China takes softly-softly approach in effort to boost Tibet's economy

Hao Peng cuts an avuncular figure and is unusually frank for a party official in Tibet, where people rioted against Beijing rule two years ago. He is the new, approachable face that China wants to front its multibillion-yuan efforts to boost the isolated mountain enclave's economy and win the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people.

"We are doing our best to improve the quality and calibre of local Tibetans and have also introduced special policies in terms of employment projects, subsidies and grants to help local people," Mr Hao, the deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet and vice-chairman of the regional government, told reporters.

But many Tibetans resent the fact that Han Chinese from other provinces are benefiting the most from the region's development boom.

At the enormous, state-of-the-art railway station near Lhasa yesterday, Han Chinese could be seen alighting from the train, part of the daily influx coming to set up shop. Their businesses are more and more in evidence on the streets of Lhasa, once one of the most remote and mysterious places on earth and still a difficult place to get to.

Mr Hao said the central government was committed to addressing the yawning income gaps and opportunity inequalities between Tibetans and Han Chinese, but added: "It's not unusual that businessmen from other parts of China benefit from Tibet's development, as they help the local economy."

One of the ways he wants to improve the Tibetans' lot is by raising education levels. "When you come back in 10 years you will remark how the farmers' income level here approaches the national average," he said.

However, winning hearts and minds is about more than just building factories and model villages. China faces an uphill struggle to win the affections of residents who support the Dalai Lama.

Mr Hao put the blame for any unrest in the region firmly at the feet of the "Dalai Clique", devotees of the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who fled Lhasa in 1959, eight years after it was formally annexed by the People's Republic of China.

China says Tibet is, was and always will be Tibetan, but the Tibetan government-in-exile in the north Indian town of Dharamsala says it represents the Tibetan people and wants more autonomy. The Dalai Lama, Mr Hao said, needed to accept that Tibet was an "inalienable" part of China.

In March 2008, monks marched from the Jokang Temple, Tibetan Buddhism's most holy site at the heart of Lhasa, and called for greater freedom. Tensions flared into widespread violence in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas in China and 19 people were killed. Tibetan independence groups say scores died in a subsequent crackdown, a claim denied by the Chinese.

Today, soldiers armed with machine guns stand guard on Lhasa's ancient streets. "After 14 March we have taken many efforts to maintain stability. Unity is a blessing while instability is a curse. The People's Armed Police on the street are necessary to enforce stability," Mr Hao said. "We have the ability and confidence to... ultimately achieve long-term order and stability."

The reason ordinary Tibetans were not allowed to display pictures of the Dalai Lama, whom they worship as a god-king, is that he is "not just a religious figure, he is also a mastermind of separatist activities".

"No sovereign country in the world would allow the hanging of a portrait of a person like that... the Dalai Lama colluded with anti-China forces abroad to make trouble in Tibet," Mr Hao said. "What you see in the streets, including the police and other legal forces, are necessary measures to maintain stability... the local, ordinary people love the country, they love the Communist Party of China."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most