Tibet 'consensus' slammed by rights group

A rights group on Tuesday slammed foreign representatives for attending a Chinese government-organised forum in Tibet that claimed international support for a "Lhasa Consensus" on economic development in the mainly Buddhist region.

Beijing: A rights group on Tuesday slammed foreign representatives for attending a Chinese government-organised forum in Tibet that claimed international support for a "Lhasa Consensus" on economic development in the mainly Buddhist region.

Chinese state media said that "130 guests from over 30 countries and regions" agreed "Tibet will have a bright future!" at a two-day meeting in the regional capital.

The official Xinhua news agency said the document stressed the ruling Communist Party`s traditional view that economic development was Tibet`s most important task, adding that growth should be environmentally friendly.

"Cultural preservation with development is the best way to carry Tibet`s outstanding traditional culture forward," the Consensus reportedly said.

It made no reference to the Dalai Lama, Tibet`s exiled spiritual leader and a Nobel laureate.

Beijing says its troops "peacefully liberated" Tibet in 1951 and insists it has since brought development to a previously backward region where serfs were exploited.

But many Tibetans accuse officials of repressing their religion and eroding their culture, adding that natural resources are exploited to benefit China`s ethnic Han majority at the expense of the environment.

More than 140 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing`s rule. Most have died.

The US-based International Campaign for Tibet slammed the forum as a whitewash of political repression and environmental damage in the Himalayan region.

"Instead of seeking to protect this fragile high-altitude environment, China is building multiple dams on all the major rivers running off the plateau, devastating the landscape with large-scale copper, gold, silver and lithium mining, and intensifying urbanisation," it said in a statement.

"It is astonishing that foreign individuals representing respectable institutions would endorse Beijing propaganda, while hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners are still in jail for expressing their views," said Matteo Mecacci, the group`s president.

Beijing restricts access to Tibet by foreign journalists and non-governmental organisations more strictly than any other area, and a German lawmaker was refused a Chinese visa in May after he criticised rights violations in the region, Berlin said.

The full list of international participants in the forum was not available. Xinhua indicated that a representative of the New York-based Asia Society attended, alongside "researchers" from Italy and South Africa, and reporters from Indian, Russian and Thai media.

AFP and other major Western media outlets were not invited.

China`s State Council Information Office, which organised the event with the regional government, said on Twitter: "For those questioning: are foreign journalists allowed to visit Tibet? Friends are always welcomed."

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