China to pump $47 bln into Tibet to 2015

BEIJING, Sept 14 Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:29am EDT

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BEIJING, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The Chinese government will pump 300 billion yuan ($47 billion) into restive Tibet over the next five years, with 90.5 billion yuan to finance roads, railways, hydropower stations and other infrastructure, state media said on Wednesday.

The 226 projects the money will support are "aimed at achieving rapid development in Tibet", the official Xinhua news agency quoted deputy governor Hao Peng as saying at an internal meeting on Tuesday.

Key transport schemes will include an extension of the railway from regional capital Lhasa to Shigatse, the traditional home of Tibetan Buddhism's second highest figure the Panchen Lama, and highways to the rest of China, the report added.

Other spending will target housing, health care and environmental protection, Xinhua said.

"About 8 percent of the investment will be used to foster the development of indigenous industries, including tourism, mining, agriculture and stockbreeding."

The billions of dollars China has spent in Tibet over the last few years are all aimed at winning hearts and minds in the unstable Himalayan region, and to better integrate it into the rest of the country.

Similar plans have been unveiled for neighbouring Xinjiang, whose Turkic-speaking and Muslim Uighur people have likewise chafed at Chinese rule.

Tibet's economy has grown more quickly than the rest of China, sped by the completion of a railway to Lhasa and large mining projects, though much of Tibet is still remote and very poor.

But those projects have also brought more Chinese migrants to Tibet, leading to many Tibetans' perceptions that they have been left out of economic growth.

Since bloody demonstrations in 2008, the government has boosted training programmes, subsidies and investment there in an implicit recognition of the economic roots to the violence.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched in in 1950. It says its rule has bought much needed development to a poor and feudal region.

Exiles and rights groups accuse China of failing to respect Tibet's unique religion and culture and of suppressing its people. ($1 = 6.399 yuan) (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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