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    Tibet, the New China

    October 10th, 2007 by steve

    Tibet is not an easy place to get to. It is part of China, although China requires multiple “permits” in addition to the standard Chinese visa to get aroud. Of course, you can’t get the permits anywhere other than Tibet (which you can’t get to legally without a permit), so you have to work with a travel agent or similar intermediary who will do the legwork for you. The point is that they want you to be on a guided tour at all times where your actions and interactions with Tibetans can be controlled. We followed a pretty common western tourist route from Lhasa to the foot of Everest and then on to the Nepal border and it required two or three separate permits. Apparently venturing out into the untouristed northern or eastern parts of the country is incredibly difficult.It all seems a bit pointless to me as the Chinafication of Tibet since absorption in 1957 seems utterly complete. Lhasa itself is something like 80% Chinese. The countryside is claimed as largely Tibetan, but that just means the Chinese run the shops while the Tibetans farm or sell sourvenirs to tourists. The serious pilgrims at the monasteries are entirely Tibetan, but the monks are all Chinese! Road and store signs are always written in Chinese and sometimes in Tibetan. It is sad to see a culture slowly erased, but I suppose that happens. The Chinese people who have moved here and taken over are just like any other people looking for better opportunities. It’s hard to blame anyone but a government trying to extend it’s borders. It just means if you travel to Tibet go in expecting China.

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