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08:30 Apr 06 2011

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U.S. delegation visits Tibet last fall
08:29, April 06, 2011  

Last fall, a small bipartisan delegation of staffers from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Inhofe's office visited southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), to meet with officials and assess current conditions there.

The delegation entered Tibet by traveling 25 hours on the newly opened Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which connects Golmud in northwest China's Qinghai Province with Lhasa, capital city of Tibet.

The "Great Train" is an engineering marvel, built across more than 700 miles of permafrost at altitudes ranging from 11,000 to nearly 17,000 feet. The train carries roughly 1.5 million passengers a year, a blend of tourists, business people, pilgrims, and migrant laborers seeking employment or a new life in Tibet.

During the train trip, staff members spoke with many fellow travelers. On the train, roughly half the passengers appeared to be ethnic Tibetans. One Tibetan passenger was returning from Shanghai Expo, where she had been deployed as part of a Tibetan cultural troupe at the China Pavilion.

The eldest of three siblings, she had one younger brother who was a lama and another who was a student. She spoke of her excitement at getting to present Tibetan culture at Expo. She said that her family's overall quality of life, including income, housing, education, and healthcare, had improved markedly over the past 15 years.

During their stay from Sep. 7 to 19, the delegation visited monasteries, universities, tourist attractions and also met with local official and ordinary Tibetan people.

On Sept. 12, the delegation left Lhasa, and drove to the adjacent alley of the Yarlung River, which gave them a chance to glimpse conditions in the countryside. Along the way the staffers observed several large-scale forestation projects to control erosion and prevent desertification.

The delegation spent the night in Tsetang, a riverside town, and met with local officials, and left the region via plane on September 13. One member of the delegation also traveled to the Tibetan regions of western China in mid-September, spending additional days examining conditions in Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province.

From: China Tibet Online

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