China Focus: Chances, challenges as Tibet ushers in extraordinary year
2015/02/24

BEIJING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The year of 2015 is expected to be eventful for the southwestern Chinese autonomous region Tibet, as it ushers in crucial anniversaries and strives for development achievements.

The Tibetan year of the Wooden Ram will start on Thursday.

In September, China will observe the 50th anniversary of the founding of Tibet Autonomous Region.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of China sending the first Tibetan students to study in inland cities, to boost the development of the landlocked Himalayan region.

Both anniversaries will serve as reminders of how Tibet, a backwater with an inhumane serf system, has developed over the past decades.

More economic growth potential is expected to be unleashed in Tibet this year, which has maintained double-digit growth over the past 20 years.

In 2015, Tibet, still one of the poorest regions in the world's second largest economy, will aim to maintain economic growth at 12 percent, the same as last year. An eye catching figure against the backdrop of China' s slowing economy. The per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen on the plateau increased by 14 percent year on year in 2014.

The growth momentum is expected to help Tibet, where about 10 percent of the regional population live under the national poverty line of 2,300 yuan, to catch up with other areas and fulfill China's goal of building a well-off society by 2020.

In the first weeks of this year, tension and confrontation have already emerged between Beijing and the West over Tibet, which has been part of Chinese territory since ancient time.

China this month reiterated its firm and consistent stance against any form of foreign intervention after U.S. President Barack Obama warmly acknowledged the Dalai Lama in Washington despite Beijing's protests.

Since taking office in 2009, Obama has met with the 14th Dalai Lama for several times. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency supported him in secessionist activities in the 1950s and 1960s.

The move was regarded an extension of the White House's self-conflicting Tibet policy -- it does not back Tibet independence but sends contradicting signals that encourage the separatists.

This year, the Dalai Lama will turn 80 years old, an occasion which has already been used by the political exile as an opportunity to preach the de facto independence of Tibet.

To regain his waning influence, the monk said in December that his traditional religious role should cease with his death. A claim that is against the Tibetan Buddhism tradition as the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death. This could upset the reincarnation system that has been honored for hundreds of years in Tibet and destabilize the Buddhist region.

Analysts say that in an extraordinary year, maintaining social stability will take painstaking efforts for the Tibetan-inhabited regions that have seen self-immolation and fatal violence over the past years.

This week, Chen Quanguo, Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of Tibet, urged the region's officials to stay alert of anything that could threaten stability.

"Maintaining stability is still a challenge for Tibet [...] stability supersedes all," he told a regional work conference.

Tibet is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China.

Five years after Tibet's peaceful liberation in 1951, the 14th Dalai Lama became the chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region.

He fled to India in 1959 after a failed armed rebellion. In the same year China started democratic reform in Tibet, ending the 1,000-year-long serfdom and the hierarchic social system characterized by theocracy, with the Dalai Lama as the core of the leadership.

The reform, aimed to free about 1 million serfs and slaves who accounted for 90 percent of the Tibetan population at the time, was completed in the 1960s.

The 14th Dalai Lama was elected as a deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1954, a post China reserved for him until 1964.

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