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Beijing boasts of 'leapfrog development' in Tibet

Despite $45.4 billion in investments since 2001 and more than a decade of double-digit economic growth, some observers question whether Tibetans have benefited as much as Han Chinese.

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“The people have nothing to lose,” he said by telephone Monday. “People are fleeing the country. That’s voting with your feet.”

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By 2020, President Hu reportedly said, the per capita income of Tibetan farmers and herders should be close to the national average. Investments in Tibet have already expanded roads, electricity, and safe drinking water. Beijing also credits itself for increasing the supply of Tibetan-made products, such as the first batch of Lhasa Beer that was exported to the US in May 2009.

But Hu added that greater emphasis must be put on increasing environmental protection and improving the livelihood of Tibetan farmers and herdsmen. And further growth must still overcome the “separatist forces led by the Dalai clique,” he said. "Hu asked to substantially prevent and strike 'penetration and sabotage' by 'Tibet independence' separatists, in order to safeguard social stability, socialist legal system, the fundamental interests of the public, national unity, and ethnic solidarity," Xinhua reported.

In October, President Obama became the first president not to welcome the Dalai Lama to the White House since the Nobel Peace Prize winner began visiting Washington in 1991. The decision drew ire from some quarters, as Obama-the-presidential-candidate had called on former President Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in protest of the government's response to the March 2008 riots.

However, Obama has said he will meet with the Dalai Lama early this year. This, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent call for worldwide Internet freedom, is expected to increase bilateral tensions with China.

Websites that post content about the 2008 riots or the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile are blocked in China, and it is against the law to have a picture of the Dalai Lama in China. Tibetan monks are especially wary of the government’s presence, as many monks are believed to be undercover police, the Christian Science Monitor reported in September.

Even monks and workers at Lhasa’s Potala Palace, a UN World Heritage Site and home to the Dalai Lama until 1959, are believed to be undercover Chinese officials.

“If I go to Potala Palace, the monks there listen to what I tell the tourists,” one government-approved tour guide told the Monitor then.

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