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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders