Chairman promises changes for Tibetans

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"To ease people's fears, we have to help some make the first step and help them enjoy success, then others will follow," Padma Choling told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

He said the autonomous region's government helped arrange work for more than 20 Tibetans in coastal Guangdong province last year under a pilot program.

"After seeing how much money those people made and how pleasant their experiences were, some villagers who used to be afraid of working elsewhere decided to give it a go," he said.

"Although Tibet has achieved fast development in the past five years, it is now transforming from fast development to comprehensive development."

Padma Choling said that, during the next five years, Tibet's priority will be to improve people's livelihoods and ensure everyone benefits from the development.

"More importantly, we have to make people happy," he said. "For Tibetans, happiness means living a safe and comfortable life."

The farmers and herders that make up 80 percent of the region's population earned around 3,990 yuan ($607) each last year, which was a lot less than the national average earned by farmers of 5,919 yuan for the year.

Padma Choling said raising people's standard of living will be an important priority. The first step in achieving that will be to settle people down so they can have a safe place to live and ensure they can receive free medical care and education, he explained.

Tibet is expecting to encourage farmers and herders to end their nomadic lifestyles within three years and then plans to ensure people's incomes increase by developing a more complex economy that extends beyond agriculture.

As a relatively undeveloped region, Tibet has received 7.57 billion yuan in aid from inland places as well as government organizations during the past five years. State-owned firms and other institutions have also been helping with the autonomous region's development.

A total of 2,661 officials and professionals from other parts of China have worked in Tibet for periods of one to three years to encourage more technological and management expertise.

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