- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BEIJING (AP) — China will spend billions of dollars on an airport, power plants, roads and education to help raise the standard of living for Tibetans over the next three years, the state press said yesterday.

Beijing has been aggressively developing Tibet for more than a decade in an effort to improve livelihoods and win popular support in a region that is chronically impoverished and stubbornly resistant to Chinese rule.

Over the next three years, the government will spend more than $12.9 billion on 180 projects in Tibet, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The budget was approved by China’s State Council, or Cabinet, in January, it said. The agency did not say how much of an increase the new allocation represented, but noted that the government had invested more than $8.13 billion on large projects there between 1994 and 2005.

The investment program has raised incomes for some, but it also has brought a massive influx of Chinese laborers who critics say take work away from local Tibetans. There also are concerns that traditional ways of life and the region’s fragile ecosystem are being damaged by Chinese development.

The new investment will go to ensuring that 80 percent of Tibet’s villages are connected by roads, providing free education for all children through middle school and safe drinking water, Xinhua quoted region Vice Chairman Hao Peng as saying.

The money also will be used to pay for power plants and telecommunications facilities in remote villages and to protect natural forests, the report said. An airport in northern Tibet’s Ngari prefecture also will be built.

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