Tensions over relations between China and Tibetan Buddhists is of constant concern to Buddhists here in Syracuse and across the world. China is now reported to be following up its 1950 military invasion of Tibet with a tourist invasion. Clifford Coonan has reported for The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk, “China unleashes tourism in latest invasion of Tibet”.
Lhasa, which is the administrative centre of the Tibet Autonomous Region, has changed profoundly since Chinese troops entered Tibet in 1950 and imposed the dominant Han Chinese culture on the ancient territory. In recent years there has been the introduction of regular flights, as well as the building of a high-tech train service from central Qinghai province to Tibet, the first rail link between the area and the remainder of China. And so more and more tourists have been arriving in a city where, historically, neither foreigners nor the Chinese dared enter.
This Himalayan region has seen an increase of tourists during the first nine months of 2010 to 5.8 million, up 23 per cent on the same period a year earlier. And the newly wealthy Chinese who are profiting from China’s economic successes want luxury accommodations, not cheap motels and foreign guest houses. The new St Regis Lhasa Resort offers the type of refined luxury and superlative service which a new generation of wealthy Chinese want. The Intercontinental and Shangri-La hotel groups are also about to announce the opening of high-end luxury hotels in Lhasa.
However, not all is bright and hopeful in Tibet. In March 2008, violent protests which focused on Han Chinese settlers in the region left about 22 people dead. Chinese officials blamed protest activity across the plateau on separatists who are loyal to the Dalai Lama. There has been a heavy police presence on the streets of Lhasa and hard-line measures have been instituted to maintain religious and political stability. And all along Beijing says the People’s Liberation Army rescued Tibetans from a feudal system governed by Buddhist monks and insists the remote Himalayan territory has been part of Chinese territory for centuries. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959 and has not returned since, of being a dangerous “splittist,” agitating for independence.
While the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives out his life in exile in India, Buddhists here in Syracuse and elsewhere are sharing in his anguish over the situation in Tibet. Governments and people all over the world who have welcomed the Dalai Lama as a special guest over the years appear to hold China’s side of this matter open to question. In fact heightened concerns by all of China’s Asian neighbors that China’s powerful military would invade and take over their nations too if they let their joint defenses down seems justified.
Photographer: Catherine Hadler
Mandel News Service: http://www.mandelnews.com