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Demonstration against Qinghai-Tibet railway in UK
Phayul[Monday, June 26, 2006 12:04]
Protest demonstration against the July 1 inauguration of the Qinghai-Tibet by Tibetans and their supporters will rock the United Kingdom in keeping with the "Reject the Railway" campaign launched by the exile Tibetans from June 18 to July 1.

The two-day demonstration will specifically target the London-based travel company GW Travel whose Luxury Travel Fair satnd at Olympia will publicise tours to Lhasa that will use the new rail link. Demonstration will take place on Friday 30 June between 1.00 – 3.00pm and on Saturday 1 July between 12 – 2.00pm. Organisations such as the Students for a Free Tibet (UK) and the Free Tibet Campaign are jointly organising the demonstration.

In a press release dated June 23, Philippa Carrick of the Tibet Society said, “There is no question that Tibet had to modernise, but the way in which the Chinese government has effected modernisation over 50 years of occupation is not a way that can be condoned by a civilised world. China has at no time taken into account the needs of the people of Tibet and has sought to crush its culture and religion in the most appalling manner. The opening of the railway with no regard as to how it will affect the people of Tibet or its fragile eco-culture is just another example of China’s brutal methods of implementation in the name of progress”.

The Tibet Society of the UK in an open letter to the Tim Littler, Managing Director of GW Travel has urged him to consider the repercussions of being associated with the railway and asked that he should at the very least “provide a good background briefing to the current situation within Tibet, thereby informing all travellers about the realities of Chinese occupation and the impending extinction of a unique culture and way of life.”

The release has pointed out the railway's negative repercussions for Tibetans within Tibet. It has highlighted the threat to Tibetan identity when the flow of Chinese opportunity seekers into Tibet will grow once the railway became operational. Economic maginalisation of the Tibetans will be further aggravated as they will find it difficult to compete with the Chinese in a business and trade driven economy where educational qualifications and acquired skills are necessary. The release also said it has ecological implications and will pose a threat to world peace as it will allow far greater ease of access for the Chinese army to increase its military strength in a highly politically sensitive area having borders to India and Russia.

Below is the Open Letter to Tim Littler, MD of GW Travel from Philippa Carrick, CEO, Tibet Society of the UK

Dear Mr Littler

I understand that you will be taking people to Tibet using the new China / Tibet rail link. Obviously it is a fantastic opportunity for tourists to see amazing land at altitude and to be able to visit Tibet in this way will be very exciting. However, as I am sure you also know, there are a number of repercussions that the rail link will have both on the indigenous population and the local environment, a few of which are outlined below.

● It will increase the flow of Chinese moving to and working in Tibet, further diluting the indigenous population. In 2005 the Dalai Lama voiced his concerns about the effect of the railway on the population of Tibet when he said “Some kind of cultural genocide is taking place… In general, a railway link is very useful in order to develop, but not when politically motivated to bring about demographic change”.

● It will lead to increased poverty through fewer jobs being available. Most new jobs that will be created will be within businesses and trade that require educated and qualified people. Due to the cost of education and lack of facilities within rural areas, Tibetans remain ill-educated and will be unable to take advantage of these new openings.

● It will affect the fragile high altitude eco-system and habitat, with many experts voicing deep concerns about the long-term ecological implications.

● It will allow far greater ease of access for the Chinese army to increase its military strength in a highly politically sensitive area having borders to India and Russia. This could have wide ranging long-term implications to world peace.

Tibet has been an occupied country since 1950 and this latest advance by the Chinese in opening Tibet up in terms of access will further diminish the Tibetan peoples extraordinary culture and way of life. It is not to say that there are advantages to modernisation, but a country must evolve naturally, in line with the wishes of its people and at its own pace. However, in Tibet, modernisation has been crushingly imposed by the Chinese authorities along with draconian measures that continue to restrict freedom of expression, freedom to follow a religion of choice, curtailment of opportunity unless Chinese is spoken and read which has lead to increasing poverty and marginalisation of Tibetan people within Tibet. This is one of the biggest humanitarian outrages of the last century.

I would very much hope that, at the very least, GW Travel will provide anyone booking a train trip to Tibet with a good background briefing on the current situation within Tibet, thereby informing all travellers about the realities of Chinese occupation and the impending extinction of a unique culture and way of life. This sad situation can be changed if the world maintains pressure on China and encourages the Chinese government to relinquish their tight hold on Tibet by virtue of occupation, give its people autonomy and enable them to live following their own beliefs and culture, whilst still being part of the modern world.

Philippa Carrick

Chief Executive Officer

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