BEIJING, China, 12 July 2016
A rights group on Tuesday slammed foreign representatives for attending a Chinese government-organised forum in Tibet that claimed international support for a “Lhasa Consensus” on economic development in the mainly Buddhist region.
Chinese state media said that “130 guests from over 30 countries and regions” agreed “Tibet will have a bright future!” at a two-day meeting in the regional capital.
The official Xinhua news agency said the document stressed the ruling Communist Party’s traditional view that economic development was Tibet’s most important task, adding that growth should be environmentally friendly.
“Cultural preservation with development is the best way to carry Tibet’s outstanding traditional culture forward,” the Consensus reportedly said.
It made no reference to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader and a Nobel laureate.
Beijing says its troops “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and insists it has since brought development to a previously backward region where serfs were exploited.
But many Tibetans accuse officials of repressing their religion and eroding their culture, adding that natural resources are exploited to benefit China’s ethnic Han majority at the expense of the environment.
More than 140 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing’s rule. Most have died.
The US-based International Campaign for Tibet slammed the forum as a whitewash of political repression and environmental damage in the Himalayan region.
“Instead of seeking to protect this fragile high-altitude environment, China is building multiple dams on all the major rivers running off the plateau, devastating the landscape with large-scale copper, gold, silver and lithium mining, and intensifying urbanisation,” it said in a statement.
“It is astonishing that foreign individuals representing respectable institutions would endorse Beijing propaganda, while hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners are still in jail for expressing their views,” said Matteo Mecacci, the group’s president.
Beijing restricts access to Tibet by foreign journalists and non-governmental organisations more strictly than any other area, and a German lawmaker was refused a Chinese visa in May after he criticised rights violations in the region, Berlin said.
The full list of international participants in the forum was not available. Xinhua indicated that a representative of the New York-based Asia Society attended, alongside “researchers” from Italy and South Africa, and reporters from Indian, Russian and Thai media.
AFP and other major Western media outlets were not invited.
China’s State Council Information Office, which organised the event with the regional government, said on Twitter: “For those questioning: are foreign journalists allowed to visit Tibet? Friends are always welcomed.”