conducted tour.