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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 09:58, July 02, 2006
Commentary: People should have a more worldly eye on Tibet railway
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While the common Tibetans cherish the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as a "passage to heavenly bliss", a group of overseas people including some westerners have been caviling at the world's most elevated rail link since before it was on the sketch.

The rail link, which opened Saturday between Tibet's regional capital Lhasa and several other Chinese cities, they said, could lead to "cultural genocide" by an influx of the Han people, China's majority ethnic group.

Right as their claims to preserve the Tibetan culture may sound, the hidden intention behind their calls is for Tibet to maintain its status quo and remain a stereotyped cultural specimen for them to enjoy.

The Tibetans won't buy any of this. Why shouldn't Tibet progress like the rest of the world?

It is not geographical distance but rather stereotyped mentality or political bias that leads to such prejudice.

These people are set to be opposed to any development project the Chinese government maps in Tibet, and their pretexts are always high sounding: under the excuse of protecting the Tibetans' interest, their culture and environment.

Actually, modern civilization has never been rejected in Tibet. Even when Lhasa was a thing of two or three square kilometers' stretch of houses, modern Western utensils such as flush toilets had been installed in the Norbu Linkag, the Dalai Lama's summer palace.

Today, those people who wrathfully criticized the Qinghai-Tibet railway would like to chose to shuttle around the world by air in Gucci shoes and any other designer outfits, preaching the "art of happiness".

Their pretext to deny the Tibetans access to modern civilization apparently proves hypocritical.

Despite all their irresponsible words, the fact is as clear as the azure sky above the snow-covered plateau that the railroad will benefit the Tibetans, who make up 95 percent of the local population.

Tibet makes up one eighth of the Chinese territory, but without a railway, passengers and goods had to be shipped by buses, trucks and planes, which are either slow or expensive.

Little access to traffic and high transportation costs have long hindered the region's economic development, locked many Tibetans in the Himalayas and limited their access to health care, education or pilgrims.

In Tibet, a ton of coal or cement now sells for almost four times the national average price and transportation costs account for 75 percent of the price.

Now at last, here come the first trains to link the roof of the world with the rest of China, to steer Tibet toward modern civilization while presenting the essence of its own culture to the world.

Once the new rail link becomes fully operational, Tibet's total capacity to move products and resources in and out is expected to increase 45 times its current level.

Despite worries over the railway's environmental destruction, the import of coal alone is able to alleviate the ecological pressure caused by the region's logging for fuel.

To build an eco-friendly railway, the Chinese government spent 1.5 billion yuan (some 180 million US dollars) on environmental conservation along the route, about five percent of the project's total spending and the largest amount in any single railway project in China.

The railway has 33 special passageways for rare animals, including the critically-endangered Tibetan antelopes. It has also bypassed celestial burial ground and lamaseries to preserve Tibetan religious sites.

Development is a common choice of the human race, and no one should, or can, slam on a brake on a train to modern civilization. Now that Beijing is only 48 hours away, the roar of the locomotives is sure to mute all the irresponsible clamors.

Historian Basang Wangdu's words may serve as an indisputable reply to cultural and environmental worriers: "A Tibet without economic and social development never deserves the honor of Shangri-La."

Source: Xinhua

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