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Central Gov't Increases Investment in Tibet
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The central government of China has increased its investment in the Tibet Autonomous Region along with implementation of a range of preferential policies in recent years, a top local government official said on Wednesday.

Nine out of ten yuan spent by local finance boards of Tibet has come from the central revenue, said Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government, at a news briefing on Tibet's social and economic development.

The funds used in Tibet's infrastructure construction and for its fiscal expenditure over the last 50 years have been mainly allocated by the central government, said the chairman.

The central government will invest 77.8 billion yuan (US$23 billion) in 180 projects in Tibet between 2006 and 2010.

"These projects will improve local infrastructure and the living and production conditions for local farmers and herdsmen, which will in turn lay a solid foundation for a faster development in Tibet," said the official.

"At the moment, we are committing ourselves to fast economic development while persisting in the concept of 'people first' and the scientific concept of development," Qiangba Puncog added.

Tibet Has No Plans for Building Expressways

The chairman also said sparsely populated Tibet has no plans for building expressways, which are both unnecessary and difficult at the moment.

Yet with the strong support and financial aid from the central government, the regional government is determined to step up with construction of "high-class highways" and will turn 80 percent of all the roads into blacktops by 2010, he said.

By then, highways will be extended into 100 percent of Tibet's townships and counties and 80 percent of all its administrative villages, he said.

The central government has earmarked more than 30 billion yuan on Tibet's road construction for the 2006-2010 period, he said.

Highway on World's Tallest Mountain to Be Completed Before Beijing Games

Construction of a highway on Mount Qomolangma, more commonly known as Everest, the world's tallest peak, will be completed before August 2008, said Qiangba Puncog.

The project aims to turn a 110-km rough road linking Tingri County of Xigaze Prefecture at the foot of the mountain to the Base Camp into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails.

"More tourists have flocked to the Base Camp in the pastt two years," said Puncog. "Tourists from Europe and America in particular like to have a glimpse of Mount Everest."

Some of the tourists, he said, had complained the road there was in poor condition and unsafe.

Organizers of the Beijing Olympic Games have revealed ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history -- a 137,000-km, 130-day route that would cross five continents and scale the world's summit, which straddles the border between China and Nepal.

Yet Puncog said there was no immediate plan to build hotels on Mount Everest because few visitors were likely to stay there and it is difficult for them to spend nights at more than 5,000 meters above sea level.

Displacement of Herdsmen Covers Small Population

Tibet has made it a priority to improve the living conditions of farmers and herdsmen by building new houses for the majority of them and displacing a small number from areas with difficult natural conditions, said Puncog.

The region has displaced some 7,000 people who lived at the source of the Yangtze River and is preparing to relocate dozens of households from the core area of the Hol Xil Natural Reserve in the border areas between Tibet and Qinghai Province. The relocation is in line with the will of the herdsmen, not a forced one, he emphasized.

As a key part of the housing project, around 290,000 farmers and herdsmen moved to new houses in the region last year, he said.

Most of the new houses in the pasturelands were built where the farmers and herdsmen have been living, he said. Herdsmen in the region used to live with livestock in poorly built old houses.

"The central government has not asked Tibet to pursue a fast economic growth. The success of the region's economic and social development should be judged by the improvement of the people's living and production conditions," the chairman said.

Australian Political Leader's Meeting with Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is not a simple religious figure and he is in reality a politician, said Puncog, adding that people in Tibet are all aware what kind of a person the Dalai Lama is.

"Dalai Lama has been engaged in activities to split up the country since he went into exile abroad 48 years ago," said the official, "therefore, I believe foreign political leaders' meeting with the Dalai Lama is no longer a matter of religious belief but a matter that concerns the unity of our nation and integrity of the Chinese territory."

"People in Tibet, just like the Chinese government, are firmly against foreign political leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama," said Qiangba Puncog.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman last Friday voiced strong dissatisfaction and stern objections to Australia allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Australia and meet with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

"Turning a deaf ear to China's representations, the Australian side has allowed the Dalai Lama to visit Australia and to meet with Australian political leaders, including the prime minister. We consider this a rude intervention in China's internal affairs," spokesman Qin Gang said.

The Chinese government is firmly against any country allowing the Dalai Lama to visit and engage in secessionist activities, Qin said.

"We hope the Australian side will correct its attitude to the Dalai Lama in the interests of overall bilateral relations," Qin added.

(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2007)

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