China rebuilds Dalai Lama`s village

China has renovated the village of the Dalai Lama rebuilding homes of its inmates.

Last Updated: Sep 24, 2010, 21:54 PM IST

Beijing: China has renovated the village
of the Dalai Lama rebuilding homes of its inmates, including
that of his close nephew who is optimistic about the return of
the India-based exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

All the 54 houses of Hong`Ai, the birth place of Dalai
Lama in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau has been renovated and rebuilt
at the state cost including that of Gongpo Tashi, the "stocky
Tibetan whose prime job is to maintain the birthplace of his
uncle, Tenzin Gyatso," (the real name of Dalai Lama) state run
Xinhua news agency said in a report.

Gongpo, 63 who has visited the Dalai Lama twice in
India, says he has not contacted his uncle for a while.

"If I call him some day, I will definitely tell him of
the changes at home."

He built the new home with government subsidy even
though he is among the wealthier villagers, the report said.

He however is not sure the Dalai Lama will ever see
the changes.

"Am I waiting for his return? Well, if he is back, all
problems will be solved," Xinhua quoted him as saying.
It is indeed rare to see a news story about Dalai Lama
figuring in Chinese official media without any critical
references.

The Dalai Lama lives in exile in Dharamshala in
Himachal Pradesh since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed
uprising against the Chinese rule.

The news item of renovation of his village laced with
remarks of his nephew came just days after the Tibetan leader
said in Budapest that he would return to Tibet with a Chinese
passport.

"I`m an optimist, I think I will return to Tibet with
a Chinese passport. A solution must be found that is good for
both China and Tibet," he said.

Tenzin was born in 1935 in Qinghai province which was
hit by massive earthquake this year in which several thousand
people were killed.

He was ordained when he was around six years old and
later left for Dharmashala in India on exile in 1959 after
Chinese troops moved in to establish control on Tibet.

If ever he returns the noble laureate will that all
the old Tibetan homes were replaced modern structure built of
brick and strong timber, says Xing Fuhua, chief official of
Shihuiyao Township, which administers Hong`Ai.

Xing says the overhaul took about 16 months and cost
the government 2.65 million yuan (about half a million
dollars).

Half the sum went in subsidies to households that
built new homes on schedule and in accordance with safety
standards.

"Everyone was enthusiastic. They tore down the old
homes," says Gongpo, a deputy head of Shihuiyao.

"Many of the mud and wood homes were about to
collapse, but villagers could not afford to have them
repaired."

Xing says each household could receive 19,000 yuan for
building new homes and have their courtyard walls and the
front door installed for free, which would cost roughly
another 20,000 yuan.

These two investments equal the income of a family
farming 1.67 hectares of land for 20 years, says Xing.

Hong`Ai remains a largely farming village with a per
capita income of only 3,399 yuan last year, about two thirds
the national rural averages.

Gongpo`s new house has few Tibetan flourishes in the
design other than a framed Tibetan painting. He says he could
have built the house in traditional Tibetan style with
carvings and paintings on the wooden pillars, but few artists
are still capable of such work.

"It is not so necessary anyway, as Tibetans here
have long been living a life not so different from the Han
Chinese," he says.

"Tibetan was not even widely spoken at the time when
the Dalai Lama was born in 1935," he said.

Gongpo, the township official who is not related to
the Dalai Lama`s family, says Tibetans in Hong`Ai adapted to
the Han (majority Chinese race) way of life more than a
century ago.

Every ethnic household was consulted for their
requirements before the overhaul, says Dong Jie, head of the
civil affairs bureau of Ping`An County, who oversaw the
project.

The renovation of rural houses is part of the central
government`s on-going drive to develop the country`s
relatively poor western regions, which have lagged behind
since reform and opening up began in 1978.

In a bid to build an all-round xiaokang (well-off)
society, China launched a new round of West Development
initiatives in the summer.

In Hong`Ai, where farming incomes remain low, the
government has been pouring in funds to build roads, provide
stable power and water supplies, and connect the village to
the world via the Internet.

PTI