Tibet: the destruction of Lhasa

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Tibet: the destruction of Lhasa


Lhasa is a place of cultural and historical importance for Tibet (ckmck, under a CC License)

In 2001 the Taliban made deep holes into the “Buddhas of Bamiyan” - very old statues cut into a cliff in Afghanistan. They put dynamite into these holes and, in a few seconds, completely destroyed a thousand years of history. This place was very important in the history of Buddhism, Afghanistan and the Middle East. The people in power destroyed it because it did not fit with their political and religious ideas.

In May 2013, I read about construction work beginning at another place of historical and cultural importance – the old Tibetan city of Lhasa, around the Jokhang temple. The plan is to replace the old city with a ‘tourist city’ and a very large shopping mall. I cannot describe the anger and sadness I felt when I read this.

Lhasa began in the 7th century. King Songtsen Gampo developed it as the capital of his Tibetan Empire. This empire covered a lot of modern China. The Jokhang temple and the Barkhor around it are extremely important to Tibetans and Buddhists around the world. Many pilgrims walk from the edges of Tibet to visit it.

The Jokhang temple is protected as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the area around it is not.

This destruction will change Lhasa completely. The city is already divided into Chinese areas and Tibetan areas. When the old city is destroyed and replaced with a very large shopping mall and ‘tourist city’, Tibetans will be cut off and separated in their own country.

In Beijing there is a park, the Ethnic Minorities Park, where you can see the lifeless, version of Tibetan culture that the government wants to show. This will replace the real Tibetan culture in Lhasa. Chinese actors dance traditional Tibetan dances. Copies of Tibetan buildings tell imaginary stories about Tibetan life and culture.

It is more complicated than this, of course. There have been many protests and demonstrations against the Chinese in Lhasa. Lhasa is a symbol of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese occupation.

And so, they say it is ‘modernization,’ but an area of very great historical and cultural importance will be lost forever. Tibetans should decide how to modernize Tibet. Others should not force modernisation on them.

Please sign and share this petition to the director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/kishore-rao-stop-the-destruction-of-lhasa

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2013/05/16/lhasa-risk-tibet/