July 7, 2006

Tibet: Activists Protest New Tibet Railway

A group of Tibet activists in Taipei on Thursday protested the opening of the world's highest railway that links China and Tibet, calling it a "second invasion of Tibet" A group of Tibet activists in Taipei on Thursday protested the opening of the world's highest railway that links China and Tibet, calling it a "second invasion of Tibet." Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, said at a press conference hosted by the Friends of Tibet in Taiwan, that Beijing's actual goal was to get a firmer grip on the Tibetans by means of the railway and to marginalize the ethnic group.

"It has cost Beijing US$3.2 billion to build this railway, exceeding what has been spent on Tibet's education and medical services for the past 47 years," Khedroob said, saying that the railway was not constructed to help the Tibetans and their economy.

Khedroob, who currently resides in Taiwan, criticized the Chinese government, saying it did not consult the Tibetans before building the railway, which was lauded by China President Hu Jintao for the economic benefits it could bring to Tibetans.

"If China builds a bridge to Taiwan without Taiwan's consent, how would the Taiwanese feel?" the 54-year-old Khedroob, also a nephew of the Dalai Lama, asked.
He claimed that the Chinese government had a military purpose for building the railway, as the modernized form of transportation could ensure a supply line to the 300,000 People Liberation Army troops currently based in Tibet.
Jimmy Gyaltsen, a Tibetan now living in Taiwan, said that Tibetans protested in more than 30 countries against the railway, with some demonstrators in India being arrested and imprisoned.

Meili Chow, the director of Friends of Tibet in Taiwan, a local non-governmental organization that focuses on Tibetan human rights issues, said that the Tibetan Plateau is the origin of many major Asian rivers and provides water for 47 percent of the world's population. The railway, she claimed, would bring pollution to the environment and endanger animal species that inhabit the region.

In addition, Chow noted, China has used the remote Tibet area to store its nuclear weapons and waste. As the railway could make transporting such waste more convenient it could threaten stability on the China-India border and in Central Asia.

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