Railway raises fears for Tibet's future
Since the Chinese seizure and occupation of Tibet in 1950, this once fiercely independent little nation has fought to hang onto its traditions.
Before the railway there were only two ways into Lhasa: an expensive plane ride, followed by a hair-raising touch down; or three days and nights on an overcrowded bus bouncing along back-breaking mountain roads.This isolation allowed a rich and complex culture to flourish untouched and virtually unknown to the rest of the world since the Middle Ages, until a Brit came upon the city of Llasa one hundred years ago. Foreigners are unwelcome within Tibetan borders and natives are reluctant to adapt to the Chinese ways now imposed on them.
Many a bus, and its passengers, has ended up crushed at the bottom of a lonely ravine.
The arrival of the railway will bring tremendous change. China's communist rulers say it will open up Tibet, bringing greater prosperity for its entire people. Detractors say the opening of the railway is the death knell of an independent Tibetan culture.
A Death Knell indeed...
The religious traditions, the complex social caste structure, the barter economy, farming methods, staple diets, and old healing techniques are just a few of the things being phased out by the occupying regime. Well intentioned "assistance"? Progress? What is so wrong about being insular anyway? and What is to be the fate of this peaceloving people? With several thousand Tibetans in exile abroad, the ones left behind face a daily struggle not only to survive in this harsh climate in the shadow of an oppressive administration, but even to hang onto things like their language and faith. As the author of this article pointed out, it puts one strongly in mind of U.S. government treatment of Native American tribes.
Himalayan Ghetto and Shades of Reservations
Once a nation made up of nomadic herders and farmers, Tibet is headed towards urbanization. Nomadic families are now living on 'state designated properties' and find themselves herded into box-like government housing in the city outskirts.