Home Analysis Xi’s Tibet visit endorsed Chinese pluralism, religious rights

Xi’s Tibet visit endorsed Chinese pluralism, religious rights

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President Xi in cusps of history on arrival in Tibet

By IKENNA EMEWU

July 2016, I was pleasantly in ecstasy traveling through the most beautiful landscape anyone can imagine.

The Tibet Autonomous Region of China offers a visitor on golden platter all the fun and fond memory that last a lifetime.

From the sky flying into Lhasa, the Tibetan capital city, you encounter amazing mountain ranges capped with snow that shimmers in the sun, a beauty that would make you wish to remain in the sky forever to feed on this wonder wrought by nature.

On landing at the airport, the endless range of mountains come clearer and become more enrapturing.

Tibet is as hot as fire by July with the blazing sun that feels like it melts your skin, yet the beauty carries you away. We witnessed a world made for beauty. It was also a world whose development pace hurtles at high speed.

It is a part of China, though remote, that its interest is in the heart of the leadership of China with multiple projects simultaneously sprouting.

Beyond the beautiful landscape of mountains, valleys, springs at every curve of the ranges that build into rivers, traveling for 10 hours through the most rugged and impossible landscapes from Lhasa to Nyingchi was amazing.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi railway work was on, tearing through mountain bellies and creeping over wondrous valleys and rivers. The railway track that was ongoing had hundreds of tunnels dotting the windy and snaky track.

Reading in the news last week of the visit of President Xi Jinping of China to Tibet, the first since the history of China under the CPC, was amazing and heartwarming.

Xi visited at a time China and the CPC are still in celebration of the 100 years of the party and its leadership of China.

It also coincides with a time those that see nothing right about China are busy traducing and working themselves into frenzies of spurious claims of gross human rights abuses at the northern neighbours of Tibet in Xinjiang.

Xi visiting for the 70 years anniversary of the liberation of Tibet is a dream come true for minority and heavily religious Tibet that has witnessed growth and development in so many ways.

Visiting places in Tibet, I recall the Lhasa stadium we were told was built for the city by the Beijing Municipal government and other facilities by some other provinces like Shandong, Zhejiang as the wealthy areas assisting the growth of Tibet.

President Xi with Buddhist monks in Tibet

At Nyingchi, we travelled through the most amazing road imaginable to Lulang, a little scenic town buried in the belly of deep and breathtaking valleys.

Nyingchi, an airport city is the second largest in Tibet after Lhasa. Interestingly, the Tibetans and some other smaller ethnic groups were excluded from China’s one child policy when it was in operation. The reason was to ensure the minority groups were preserved through procreation. While other parts of China enjoy nine years of free and compulsory education, it is 15 years in Tibet, as a way to encourage their growth to catch up with the advanced parts of the country. Such policies signpost China as a country with human face policies that don’t leave the weak behind. Notwithstanding the stories about China’s aversion for religion overtly contorted, Tibet is a religious bay of China, with almost 100 percent of the population into religious inclinations. Seventy eight percent of the people are Tibetan Buddhists, a little of Islam, Christianity and Chinese traditional belief systems. On the road to Nyinchi from Lhasa, I witnessed what the natives explained to me and it was most wondrous. The mountains all over Tibet and on the road are decorated at intervals with colourful pieces of cloths, hanging on the vegetation. We were told those were worship places, and there were thousands of them all over the place. I visited the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lama, some other religious squares and even ceremonies in Lhasa that open to tourists. There we saw adherents trooping in and out of the Potala Palace and other holy places in reverential worship.

It was quite amazing reading reports of President Xi taking a ride on the new Nyingchi-Lhasa railway that is to link the nearby Sichuan Province.

He had tasked the people to promote the high-quality development of Tibet on the principle that all development is to facilitate ethnic unity and progress, to improve livelihood and unite people, and to elevate the sense of gain, safety and happiness of all ethnic groups.

The news report also said: “During the visit, Xi also inspected Nyingchi and the regional capital Lhasa, as well as a number of key local infrastructure projects, including the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway project. 
Xi went to Nyingchi railway station where he was acquainted with the design of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway and the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway section, which started service in June. To put a seal of credibility on the reality of that project, he took a ride on the new train service to Lhasa, Tibet’s first electrified railway service.

When it comes on board, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway is expected to reduce travel time from other regions to Tibet by 30 percent, and cut travel time from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours, the report noted. 

Quite interesting also is that at Lhasa, Xi visited religious places and interacted with Buddhist monks. This is the leader of the CPC that is said to be rabidly anti-religion and denies the people the right to profess religious beliefs. That visit by President Xi was direct evidence to counter the claims that China’s government opposes religion in all its dimensions and probably signifies a new dawn of larger and deeper freedom for the masses of the country to hold to their beliefs so far it is not in contrast with state policies.

The media reported that Xi visited the Drepung Monastery, Barkhor Street and the Potala Palace square in Lhasa to learn about the work on ethnic and religious affairs, the conservation of the ancient city, as well as the inheritance and protection of Tibetan culture.  

What an outing and major turnaround it was? That signaled a truer picture of the leadership of China for a liberal stance in a plural society of multi-culture, religion and languages settings.

FIRST PUBLISHED ON CGTN.COM ON JULY 26

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