The Chinese say the 1,142km railway, which opened in July last year, is part of a move to modernise and develop China’s poorer western regions, including the Himalayan province.
But critics cite environmental concerns and say the railway line is allowing Han Chinese, the national majority, to flood into Tibet as part of an effort by the Chinese government to erode local Tibetan culture.
The Dalai Lama said in his speech that the railway was causing “further deterioration of its [Tibet’s] environment, misuse and pollution of its water and exploitation of all natural resources, all causing huge devastation to the land and all those who inhabit it.”
Meanwhile, the People’s Daily, a Chinese newspaper, reported on Saturday that China plans to build 37 new airports, including one in Tibet, and expanding 31 others in China’s western regions over the next four years.
The western areas of the country had only 38 per cent of the nation’s airports, and the need for more access to aviation was growing with the country’s economic development, the paper said, citing Chinese civil aviation authorities.
The new airports to be built in Tibet would be the highest in the world at over 4,000 metres above sea level, the newspaper said.
Protests in India
|Protesters in Nepal marked the anniversary
by observing a minutes silence (Reuters)
Tibet has been considered by most world powers as part of China since Chinese troops occupied the region in 1950.
Tibetan protestors in Neapl marked the anniversary with a minutes silence while in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived in exile since fleeing Tibet in 1959, there were anti-Chinese protests in various parts of the country.
In New Delhi, the Indian capital, some 50 demonstrators made a bid to scale the walls of the Chinese embassy but were dragged away by police, though none were arrested, said police sources.
The Dalai Lama has said he is only interested in autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule, and not independence, arguing that remaining part of the communist state is in the economic interests of the Tibetan people.
But last week in Beijing Qiangba Puncog, the governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region said, that the Dalai Lama’s hopes of returning to Tibet were still “very distant.”
China says Tibet’s exiled religious leader has not fully abandoned hopes of independence.
“He has to abandon independence calls and also his demands for a high degree of autonomy for Tibet,” he said.
The Dalai Lama called again on Saturday for “genuine” regional autonomy for all Tibetans.