Ancient land of the free and home of the brave

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The Independent Online
LEST anyone be concerned at reports of large-scale migration of Han Chinese into Tibet, rest assured that it could prove a modern equivalent of the Europeans who braved the Atlantic to follow Columbus and found America.

That, at least, was the analogy offered by the Mayor of Lhasa yesterday. He was not for a moment suggesting that the reports were true, and he may not have been up to speed on the fate of the native Americans, 'but I believe migration is not a bad thing'. The Tibet roadshow was performing yesterday as the autonomous region's 20-strong delegation to the National People's Congress sought to put the record straight.

Wearing a magnificent fur Tibetan hat despite the central heating in the Tibet Hall at the Great Hall of the People, Lhasa's mayor reassured everyone, in Tibetan, that only one in five Lhasa city residents were non-Tibetan. Most of these were businessmen on the look-out for commercial opportunities now that Tibet is opening to the outside world; government cadres were there too, but they rarely stayed more than five years, because of difficulties adapting to the altitude, he said.

Ask the delegation about human rights and political prisoners, and Luo Sang, a middle-aged Tibetan was motioned to speak about life before China's 'peaceful liberation'. 'Tibet was a feudal serfdom and at that time I was a slave. The old Tibet was a feudal serfdom that combined politics and religion . . . There was no human rights to talk about at all. My grandfather, father and myself were slaves,' said Mr Luo.

Re Di, Chairman of Tibet's local government, said he just didn't know where human rights groups found their lists of alleged political prisoners.