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08:31 Mar 15 2010

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China's Tibetans pray for peace, better life on riot anniversary (2)
08:31, March 15, 2010  

Business is not as good, however, for Drugyal Khara from the Tibetan Xiahe County in the northwestern Gansu Province, who sells souvenirs such as prayer beads allegedly made of yak bone.

"The local people never buy these," he said in Tibetan dialect as he tapped the cash he just earned on his commodity, a silent prayer for more business. "I have to wait for the next tourist rush."

Like many other businesspeople in Tibet, Drugyal Khara is expecting the regional economy to recover soon.

"We're still recovering from the riots and the international financial crisis," said Peng Xiangjun, president of Lhasa's biggest craftwork retailer that reportedly suffered 80 million yuan of economic losses in 2008.

"Last year, our business revenue was only 40 percent of the 2007 figure," he said. "And we were forced to cut jobs by nearly half."

Most of the 50 employees at Peng's store are Tibetans. "We used to hire nearly 100 people," he said.

Tibet's GDP grew by 12 percent to 43.7 billion yuan (6.4 billion U.S. dollars) last year. It would again target 12-percent GDP growth this year.

While tourism and trade are gradually recovering, the regional government's plan to step up exploitation of mineral resources in the coming decade, which goes in line with Beijing's aim of building a "strategic reserve of natural resources in Tibet", will be a major boost to the local economy.

According to the plan, announced by the regional government last week, mineral resources will contribute at least 30 percent to the regional GDP in the next decade as China intensifies efforts to build a strategic natural resources reserve in the plateau region.

"It's a good thing that many people will get jobs," said Thubten, a peasant in Nanggarze County of Shannan Prefecture. "I hope these mining companies will help build roads and other infrastructure, too."

His fellow villager, Pempa Dondrup, said these companies should respect the local people's customs and religious beliefs. "For example, they must not excavate into our holy mountains."

CULTURAL BOOM

At 30, Kelsang Rigzin is a versatile businessman good at singing, dancing and cooking Tibetan cuisine.

His "Tibetan home visit", a 700-square-meter restaurant in Shangrila County of southwestern Yunnan Province yielded at least 200,000 yuan of net income last year.

The restaurant, featuring Tibetan-style food and art, received more than 300 diners Sunday night alone.

"Tibetan food and culture are popular these days among tourists from the inland regions," he said. "In a few years, I'll build a bigger place and expand the business."

The beautiful landscape of Tibetan communities and their romantic nomadic life have triggered a nationwide passion in the recent two decades: young urbanites dream of backpacking tours, Tibetan bars, restaurants and souvenir shops are mushrooming in all the big and medium-sized cities, and books about Tibet are among the bestsellers every year.

He Yunchun, a tour guide of the Naxi ethnic group in Shangrila County, said she had accompanied eight tour groups with a total of200 people to the county's tourist attractions in the past four weeks.

(Additional reporting by Ji Shaoting, Zhang Lixin, Yan Yuanyuan, Lhapa Tsering and Ye Hui in Lhasa, Wang Changshan in Shangrila.)

Source: Xinhua

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