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China Announces Decision to Increase Urban Tibetan Population by 30 Percent

Tourists file out of a passenger train that arrived at the train station in Lhasa, southwestern China's Tibet province, Tuesday, July 31, 2007. Built at a cost of US$4.2 billion, the Chinese government says the railway linking Tibet to the rest of China is projected to help double tourism revenues in Tibet by 2010, and cut transportation costs for goods by 75 percent. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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China's decision to increase the permanent urban population of Tibet by 30 percent by the year 2020 has raised concern among many Tibetans and Tibetan supporters in exile.

The plan initially proposed by the local government of Tibet at a recent urbanization conference with the approval by Beijing announced that China would increase the permanent Tibetan urban population by roughly 280,000 within the next five years.

According to Lobsang Jamcan, current chairman of the regional Tibetan government, urbanization would improve public services in small cities and towns, attract more talent, and boost local economy.

Meanwhile, the London based Free Tibet believes the population increase does not signify Tibetan's prosperity​ and the huge influx of Chinese migrant workers are infact offered incentives by their government to move to Tibet. "China believes that by populating its occupied territories with Chinese people, it will make protests and Tibetans resistance weaker and homogenize Tibet."

Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of the International Campaign for Tibet based in Washington, DC tells VOA Tibetan Service that it is imperative that China takes into consideration Tibet's culture, identity, and environment while undertaking these development activities.

China has also initiated various railway projects inside Tibet to assist with tourism, population migration, expansion of mining, and large scale exploitation of Tibet's natural resources. According to China’s strategic railway map, the future railway lines will run through the entire south-western border areas of Tibet. Last August, the western most city of TAR and Shigatse was connected by the railway. The new construction will make Shigatse a hub for railway lines that will stretch to the borders of India, Nepal, and Bhutan and connect with Xijiang (via Mt. Kailash region).

“While the Chinese claim as much as they want that this is being built purely for economic and commercial purposes, the trains don’t care about whether or not military personnel ride them or civilians ride them,” says Sumit Ganguly, Professor of Political Science at Indiana University as he raises his concerns about the intentions of the new railway construction.