Friday, 5 July 2013

Lhasa project sparks 'tourist village' cry

Renovation of the historic area around a key monastery in the Tibetan capital has been completed, amid concerns over its environmental and cultural impact.
The controversial 1.5 billion yuan project in Lhasa around the Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has raised concerns that commercialization will harm old structures and local religious traditions.
The seven-month project to upgrade infrastructure and preserve buildings was "completed on Sunday," said the Global Times, citing a Lhasa media official.
The project covers an area of 1.3 square kilometers, the report said.

"It has been and is destroying irreplaceable structures that in some cases have stood for centuries, creating what appears to be a contrived tourist village," they said.More than 100 Tibet experts last month sent a petition to President Xi Jinping and UNESCO head Irina Bokova detailing the negative impact of the project.
The project has also forced Tibetans from their homes and impeded religious practice, they said.
Lhasa propaganda chief Ma Xinming rejected such criticism, saying the project adheres strictly to Tibetan culture, the paper reported, adding that the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design took part in the effort "to ensure that authenticity and traditional flavors are preserved."
Beijing has worked to develop the relatively poor Tibetan region, bringing an influx of investment and ethnic majority Han seeking work. But the changes have caused friction with the local community, and overseas rights groups complain of religious and cultural oppression.
More than 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in apparent protest at Beijing's rule.
Human Rights Watch says more than two million Tibetans were forced to change homes or relocate from 2006 to 2012 in a government- sponsored program.

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