By Tenzin Dharpo
Pizza hut and KFC next door to each other on the Barkhor street in Lhasa city. photo-Highpeakspureearth.
DHARAMSHALA, July 4: Fast food chain Pizza Hut has opened its first outlet in occupied Tibet’s Lhasa city last month. The fast food giant owned by the Yum Brands corporation also opened its first ever KFC outlet back in March 2016.
Chinese state media Xinhua reported that the first Pizza Hut branch opened on Barkhor Street, a bustling market street around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa city. In 2016, the first KFC branch in Lhasa city where on the opening day, swarms of customers queued in front of the store waiting to be served fried chicken whilst indulging in the fanfare over the arrival of the fast food brand.
“With fast-improving transportation and telecommunication infrastructure, Tibet has increased its appeal to international brands in recent years,” Xinhua said its report. Lhasa city which is the capital of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is one of the most restricted cities in the world where majority of the city is under intense surveillance.
The city covered by surveillance cameras, secret as well as regular police and the air itself expressive of a figurative iron curtain, the fast food joints are far from any Chinese government led measures to curb or contribute to their designs, yet it is an extension of the Chinese government’s attempt to put up Lhasa and Tibet as a destination for tourist and to influence global perception, say critics and Tibet observers. And for the residents, especially the younger Tibetans, it is a distraction like any other government approved red light areas, cheap liquors and party culture, critics say.
Pizza hut and KFC are subsidiaries of the Louisville based American company Yum Brands Corporation. In 2004, exiled Tibetan leader and foremost Buddhist figure wrote on the behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to the then chief executive David Novak imploring him to abandon plans to expand KFC restaurants into Tibet.
"It is quite natural for me to support those who are currently protesting the introduction of industrial food practices into Tibet that will perpetuate the suffering of huge numbers of chickens," the Dalai Lama wrote in the letter to KFC.