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Railway Won't Bring Influx of Settlers

The newly opened railway that has linked Tibet with the rest of China for the first time will not bring an influx of permanent settlers to the plateau, the region's vice-chairman has said in response to an Austrian reporter's question.

"Tibet's unique natural conditions make it impossible for the Han people and other ethnic groups to settle down here," said Wu Yingjie, also a top publicity official of the regional government.

Wu made the remark in response to a question over whether immigrants will flood in and destroy the plateau ecology after the railway opens, raised by Burkhard Bischof, a reporter with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse.

Bischof is among a group of Austrian reporters who are in Tibet for a 10-day tour.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest that opened on July 1, has promised easier traffic, enhanced communication and economic progress to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Yet some people overseas have voiced concern over a "cultural genocide" by an influx of the Han people, China's largest ethnic group.

"The Tibetans and the other 55 Chinese ethnic groups are members of one big family," said Wu. "It's natural for them to conduct exchanges freely."

He said there are some Han people and other nationals working in Tibet. "They're helping with Tibet's construction. Their efforts in medical, public health, education and other sectors are aimed at bringing the Tibetans closer to modern civilization and improving the quality of local people's life."

Fifty years back, Wu said Tibet was an isolated land with 960,000 people and almost negative population growth. "Today, its population has expanded to 2.7 million, with Tibetans accounting for 95 percent."

Tibet is a vast land of 1.2 million square kilometers, so tourists won't overburden the local ecology in the short run, he said. "But the regional government is aware of the environment issue and has started to take measures to minimize the impact of tourism."

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