Himalayan magazine



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Tibetan MarginalIsation

While new regulations have been enacted to control the entertainment industry, it seems unlikely that the authorities will act to redress the more substantive concerns raised by CPPCC (TAR) members—many of which are shared by ordinary Tibetan citizens. In the case of Lhasa, they can be divided into four main areas: housing, health, education and employment.

Housing. A large number of traditional houses in the Barkhor area of old Lhasa have been demolished since 1992. According to the city planning document cited earlier, the majority of traditional buildings still remaining in Lhasa's historic city centre will be gone by the year 2000, with the exception of designated

'cultural relics' such as the Jokhang and Ramoche temples.

Official sources claim that the destruction is necessary to improve infrastructure—facilities such as electricity, water, sewerage and roads in the city centre. However, an ART survey of construction in the Barkhor neighbourhood in 1993, which surveyed 67 construction sites, found not only that many of the buildings being demolished wereboth attractive and structurally sound, but that provision of modern facilities was minimal, and had even worsened since a similar survey was conducted in 1990. New public housing units were being installed with a meagre electricity supply, and low gauge, unsafe wiring—as little as 200 watts

per family apartment, insufficient for cooking or heating. About 30-40 apartments in each housing unit had to share a single courtyard tap. Commercial premises and privileged housing units, meanwhile, were liberally supplied with electricity.

The new construction employs abysmally lowstandards of safety and workmanship. As art historian Heather Stoddard points out in Tibet Transformed: A Pictorial Essay (The International Campaign for Tibet, 1994), thesquare, regimented concrete of socialist China that is replacing characteristic Tibetan architecture is not even utilitarian. The new houses, unlike the old, cannot withstand earth tremors, and the breeze blocks and cement used in construction are quite unsuited to the extremes of Tibet's climate.

Tibetan families in public housing are now obliged to pay around Y400-500 in annual rent for lesser space, greater discomfort and poorer facilities than before—roughly atenfoldincreasesincethe demolition project began in 1990. At the May session of the CPPCC (TAR), Lhasa delegate Jampal described the new housing in Lhasa as "unsuitable for local conditions and not in accordance with Tibetan culture" and "an architectural travesty".

Finally, it is significant that 19 of the 67 surveyed sites were private Tibetan homes, employing Tibetan


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Jamiaty/Februajy 1995 HIMAL




labour and materials—earth, wood and stone. Several of these were found to be well-built, harmonious dwellings, well-serviced with electricity and piped water. Tibetan houses are more costly and time-con sum i ng to bui Id, but they are ot herwise unquestionably superio r i n the view of most Tibetans—and the skills required to build them are still available in Lhasa today.

Health. In recent years, there has been some ambiguity over the provision of state medical care in Lhasa. Official sources still claim that basic medical care is freely available to holders of residence permits, while local Tibetans frequently complain of corruption, exorbitant payments, ethnic discrimination, and lack of care at the city and regional hospitals. A deposit of Y1000 is said to be a prerequisite for serious treatment.

Mismanagement and poor morale among the health care staff seem to be as much of a problem as under-funding. In May, according to conference reports, Thubten Buchung of Lhasa's city hospital told fellow CPPCC (TAR) delegates: "Of the 105 hospitals and clinics in Lhasa prefecture, the majority are not functioning. Some have medicine but no equipment, others even lack medicine due to inadequate funds... I have been complaining about this for years, but nothing has been done."

In June 1994, the authorities seemed to beabandoning the pretence of free medical care when a new official cost structure and booklet issue was announced at a series of local meetings. But there seems to have been no attempt to clamp down on theblack-maTket in drugsand services or on corrupt practices.

About the same time, there was a popular rumour that a Tibetan policeman had shot dead two Han Chinese doctors after his wifedied in childbirth in the city hospital's reception area. Despite the woman's emergency condition, she had been denied entry to the building until she produced Y1000—by the time her husband returned with the money,

both the mother and the baby were dead. It is difficult to ascertain the veracity of this report, but even as legend it is indicat ive of so me pop ula r perceptions—ethnic discrimination, i ntra nsi gen t of finals, and corruptio n. And Tibetan anger.

Alternatives to conventional medicine are available in Lhasa—the traditional Ment sikhang hospital was reopened during the 1980's, and there are training programmes in Tibetan medicine in all areas of the TAR. However, few skilled practitioners remain in Tibet—many are in South Asiaandinthe West—and the limited

instruction received bytraineedoctors in Tibet represents but a paltry fragment of the traditional medical system. Despite its popularity, the authorities have not conspicuously awarded the traditional sector of the health service with funds or encouragement.

Ed uca tio n. State education i n the TAR has been a subject of some controversy, arising from Tibetan allegations of ethnic discrimination and Mandarin linguistic domination, as well as claims that the Tibetan nationality is effectively excluded from the higher levels of the party, government, military, scientific and professional establishments by educational disadvantage. Official sources insist that the Tibetan language is widely taught in schools,

that'education is free for Tibetans, and that 'positive discrimination' policies assist disadvantaged minoritiestocom pete forofficialposts. In practice, Mandarin is the language of instruction at the secondary level and above, and access to higher education is uncommon. Only 45 percent of last year's entrants to Tibet University were Tibetan, according to a June 1994 report of the Tibetan Information Network (TIN).

Lhasa's schools, like its hospitals, suffer from lack of funding, mismanagement and demoralised staff. In theory they are still free.

although some changes have been introduced, such as exam fees, charges for retaking failed exams, and so on. Lhasa delegates at the CPPCC session spoke of inadequate funds, lack of teachers and, among those available, lack of qualification. An appeal was issued for teachers to be given longer tenures so as to provide continuity and allow them to work effectively. Several suggestions were made for augmenting Tibetan language instruction at the primary level.

In the prevailing climate, it is not surprising that private schoolsusually running evening classes in language and vocational skills—are becoming popular. Perhaps it is no more surprising that the authorities seem to have treated these schools with suspicion rather than encourage-

Demolition and reconstruction in Central Lhasa.


HIMAL January/February 1995

15




constructed ment- ^ early 1994' one of the morc 'NlghtClub'. prominent ones—Siljong Keyig Lopdra—was closed down and its director arrested, reports the Tibetan Review. The charges were unclear but may have been political.

Employment. Official figures or statements are unavailable, but available evidence suggests that Tibetans in Lhasa suffer unfair competition for jobs in the modern sector. What is more, there appears to be little or no official sponsorship or protection of workers in the traditional economy, including those in construc­tion, artisans, and local commodity traders. In the face of overwhelming pressure from the modern sector,

Notes on sources:

Xizang Ribao (Tibet Daily) is the TAR edition of Renmin Ribao. "(China Daily).

All reference to reportage in the tiiatrig Ribao, Tibet JV and TibetRadio is sourced to the Sammmyof World Broadcasts from the BBC: Monitoring Service in London.

tCCP Central Committee Document No. 31 (1980) is an internal J

Party document leaked to Tibetan interest groups in the West

: It ig in Chinese.

i documents ffbm the Afcy 1994 Session of the CPFCC (TAR), intended for internal use only, were obtained unofficially by thewriter,

:ite Tibet Information Network (TIN) is a Lbndpnrbased agency ■Hhat provides news on Tibet fr6rfl various sources.8 Its : Coordinator is Robbie Barnett.

[' t.ibetatt Review is a New D^lhi-based journal of Tibetan exiles! and & edited by Tsering Wangyal.

Xinhua is the government-owned news agency of China, with ; headquarters in Beijing.; ^

Lhasa's local economy may soon be extinct.

All this was demonstrated in a dramatic fashion in early June 1994, when 200-300 Tibetan traders from the Barkhor area gathered in front of the m unicipal government com pound to protest against new increases of up to 50 percent in the local business tax. The demonstration was quickly and ruthlessly suppressed, and in subsequent days, the authorities refused to back down on the increase, despite the protester's closure of Barkhor shops.

There seems littledoubt that TAR leaders felt emboldened in their hardline positions following the announcement in early June by the United States government that China's most-favoured-nation status renewal would no longer be conditional on human rights issues. A business tax of between Y100-200 per month is a considerable burden for most Tibetan shops and restaurants, but for the small stores and stalls in old Lhasa selling chang, butter, dried cheese, tsampa and so on, it is unpayable.

An October 1992 article in the Xizang Ribao actually celebrates the fact that Tibetans are increasingly found in demeaning, unskilled jobs as 'revolutionary'. An educated Tibetan man cleaning shoes outside the Workers' Cultural Palace in Lhasa

was "revolutionary" because "in the past, Tibetan people never would do this kind of very low class work". The piece reflects a more general belief, rooted in Han chauvinism, that Tibetans are inefficient, unskilled and superstitious—"they lack the qualification" to competeina modern economy.

This was also the view, albeit more elegantly expressed, of Chinese economists Wang Xiaoqang and Bai Nanfeng in their 1991 study The Poverty of Plenty (MacmilltLn, London). There, it is argued that the Tibetan nationality mustdevelop "commodity consciousness" beforeit can enter the modern economy as a competitive force. In other words, backward nationalities first have to become proletarianised before they can enter modern socialist society on an equal footing and enjoy its benefits.

Autonomous Tibet

The principle of autonomy for Tibet on the basis of its unique cultural heritage and physical environment is guaranteed by the PRC constitution. However, in recent years at least, the principle has had few supporters and no champions in the Beijing leadership. When the 'socialist modernisation' policy was launched in Lhasa in 1992, it included an attack on local off icials who allegedly wished "to dilute the reforms and preserve Tibet's uniqueness."

Tibet Radio, 30 May 1992: "If we only stress the uniqueness of Tibet and are timid in carrying out reform and opening up, the existing gap between us and other provinces and regions...will become wider, we will become more and more backward and Tibet will become more and more unique." In a piece carried by the Xizang Ribao in May 1992, the TAR government was ridiculed for lacking ambition when its annual budget fixed the projected growth rate at "only 5.8 percent". The current target is 10 percent.

The appointment of Chen Kuiyuan as new deputy party secretary in the same period was


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January/FBbruaty 1995 H1MAL


and government workers were intensified during 1994. Although party members always had to accept the commitment to atheism, the liberalisation policies of the 1980s had reintroduced the principle of tolerance for the beliefs of national minorities. Last June and July, however, both government and party workers were told to eliminate even the vestiges of religious faith—shrines, rosaries, incense, hearths, prayer-flags—from their homes and their lives and those of their families, or face losing their jobs. They were also told to recall

China's Tibet

China's Tibet is a bimonthly magazine, yellow-bordered; likejthe
National Geographic and aimed at ih&byahieas English-reading
market, Itcoverstourism, culture and economy-reiat&d issues, The;
litest issue {No.3,1S94) carries a special feature oh governmental
policy, human rights and *1he policy on Dalai iarna''.8etowafe1wo;
' excerpts,.... . ;.;'; IZ,. , ■, -

Oil Han influx: Raidi> Chairman of theStanding Committee ofthe Tibet People's Congress, referred to settlement of Han Chinese in art interview while attending the Second'Session; of the Eighth National People's Congress in Beijing: '",,, "...

There are indeed rumours that the Central Government has
moved 7.5 million members of the Han nationality into Tibet.
However, before expanding my views, I must make it^iear that:
Tibet is part of China and thus it is perfectly proper for the Han fo:
move into Tibet. People in all sovereign countries oftenipoyafrom
one region to another. Therefore,whaCthert is wrongof the Han to
do the same? Moreover, the majority of Haii in Tibet afeskiUed
workers, technicians and scientists. ;They have come to Tibet to
workfor specified periodsof time/during Which they mu$t endure
the hardships resulting from the high altitude. They areinTibet to
help us build our economy, with many having contributed their
youth, the most precious period of their lives. Some rjave.even died-
heroic deaths. In order to further develop our economy, culture,
science and education, and public healthj:weneed more people like
these to move to Tibet. They are by no means what the Western
press call "immigrants". ;. .".

Over the past few years; Tibet has witnessed a huge influx of traders and builders frbrh China's hinterland .'They in fact come and go in torrents, and are by no means what the Western media also calls "immigrants". It is therefore groundless for the Western media to make such accusations.

The composition of Tibetans in the Tibetan population also

of the Dalai Lama...TheCet»tt^lGoveramehthasnever formulated ■ a plan to move members of the Han nationality into Tibet;: which in fact is a much less than ideal place for Hart to settle.

r- *■:'«.,, . ■ ■ . ■■■■ ":. ■"" -';;" " :': * - 'I ■■ 1 i- MH

followed byaclampdown on Tibetan cadres, who began to be openly suspected of disloyalty. Their failure to soften the thrust of the 'socialist modernisation' programme strongly indicates that Tibetan cadres have no substantive influence on the formulation of policy for the region, and that the issue of autonomy for Tibet within the PRC—the issue at the centre of Tibet-China relations since Liberationinl951—is not being taken seriously by Beijing.

Movesaimed at undermining the unity and morale of Tibetan party





Human rights: Basang Norbu,
Deputy -Secretary-GenerfiIT q f the
Standing Ctimmittee of the Tibet
People's Congress, on hiitnan nghts
; in Tibet:"; '; " " 7 '...'.,. .,, ■■■■ :-

In bailding democratic politiGs> Xhina has absorbed all the civilized achieyeinfents of mankind,including; the positive factors" uriiJerlyirigi: bourgeois human rights ideas; In? China,, the people, and only the people, are the masters of the'state and society. Th^ system of people's congresses has proved tobean ■; effecUye form and functioned as the countrv's .supreme powef -: organ in which people ^vieldjtheir power as masters-of the1 state.,,. ThrougKdep^tiesslecf^ in a democratic way^citizerisexert'-i their sway, organiset|jegovernment and administer state affaire., They are empowered to supervise andremoyegbyernment mem- "* •bersataltlevels.Thiscbri^tjtutesprimaryandfi^damGntairights, * and ah embodiment of the fundamental spirit of human rights.:; The 1993 electidn| |t four levels in Tibet were conducted in, accordaricewiahiEheConstitution../Sta*isticsforthel993elections< : ; indicate that there were 1,311,08$;voters in Tibet, or S7.3&pertefit^ •of the regional population and* 98.6 percent of citizens above lfe yisarsoid.Tlhose stripped of orfetnpOrarilydenied their democratic * rights accounted for only 0.34 percent of potential voters. Specifically; thbsewho had their poh'tical rights taken away came . toonlyO.tft percent...

According'; to an analysis-of the election resuUs> the * composition of deputies is; becoming more reasonable. Deputies * of Tibetan and other ethnic groups amountedto 99$t percent at town and township levels, 92.62 at county level, 82,35 at city level, and 82.44;pefi:enta|t&ejevelof the Tibetan Atit6n"om6us Region. ..<Some people at home and abroad' have h'ttle knowledge * about socialist democracy and human rights in Tibet. The truth • aboutthe 'situation there hasbeendistorted. But those who failed toi winappst had totally different feelings, saying, "Democracy is truly carried out in the people's congress*''

their children from schools in India by the end of the year or face the same penalty—a bitter bio w since education abroad is often considered the best prospect for a Tibetan child's future. Various reports on the enforcement of these measures were circulating in Lhasa during the autumn of 1994, including accounts of compulsory meetings and house inspections for the members of a wide range of work units and government offices in the city (from the Bank of China and the post office to the Uayi' and 'Chiyi' agricultural units) as well


HIMAL January/February 1995

17

as in the provinces. The insistence on absolute loyalty to the Party, so reminiscent of the Maoist era, has re-emerged, and the witch-hunt is on.

The Xtzang Ribao of 4 October 1994 states: "We should recognise the fact that the Dalai clique [a phrase referring to the exile government and its supporters in Tibet] is the main source of Tibet's instability and lack of development.''

Both the refusal to compromise on 'socialist modernisation' in the TAR, and the effective dominance of Han cadres in the regional administration were firmly underlined in July 1994 at the high-level Third National Work Conference on Tibet, held in Beijing,

Speaking about the meeting on

Tibet TV on 8 September 1994, Chen Kuiyuan said: "In line with comrade Deng Xiaoping's theory on building socialism with Chinese characteristics, the speeches given by comrades Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Li Ruihan and in the 'Opinion on accelerating Tibet's development and maintaining its social stability1 adopted by the CPC Central Committee and State Council analysed the new situation in Tibet and came up with new solutions to Tibet's problems..." These solutions would, he said, "Open a new chapter in the modernisation drive in the snowy plateau."

In fact, the meeting endorsed rapid economic development and renewed attention to religious and

nationalities policy. President Jiang Zemin's speech included remarks on the continuing necessity of Han cadres to develop and administer Tibet. Meanwhile, according to a Tibet TV report of September 1994, the CPC Committee "specifically stipulated that party members must not have religious beliefs."

Much frustration and resentment is developing among Tibetans in Lhasa, and although its expression is for the moment curtailed by vigilant security measures, it cannot remain so forever.

The writer Is an independent researcher on Himalayan and Tibetan affairs and a frequent visitor to Tibet. 'John Grey' is a pseudonym.


i

The Third Work Conference

.......


These occasional events are useii by Beijing to mark important moments in Tibet policy—the first followed on Hu YaoMng's reform initiative'in 1980 and the second; in 1984; announced a series (43) of mostly prestige projects in Tibet; sonWvMe financed by various Chinese provinces in ;art initiative -called the/Help

support of the central leadership for rapid economic growth and hardlinepositionsonreligioM&and nationalities policy.Unllke thft 1984 meeting, emphasis was placed on "strengthening ba«ie industries and th& improvement of infrastructurai facilities". As' President Jiang Zemin explained to Xittftwa; "a relatively longer ^period at time is needed to lay the foundation of $6tiali$t marked economy in Tibet, due to the undeveloped commodity economy and other reasons".

several already implemented since; 1992, represent an
unprecedented and ambitious attempt to make5 Tibet more
accessible and profitable for the mainland economy, through
infrastructure development. Energy generation and improved
facilities for road and air travel will increase the pro Stability^ of
resource extraction, allow for greater population density and
reduce Tibet's remoteness,. ......'[ "

The Work Conference iinveiled'62 projects as its development flagship, half of them funded or supported by provincial and municipal governments (24 percent of the total 2.3 billion Yuan investment). Included are three high-prpfUe and somewhat controversial schemes, the power station at Yarndrok .take (opposed by the latePanchen Lama); thePangda airporttenovation inChamdoPrefedtar^and'China'slafg^S^ as 'Narbusa' in Lhoka Prefecture; Also? prominent is -highway construction on the Nepal and QLnghai routes.

: * surfaced-road; to Tsethang (Lhoka) has already beprj
cornpl^tldV As reported by Tibet Press Watch in October, the US* ii
based pressure group International Campaign, for Tibet has also '"'
picMd :up a report that the long-mooted Qiitghai-Tibet railway m
(dreaded by Tibetans, longed'for by Beijing planners, and *
conspicuously absentfromth^ *

projected cost of 20 billion Yuan; However, this, has not beerj

. confirmed and seems iotebeyeSby^ *

^piJirnitted to road construction.

-■ ?Among-the 62 projects are also included the construction o| middle schools, cbmmurtications development such as tel^hpne- ~, exchanges and a TV receiyipg Station, a new Xinhua bookstore in1 * Lhasa, agricultural development, and a water.supply.schemem, ,

: Shigatse, TouTisrri and food Processing are also covered.

Overall;1 the development: aims are «lear: generating energy, and irnproyirig infrastructure mmtuyfb'rirtdiastnaluseandfosteriiigj an ecpnomic climate favourable to economic migration front the* I mainland. Virtually all of the projects have been awarded to** non-Tibetan contractors, and several-have gone to the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police (Wujihg).

"" THeffistdfSepterriber, 1995, will be the 3Gfch anniversary of. , the foundingof theTARj. and its offeial celebrafion will be used to' ' Inauguratethe New Lhasa, with its gleaming modern architecture and wide boulevards. There is presently a construction frenzy in die city as wcffkers struggle to meet the deadline.

For devout Tibetans, however, the wood-pig year (beginning in Marchl995) is an inauspicious time for any such undertaking, * since it is the khak or obstacfe year in the personal astrology of the i Dalai Lama, a time when the whple country is prone to disaster, * The "New Tibet" isfoundedonsuchcGntrastsandcontradicHons, * and the latest series of ostentatiously modern chrome and glass * facades in Lhasa will be rto exception^

-John Grey


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January/February 1995 HIMAL



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