(TibetanReview.net, Feb 13) – While China keeps saying that tourism in Tibet was fast recovering and the situation there was stable, Reuters, which was a part of a 19-member delegation of journalists from Chinese and foreign media organizations taken on a rare and tightly controlled four-day visit there, said Feb 12 that the ground reality was very different. It said the mountain city was divided between migrants looking to flee and locals short of work as tourism had collapse, leaving state-linked employees the biggest winners.
The report noted that many workers and traders from other ethnic groups who had moved to the remote region in search of a better living were saying they were considering leaving for good, driven away by the tourism slump and icy anger of local Tibetans. It said tourism has plunged with just a trickle of Western visitors while greusome television footage of the riots and stories of unrest in other ethnically Tibetan areas deter Chinese visitors.
The Tibetan boycott of their New Year as a mark of mourning for the many Tibetans killed by Chinese troops during last year’s uprising is adding to the disappointment of the migrant Chinese traders. “Business has not been good at all. People have less money and now many of them are not planning to celebrate the New Year. They are not coming in to buy anything for the house,” the report quoted an ethnic Muslim fabric seller from northwest China who had been in Lhasa four years as saying. He has spoken of growing ethnic tensions ever since the Mar’08 Tibetan protest.
“Before the Tibetans were friendly when they came in to buy things. Now it’s just about business, they don’t even want to chat,” he was quoted as adding.
Failing tourism coupled with Chinese expulsion from Lhasa of all Tibetans not registered as residents in the city in the wake of the Mar’08 protests meant that Tibetan livelihood too suffered severely.
The biggest winners, the report noted, may be those who moved to Tibet as officials or to work in state-linked jobs such as writing for official magazines. They are offered salaries sometimes more than twice hometown levels to tempt them to the plateau, it said. “For graduates we can offer 2,400 yuan ($350) a month, while in (Sichuan provincial capital) Chengdu they would only earn 1,000 yuan,” it quoted one media worker as saying.