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Tibetan Legislator Calls Railway 'Road to Heaven' for Tibetans

A senior Tibetan legislator said the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a "road to heaven" that brings Tibetans harmony, happiness and economic prosperity.

"It is a railway that people of various ethnic groups in Tibet have expected for more than half a century," said Raidi, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).

"It is bound to have a profound and far-reaching historical significance," he said.

Opened on July 1, the 1,956-km-long railway is the first to reach the Tibet Autonomous Region, on a route that averages more than 4,000 meters above sea level. Slow mail to Beijing

"There was not even a single highway in old Tibet, not to mention air transport or railway transport," said Raidi, a native Tibetan who has been a leading provincial official for many years.

In the distant past, he said, Tibetans relied totally on people and livestock to transport materials to and from other parts of China. A round trip usually took seven to eight months.

"The transport capacity was extremely limited. This seriously influenced exchanges between Tibet and other areas, restricted economic and social development and hampered social progress in Tibet," said Raidi.

He said it took a central government official more than a month to make a trip from Beijing to Tibet in June 1951.

He also recalled that during his four years of study in Beijing more than 40 years ago, he received only one letter from his mother, which arrived six months after it was sent.

"After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Communist Party of China Central Committee made the construction of transport facilities in Tibet a top priority," said Raidi.

In the half century since the liberation, communications in Tibet had taken great strides forward.

The train trip from Beijing to Lhasa takes less than 48 hours.

Nearly every year for 50 years, Tibetan deputies to the NPC submitted motions to NPC annual sessions on building a railway to Tibet. Leaders of Tibet kept up the call for the railway.

He said the CPC Central Committee and State Council made the decision to build the railway at the beginning of this century.

"Building the Qinghai-Tibet railway is a great event that the three leaderships of the CPC and the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the General Secretary care about very much," said Raidi.

The 1,956-km-long railway is regarded as a landmark project in implementation of China's western development strategy, an epoch-making event.

"The completion and opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway is of epoch-making significance to social development in Qinghai and Tibet," said Raidi.

He said the railway was important to improving the lives of people in Qinghai and Tibet, lifting the level of reform and opening up, increasing exchanges, cooperation and unity and realizing common prosperity and development of different ethnic groups.

The railway, linking Xining in Qinghai with Lhasa in Tibet, is hailed as an "engineering marvel" because people used to think the permafrost and slush along the route could never support tracks and trains.

Builders also overcame low oxygen levels on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, know as the "roof of the world", and took great care not to damage the fragile ecosystem.

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