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Tuesday 20 Jun
Lhasa, Tibet

Changing times

Its a common misconception that China's oc cup ation of Tibet is a recent occurance. Tibet had to accept China's supremecy as far back as 200 B.C in the Qin dynasty. However, it wasn't truly conquered until the 13th century when the Mongol ruled Yuan dynasty swept through and created the China that we know today. It regained independance after the fall of the Yuan, but was retaken by the Qing dynasty in 1720. Since that time Tibet has only attained a brief and dubious spell of indepe ndance as this final Chinese dynasty collapsed and the country fought with itself until the People's Liberation Army under Mao Zedong took control in the 1950's and declared that it would be come the Tibet Autonomous Region as it is known today.

What is amazing is that Tibetans have resi sted this oc cu pati on for so long. Sadly it looks as though this defiance has finally been put down for good now as China's once great power is returning. Incentives such as tax breaks and the opportunity to have more than one child has prompted a massive migration of Han Chinese into the region who now own most of the shops, hotels and restaurants. The Tibetans are clearly being discriminated against and clearly very poor, working on the new roads, in the fields or begging of tourists. On a couple of occasions our Tibetan driver was bullied by police and border guards who then proceeded to be very friendly and polite to us. I am led to understand that this attitude comes from the Chinese being told that the Tibetans are brutal dangerous savages (they call the oc cupat ion of Tibet a liberation).

Like the rest of China construction here is relentless. Towns are being built at a frightening rate to support the newly irrigated valleys. Posters depict China's vision for Tibet - gleaming highways, trains and skyscraper filled cities. Everywhere we went roads were being built and as of 1st July the impossible will happen as the train from Golmud in the north finally links Lhasa to the rest of China.

The Tibetan culture will not be killed off as the Chinese are sensible enough to see how much Tourism it brings, but like old China Tibet is quickly dissapearing behind its distorted reflection.

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