Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Sky Train" Talk

** Snips picked up from various newspapers and websites concerning the China-Tibet railway, now being referred to as the "Sky Train" by Chinese officials, etc.

''The train is for them, so the Chinese can come here,'' said a former herder from northern grassland region through which two-thirds of the roughly 700-mile-long railway will pass. ''They are robbing our land of precious minerals and will use the train to take them away faster. They say they've brought us electricity, hospitals, roads, etc., but they are not for us; they are for the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who live here now.''

"China wants to kill Tibetan culture just like the US did to the Native Americans,'' said one Tibetan who lives abroad but visits frequently. ''They are massacring Tibetans with prostitutes, alcohol, discos, and with a smile. Tibetans hear Chinese propaganda about development every day, and they believe it . . . the Maoists used to throw boiling water on us. Now it's just lukewarm, but it works fast,'' the Tibetan said. ''I have no hope for 'saving Tibet'. It is finished.''

"The Tibet Plateau Railroad will give the PLA the opportunity to threaten India with theater ballistic missiles in the same way it now threatens Taiwan. From a military logistics standpoint, rail has an enormous advantage over roads in moving heavy equipment, supplies and manpower. In effect, this means the permanent militarization of the entire plateau into a staging ground for aggression into South Asia. With even a single line, the PLA could move about 12 infantry divisions to Central Tibet in 30 days to meet up with their pre-positioned equipment." -- from a Jamestown Foundation newsletter

"Of course we don't like it," a Lhasa native said. "The new city just looks like any other in the rest of China. It doesn't look like anything Tibetan. It doesn't feel like our home any more."

A Tibetan store-owner in Lhasa on the large influx of migrants from eastern China: "They are much better at doing business than we are. They have lots of connections in other parts of China, and they can always get products cheaper than we can, so it's impossible to compete."

On January 22 of this year, Professor Wu Ziwang, a senior expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' 'frozen soil laboratory', was quoted as saying: "Due to the melting permafrost, I am worried that after 10 years the railroad will be unsafe"(Chinese-language report, Beijing News). In a Xinhua article on February 5, Professor Wu said: "Fast thawing of frozen soil in the plateau might greatly increase the instability of the ground, causing more grave geological problems in the frozen soil areas where major projects such as highways or railways run through . . . The changes could threaten the railway in a decade."

Although Party officials previously rejected reports that the construction of the railroad would be likely to increase the influx of Chinese migrants into Tibetan areas, last year an official report acknowledged that the development would "attract tourists, traders and ethnic Chinese settlers" to the Tibet Autonomous Region (China Daily, October 15, 2005). And, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China points to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as a precedent: "Railroads there were built decades ago, and ethnic Han now outnumber ethnic Mongols by more than five to one" (From the Asia Human Rights New Service)

"Tibet's stability is China's stability. Tibet's development is China's development," said Xiangba Pingcuo, Tibet's Chinese governor. "We cannot allow Tibet to split from China. Nor can we allow it to remain backwards." Beijing says the railroad is the economic salvation that Tibet needs.
"Tibet is the only province without a rail link. The people of Tibet want development. The railroad is the hope of everybody here," said Tajie, the deputy mayor of Lhasa. (From the Los Angeles Times)