Helping Tibet

By Kang Juan Source:Global Times Published: 2011-7-11 5:07:00

Lu Yunfei, a doctor from Daqing Eye Hospital in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province who came to Tibet as an aid worker, checks the eyes of a 7-month-old Tibetan baby girl in Xigaze on July 19, 2009. Photo: CFP

Li Jun, a 40-year-old official from Liaoyuan, Jilin Province, was dispatched to Saga county, Xigaze prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region in June 2010.

He was one of nearly 1,000 "Aid Tibet" officials from 18 inland provinces and municipalities, more than 60 central government agencies and 17 central State-owned enterprises.

They had been the sixth group sent here since 1995, replacing the previous group that had stayed on the "Roof of the World" for three years.

The regions in Tibet were categorized into four classes according to different altitudes: 3,000 to 3,500 meters above sea level belonging to first class; 3,500 to 4,000 meters, second class; 4,000 to 4,500 meters, third class; and 4,500 to 5,000, fourth class.

The higher the altitude, the harder the life.

The situation in Saga, a county that was 4,600 meters above sea level and bordering Nepal, proves this to be the case.

Electricity was introduced to residents only after a hydroelectric power station was built in 2002, but so far only 34 percent of the 13,000 residents are able to enjoy it. There are only warm and cold seasons here, with the annual average temperature being only –3 C. No heating is available during winter, like other places in Tibet.

However, Li only got the chance to experience such hardships after making it through fierce competition. In Liaoyuan, 137 officials applied for the program in 2009, of whom only six were finally chosen, including Li, who had previously applied in 2003 but was unsuccessful.

"The specialization, age, health, work experience and educational level were all considered in the selection," Li told the Global Times. "I believe most of us are hoping for a different experience though working here."

60 years of aid
The "Aid Tibet" policy can be traced back to 1951 following Tibet's peaceful liberation. According to Jin Wei, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, there were several reasons for the policy, based on her study of top leaders' speeches and important writings: tough natural conditions, a late start in economic development, special social and historical conditions, complicated ethnic and religious problems and the important strategic position that affects the country's integrity and security.

Between 1980 and 2010, the central government convened five meetings to draw up guideline policies and measures for Tibet.

In addition to the special and preferential measures adopted at those meetings, such as free medical services and free education for all children up to high school level, Tibet also received aid from both central and regional governments in the form of finance and funded projects.

Officials and professionals from inland areas have been encouraged to work in the plateau region since 1995.

Li Jun and his five colleagues from Liaoyuan took different responsibilities in the county. Li was mainly in charge of local politics and legal issues. "Public order here is quite good. A major task in the frontier county has been combating Tibetan separatism."

Another major task for the "Aid Tibet" officials is carrying out projects funded by their cities.

Throwing off dependence
However, Li has also discovered some problems in the "Aid Tibet" program. "Repeated projects have been seen in some places," Li said.

Meanwhile, the uneven aid handed out to different regions has also added to the imbalance in regional development in Tibet, Li said.

According to the requirements of the central government, inland provinces and municipalities that joined the partnership assistance program launched in 1994 should allocate 0.1 percent of their fiscal revenues to aid Tibet.

Saga, one of the three counties aided by Jilin Province, can get 20 million yuan ($3 million) from 2010 to 2012, while Ngamring county of Xigaze, one of the five counties aided by Shanghai, can receive at least 150 million yuan, Li said.

"The best way is to put the 'Aid Tibet' funds from inland areas, enterprises and institutions into a pool and allocate it to regions in Tibet according to real demand," Li suggested.

Professor Jin noted that the development of Tibet relies too much on financing from the central government and inland regions.

"Nine out of 10 yuan spent from local financing in Tibet has come from central revenue," Qiangba Puncog, former chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government, has said.

Jin estimated that the percentage is even higher.

The annual fiscal revenue of Saga county, for example, was 3.5 million yuan, but its expenditure was around 100 million yuan, according to Li.

"Tibet has a vulnerable ecosystem, so its modernization should have distinctive characteristics," Li argued. "More efforts should be made by exploiting more tourism sites and coming up with new concepts."

One of Li's concepts for Saga involves experiencing a site in a class-four region on the plateau.

Though Li hoped to work longer in Saga, he believes the way to accelerate Tibet's development is to set up an exchange mechanism for local officials, enabling them to work inland and gain experience.

"Meanwhile, professionals such as teachers and healthcare workers are more needed than officials here," Li said.

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