LHASA, China (AP) — Ji Yunpeng misses hotpot dinners with his wife and daughter back in Beijing and fights insomnia caused by the high altitude in the Tibetan capital by playing computer games, and, occasionally, studying Tibetan Buddhism.
“It’s just out of pure intellectual curiosity,” he said, aware that genuine religious interest would be a breach of discipline in China’s nominally atheist Communist Party.
Ji is in Lhasa on a three-year loan from the Beijing municipal government to oversee the school curriculum in Tibetan classrooms. In return, he gets a double salary and a shortcut up the party ladder. Nearly 6,500 civil servants like him have been dispatched to manage hefty budgets and shape Tibet’s modernization.
They are the human face of top-down development that has poured more than $100 billion dollars into the region since 1952. Critics say that Beijing’s obsession with social stability also has led to widespread human right abuses. But as incomes finally begin to increase across the Tibetan countryside, Chinese authorities are hopeful they can dispel international criticism over their rule in Tibet while winning the hearts of Tibetans and pulling some of their loyalty away from the exiled Dalai Lama.
“The strategy for Tibet is now shifting from the overall kind of repression that we have seen in the past to actually moving toward luring sections of the community and trying to work with those who cooperate with the authorities,” Tibet researcher Tsering Shakya said in an interview from University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
For most Tibetans in exile, the region has been unlawfully occupied by China since it was overrun by the People’s Liberation Army in 1951, and no material gains justify Beijing’s repression. But even skeptics like Shakya acknowledge that “without its intervention, the disparities between the development in Tibet and in China would be even greater.”
In a sign of new confidence, authorities this month invited a handful of foreign media organizations, including The Associated Press, on a tightly scripted visit to showcase Tibet’s development, timed to the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region.[Source]