|Opening Statement at the Press Conference Qiangba Puncog, Chairman of the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region|
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning.
I have briefed journalists here on March 17 of the basic information concerning the March 14 riot in Lhasa. Today, I will give some more information about Tibet's status-quo together with Sitar, Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
After the March 14 riot, the government of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Lhasa Municipal government have taken effective measures aiming to restore social order of the city as soon as possible. The governments have helped hospitalize over 380 wounded civilians, offered special compensation to 18 innocent civilians killed during the unrest, provided relief fund for the poor, and repaired power, communication and public facilities damaged during the unrest. We have also decided to exempt shops burnt or looted during the unrest from certain taxes and fees in the following two years, and have provided them with discount loans and other favorable policies to help them reopen soon. For the time being, social order of the Lhasa city has returned to normal. Prices have remained stable with abundant market supply, schools have resumed classes, most shops have reopened, and scenic sites including the Potala Palace and city museums are now accessible to tourists.
The facts have proved that the March 14 riot is premeditated, organized and masterminded by the Dalai clique, and is a vital part of the "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement" organized by the clique and the "Tibetan Youth Congress". Only a small number of monks started the riot, and the people engaged in the beating, smashing, looting and burning on March 14 account for merely a small portion of the Tibet population. These lawbreakers cannot represent Tibet or the Tibetan people, who are strongly against the March 14 riot. The Tibetan people have voiced their support for the measures taken by the government of TAR to deal with the situation, and have demanded the government to severely punish the perpetrators according to law. It is ridiculous for the Dalai clique to say that the unrest is participated and supported by the majority of Tibetan people.
So far, the police department of TAR has detained 953 people for their involvement in the Lhasa riot, and local procuratorial authorities have issued warrants to arrest 403 of them. A total of 362 people involved in the unrest have turned themselves in to the police, and up to 328 among them have been released for minor offence. Among the 93 lawbreakers on the wanted list, 13 have been nabbed and 9 others surrendered themselves to police. The Tibet police have also seized a mass of guns and munitions.
I want to point out here that the Dalai Lama has been making "calls" and "statements" since the March 14 riot with several intentions in mind. The first is to distort facts. Dalai Lama had described the riot organized and masterminded by overseas perpetrators as a "spontaneous" "peaceful demonstration". He also attempted to deny the criminal and violent nature of the riot, and tried to cover up its connection with the Dalai clique. But he cannot deny the facts. The second is to damage the nation's ethnic unity, and to instigate ethnic conflicts. The third is to internationalize the "Tibet issue", to instigate western countries to keep pressure on China. The fourth is to propagate his so-called "high level of autonomy" in "greater Tibet" to seek "Tibet independence". The Dalai Lama made those "calls" and "statements" aiming to stir up more unrest because he cannot reconcile himself to the fact that the March 14 riot has been calmed and that the Lhasa city has returned to normal.
Ladies and gentlemen, with the help from the central government and the people around China, people of various nationalities living in Tibet have achieved huge progress in the region's economic development and people's livelihood through their own hard work. The Tibetan people are the real beneficiaries of the region's reform and development. Tibet has registered an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of over 12 percent for seven consecutive years. In 2007, the region's GDP reached 34.2 billion yuan (about 4.88 billion U.S. dollars) with 12,000 yuan per capita. In the past five years, the central government has subsidized Tibet with 94.7 billion yuan and invested 60.1 billion in infrastructure construction. The region's infrastructure has improved greatly as China opened the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and finished construction all 117 major projects listed in the country's 10th five-year plan in Tibet. By the end of 2007, 612 townships had been connected by roads, accounting for 89.6 percent of all townships in TAR. All townships had been linked with telephones, and over 70 percent of townships have mailing accesses. The government also took measures to solve the drinking water difficulties and have ensured drinking water safety for 1.02 million farmers and herdsmen. So far, over 110,000 households with 590,000 farmers and herdsmen have moved into new houses as the Tibetan regional government has launched a program in 2006 to build homes for 220,000 local farming and herding households by 2010. The average income of farmers and herdsmen reached 2,788 yuan last year after maintaining a double-digit growth rate for five straight years. Tibet is also witnessing rapid social development. Admission rate of primary schools and junior middle schools for school age children reached 98.2 percent and 90.7 percent respectively. The region also took lead in adopting the free nine year compulsory education both in rural and urban areas. Students attending schools in rural areas do not have to pay for both food and accommodation at school. Farmers and herdsmen in Tibet's rural areas do not have to pay for their medical fares, and China has raised their annual medical subsidy to 100 yuan each. Tibet is the first of China's 31 provinces and autonomous regions to cover all its urban residents with medical insurance system. Currently, the average life expectancy of people in Tibet has increased to 67 from 35.5 in the 1950s, while total population of Tibetans has risen to 2.5 million, accounting for 95 percent of total regional population, from 1.2 million in 1964. Moreover, Tibet is also the first of China's 31 provinces and autonomous regions to establish a minimum living allowance system in its rural areas. About 230,000 needy farmers and herdsmen with annual income less than 800 yuan were covered by the system. In the past 20 years, China has invested over 700 million yuan in repairing temples, cultural relics and religious sites. The central government had also made efforts in the collection and publication of Tibetan classics, including the Buddhism transcript the Tibetan Tripitaka, and the heroic epic Biography of King Gesar, to preserve and develop Tibetan traditional culture.
Tibet's development and progress is shared by the Tibet people, and is witnessed by the whole world. The facts have proved that the government has taken the right measures to accelerate economic development and to maintain social order in Tibet. We will stick to those measure in the future. The Dalai Lama's claim that "the Han Chinese has taken all the good things brought by Tibet's development" and the so-called "cultural genocide" is nothing but lies to damage the nation's ethnic unity, to stir up ethnic conflict, and to distort facts in front of the world.
The Tibetan people have fully realized through the March 14 riot that harmony brings happiness to the people while unrest stands for misfortune. The Dalai clique's attempts to seek 'Tibet independence' through disruption of Beijing Olympics are doomed to failure. No matter what happened, our determination to safeguard unification of the motherland, unity of various nationalities and social stability will remain unchanged. We firmly believe that the Beijing Olympics will score a success.