|Anniversary of the Open to Traffic of the Auspicious Road Foreign Journalists Witness the Changes of Tibet|
From July 26 to August 1, 2007, 32 journalists from 19 news agencies of 12 countries in Beijing, organized by the Information Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Office of the People's Government of Tibetan Autonomous Region visited Lhasa and Shigatse and witnessed the economic and social changes of Tibet since the open to traffic of Qinghai-Tibet railway. Hao Peng and Nimaciren, Vice Standing Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Tibetan Autonomous Region respectively, held a press conference for the journalists. The journalists visited the Lhasa Railway passenger and freight stations, the Farmers Settlement Program of Qushui County, Lhasa National Economic and Technological Development Park, Lhalu wetland natural reserve of Lhasa, Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Zhashilunbu Temple, Sajia Temple, Tibetan hospitals and pharmaceuticals. After the visit the journalists got deeper understanding about Tibet.
I. Setting Foot on the Colorful Auspicious Road
According to the schedule, part of journalists entered into Tibet by N917 train along the Qinghai-Tibet railway from Xining, Qinghai province. As the train moved ahead, the altitude rose continuously, and the journalists felt deeply excited. The scene outside the window got increasingly open, so did the journalists' frame of mind. Endless Gobi and desert, cliffs and crags, luxuriant grassland and numerous cow and sheep, snowy mountains, white cloud and blue sky all presented majestic beauty. The meandering Tuotuo River witnesses the origin of the Yangtze River; in Kekexili the moving animals across the passages formed long lines; the calm Cuona Lake zigzags along 15 kilometers; the Tanggula peak stands at the highest point of Qinghai-Tibet railway. The integration of grandness with elegance and delicacy with vastness well display the harmony of nature. The sand protection facilities are seen everywhere in Gobi and the isolation line along rivers and lakes keep the pollution of trains away. The carefully planned and safe animal passages all demonstrate the harmony between the railway and its surrounding environment. The train seemed to move on a painting which integrates the road and the scenery and is drawn together by mankind and nature.
Equipped with comprehensive facilities, the train is safe and comfortable with staffs providing warm services. Each day there are about 2,500 passengers taking 4 trains along Qinghai-Tibet railway to Tibet and enjoy the beautiful scene along the route. The auspicious road makes peoples' dream of the snowy plateau a reality. Beauty and nature can be found everywhere while the plateau is maintained so intact. The number of people getting access to such grand scenery increases considerably, while the plateau does not lose its real look thanks to the coordination of tourism development with environmental protection. The railway serves as a bridge between the plateau and the outside world and a link between mankind and nature.
II. New Start New Development
What the journalists most cared about during their visit to Tibet is what kind of role the Qinghai-Tibet railway has played to the social and economic progress of the autonomous region since the railway's open to traffic one year ago. Hao Peng told the journalists the role is totally positive! In the first half of this year, Tibet's GDP increased by 14.7% over the same period of last year to RMB14 billion. Such a growth margin is 3.5% higher than the national average. In the past the Tibetan economy was mainly supported by the central financial investment, while since the beginning of this year it has maintained the momentum of simultaneous growth of investment, consumption and foreign trade. Hao especially noted that such a momentum of development is sustainable and will bring about tangible benefit to all the Tibetan people. Answering the question of Bloomberg journalist on the vision of the Tibetan government of developing economy, Nimaciren introduced the clear vision and workable measures of stabilizing agricultural production, promoting the growth of competitive industries and pushing forward the tertiary industry including tourism based on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. He highlighted that special efforts would be made to stimulate the tertiary industry in line with the local conditions of Tibet.
The journalists visited the Lhasa railway passenger and freight stations. With a distinct Tibetan style, the passenger station is well decorated and maintained. Many journalists were full of praise of the architecture, saying it was the best railway passenger station they had ever seen in China. Lots of passengers who just arrived at Lhasa were excited and took photos in front of the station building. In the freight station cargos from nationwide were placed in order, waiting to be transported throughout the plateau. According to the head of the station, over the past year the railway has carried 688,000 person-times of passengers to Tibet and 677,000 person-times of passengers out of Tibet, which has greatly promoted the people-to-people contact between Tibet and inland China, especially the development of tourism. The freight train has transported 640,000 tons of cargo to and 41,000 tons out of Tibet over the past year. The large amount of general merchandise, food and construction material from inland China further diversified the material supply to the autonomous region.
The journalists also visited Lhasa National Economic and Technological Development Park which is the 47th national park of its kind in China. Huang Yutian, director of Lhasa National Economic and Technological Development Park made a detailed introduction of the relocation policy, planning, status quo, policy advantages of the park, especially pointing out that the park would focus on forging Tibetan brands of medicine and bio-pharmaceuticals and pushing forward the Tibetan economy based on the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
III. Scientific Development with Priority on Environmental Protection
After arriving at Tibet, the journalists made a group interview with Zhang Tianhua, vice director of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Tibetan Autonomous Region and Kang Shichang, professor of Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Zhang first of all introduced the efforts of environmental protection legislation, planning and policy formulation and implementation of the Chinese government in Tibet over the years and illustrated with detailed statistics that Tibet remains the place with sound environment nationally and even globally. Throughout 2006 there were only two days of light pollution caused by heavy wind in Lhasa. As to the concern of the journalists about the impact of Qinghai-Tibet railway on environment, Zhang confirmed that according to the existing statistics the railway had no impact on the surrounding ecological environment at all. He said that when building Qinghai-Tibet railway RMB1.5 billion was used for environmental protection. The route was carefully designed to try to avoid interfering animals or destroying the environment along the railway. During the construction bridges were built to replace road across the frozen soil layer, the soil obtaining sites were designated and sewage and garbage were disposed strictly. Facts show those measures are fairly successful! As to the question on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau glacier retreating, professor Kang cited an article from Science, the international authoritative academic magazine, saying that glacier retreating caused by global warming is a worldwide phenomenon and not unique to Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
The journalists also toured Lhalu wetland which is well known as the "lung of Lhasa". Entering into the largest urban wetland in the world, they were deeply impressed by the luxuriant wetland with shining ripples. According to the vice director of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Tibetan Autonomous Region, Lhalu wetland makes up 11.7% of Lhasa and absorbs 78,800 tons of carbon dioxide and 5,475 tons of air dust each year. It has become a landmark of harmonious coexistence between mankind and nature and a clean land cherished by the Lhasa residents.
The journalists showed deep interest in how Tibet coordinates the relations between development and environmental protection. At the press conference Nimaciren made it clear that environmental protection in Tibet is linked with the interest of all the nationalities in the autonomous region, all the Chinese people and even people in South and Southeast Asia. The government of the autonomous region is clearly aware of the heavy responsibility and has adopted a series of effective measures to ensure the position of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as the ecological source and source of rivers and lakes. Tibet will in no way follow the old road of pollution first and rectification second. Answering the question of China's plan of building the Qomolangma Peak highway, the leader of the autonomous region said that the current plan just covers the maintenance of the sand and pebble road with poor conditions and will not hurt the environment. Whether asphalt road is built or not will be determined by the result of environmental assessment in line with related procedures.
IV. Tibetan and Han Nationalities Belong to One Family
Another concern of the journalists is the ethnic policy of Tibet and whether Tibet's development brings tangible benefits to the Tibetan nationality. Everywhere they visit the journalists had felt deeply that the Tibetan and Han nationalities belong to one family.
According to the leaders of the autonomous region, in the Tibetan autonomous region the formulation of every policy takes into full account and respects the interest of the Tibetan nationality. The Tibetan carders account for the majority of leaders of government at all levels. The heads of religious venues noted that temples in Tibet are totally managed by Tibetan monks. The head of Lhasa railway station said that in view of current conditions most of the managerial staffs of the station are experienced Han nationality. However, the station has set the priority of training Tibetan staffs.
The journalists visited the rural settlement program of Chabalang village, Qushui Township, Qushui County, Lhasa city. Sui Baoxiang, governor of Qushui County, received them. According to him, the settlement program in the county was launched on a trial basis in 2005 and will be completed during 2006 and 2007. The government took various measures, including appropriation, subsidy and discount interest loan to raise fund and actively and reasonably guided the farmers according to their housing needs. The farmers personally felt the benefit brought about by the program and were highly enthusiasm. In her bright house, Zhuoga, who received the interview of the journalists, introduced her settlement experience, the support of the government and her own input and expressed sincere appreciation to the settlement program. She also told the journalists her family had increased income considerably by doing business and is confident of a well-off life.
V. Cultural Sites and Religion witness the Protection of Tibetan Culture and Religious Inheritance
During their stay in Tibet, the journalists visited such well-known culture sites and temples as Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Zhashilunbu Temple and Sajia Temple and witnessed the protection of Tibetan culture and progress of Tibetan Buddhism.
The grand Potala Palace is built along the mountain. The architecture integrating the functions of palace, temple and coffin tower is not only the elite of Tibetan ancient architectural art but also the holy place of Tibetan Buddhism. With buildings rising one higher than another, the solid granite wall, glorious golden peak and colorful scripture flags of the architecture add radiance and beauty to each other. The coffin towers of successive Dalai Lamas, delicate frescos and carvings within the Potala Palace are all rare treasures.
Built from the 7th century, Jokhang Temple is the first Buddhist temple in Tibet. The full-length gilded statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni carried by Princess Wencheng of Tang Dynasty to Tibet is worshiped in Jokhang Temple, which gives it the unique position among Tibetan Buddhist temples.
Zhashilunbu Temple started building in 1447 and became the station of successive Bachans after 1601. Covering a total area of 700,000 square meters, the temple is especially grand. The biggest bronze Buddha statue –Buddha Maitreya is worshiped in the temple. The successive Banchan coffin towers and the rare cultural relics granted by the Qing central government are well protected.
Sajia Temple started building in the 11th century. It is the main temple of the Sakya Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Thanks to its help to the Yuan Dynasty in unifying Tibet, Basiba, leader of Sajia, was granted the title "teacher of the emperor" by Hubilie and Sajia got the ruling position in Tibet. Its temple was expanded constantly and once covered a total floor area of 700,000 square meters. Sajia Temple is well known for its rich collection of cultural relics, especially the Buddhist scriptures.
Wandering about in those magnificent sites, the journalists felt the history, culture and profound religious atmosphere. Qingbagesang, director of the management department of the Potala Palace, introduced the various protective measures of the palace, from the huge national input for maintenance to the restriction of daily tourist number, from the careful maintenance of the sewage system and architectural structure to the tangible actions of water and fire protection and cultural relics protection, which made the journalists well familiar with the management of the buildings. In front of Jokhang Temple, the journalists took pictures of devotional Tibetan prayers. Many journalists especially shot the scene of making full-length knocks on the bluestone plate in front of the temple gate. In Sajia Temple they raised many questions on the maintenance. Gesang, maintenance project director, answered their questions carefully from the perspectives of maintenance principle, technique support, project progress and protective measures.
Religious freedom in Tibet is another big concern of the journalists during their visit. Leaders of Tibetan Autonomous Region, heads of religious sites and ordinary monks introduced to them vividly the history and current situation of religion in Tibet from different prospects, especially the gradual resumption and rapid progress of Tibetan Buddhism after the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government has input huge fund to repair the Potala Palace and Sajia Temple with the purpose of maintaining the vigor of those religious landmarks. The government attaches great importance to the self-governance of Tibetan Buddhism and makes every effort possible to protect the religious freedom and right and interest of Tibetan people. As to Dalai, the leaders of the autonomous region and various religious personnel clearly said that Dalai is a political broker wearing the religious coat and has been engaged in the separatist activities for years. To come back to the motherland, Dalai must give up the proposition of "Tibet independence" and match word to deed first. The journalists cared much about the growth of the 11th generation of Banchan. Qiangbachilie, director of the Democratic Management Committee of Zhashilunbu Temple made introduction in terms of Banchan's study, life and participation in Buddhist ceremony activities.
VI. Tibetan Medicine and Pharmaceuticals Are Cultural Essence
Admiring Tibetan medicine and pharmaceuticals, the journalists visited Tibetan hospital and pharmaceutical plant respectively. The head of the hospital introduced the hospital and the treatment principle and progress of Tibetan medicine using Tangka illustrating the Tibetan medical theory in English. The head of the pharmaceutical plant guided the journalists to visit the production process of Tibetan pharmaceutical and the display room of Tibetan drugs. The head of the hospital noted that with profound geological and cultural origin the Tibetan medicine is favored by the Tibetan nationality and has special treatment results of cardiovascular, digestion of carbohydrates and starches, bone injury and liver and gall diseases. The Tibetan medicine gets increasingly mature in the process of exchanges with traditional Chinese and western medicines in recent years. According to the head of the pharmaceutical plant, the plant has built a nationwide sale, market survey and information feedback network and a sophisticated marketing system with ever expanding market share, by which the journalists were deeply impressed. The Turkish journalist sincerely marveled that "Tibetan medicine is really the treasure of Tibetan culture!"