Distinguished Chairman Nault and friends from the foreign affairs and international development committee, it is a pleasure for me and my delegation to visit Canada, especially this foreign affairs committee here today, and to have discussions with our counterparts. If I may, I would like to introduce the major members of our delegation.
Mr. Pubudunzhu is deputy to the National People's Congress, and he's also the mayor of Shannan City from the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Mr. Duojiciren is a deputy to the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and vice-chair of the Committee on ethnic, religious, foreign and overseas Chinese affairs of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Mr. Awangdanzeng is a deputy to the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the vice-chair of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of Zha'nang County in Shannan City. He is also the deputy director general of the administrative office of Minzhulin Temple, also located in Zha'nang County in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
I am a deputy to the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and secretary of the Lhasa Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China.
At present, the China-Canada relationship is maintaining a good momentum of development with close contact between the higher levels. We have also witnessed frequent economic and trade exchanges between the two sides. This year is the Canada-China Year of Tourism. We have come here this year at this time, which makes me feel quite happy.
I would like to brief you about the basic situation of Tibet. The Tibet Autonomous Region is located in the southwest part of China. It is one of five autonomous regions in China. It covers an area of about 1.2 million square kilometres with a population of 3.37 million people.
Tibet has been an integral part of China since ancient time. Since ancient time, the Tibetan people have lived in the Qinghai–Tibet plateau, but we have even closer relationships and exchanges with the inner land in terms of politics, economies, and cultures. During the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and currently, the central government of the Republic of China has exercised effective administration over Tibet. Especially during the Yuan dynasty, Tibet was incorporated into the map of China.
In 1951, we had the peaceful liberation of Tibet, which eliminated the feudal serfdom and greatly improved people's livelihood. The farmers and herdsmen live on the plateau. They are given their land, grassland, and livestock for survival and living, and have said goodbye to the lives that were being exploited by the slave-owners. They have become master of their life.
Starting with the peaceful liberation, with the leadership and support from the central government of China, and also the effective assistance from other provinces in China, the situation in Tibet has improved a lot. Especially since the 18th national congress, and also under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, with Mr. Xi Jinping at its core, we have carried out the people-centred concept, and improved economic, social, and various situations in Tibet.
The economy is growing rapidly, and the infrastructure has also improved. In terms of the GDP, in 2017 the figure was at 131 billion RMB, which is 1,000 times more than that at the beginning of the peaceful liberation, which was only about 131 million RMB.
The infrastructure in Tibet is much better than in previous times. We have established a comprehensive transportation system, including railways, highways, and aviation. For example, we have already put into force the railway from Golmud to Lhasa and from Lhasa to Shigatse, and there is a total of 90,000 kilometres of highways. We have five airports in the region, which can help us reach 47 cities in this country, with 79 routes.
The one thing to mention is that the energy system has developed quite rapidly, especially the clean energy. The installed capacity of the electricity has reached about 3.9 million kilowatts. We have a clean energy mix composed of water, wind, and solar power, which can reach the 62 counties in this region.
Especially, we can see the progress of Tibet in the per capita GDP. The number for the year 2017 is over 10,000 RMB.
The living conditions in Tibet are also much better than before. We have launched a lot of projects and programs to make sure that people are comfortable and in safe living conditions. These have benefited about 400,000 households and 2.4 million people in Tibet.
In terms of education, we have paid much attention to the improvement of the whole education system, including preschool, basic, high-level, and also continuing education. For the compulsory education, the students don't need to pay for their accommodations, their food, or their tuition at school. There are about 660,000 students in universities and colleges, with 18,000 graduates every year.
The medical service system in Tibet is also much improved, and we have medical service free of charge in the whole region for four levels, namely, the city level, the prefecture level, the county level, and the township level. We fundamentally improved the medical services for the farmers and herdsmen living there; and the life expectancy has increased remarkably, from 35.5 years at the beginning of liberation to 68.1 years currently.
Compared with where we were before, we have achieved a lot. However, compared with other countries and regions, including Canada, we are still comparatively at a low level of development, which will require further effort in the future.
The various ethnic groups living in Tibet have enjoyed good protection of human and cultural rights, especially in the protection of spoken and written languages in Tibet. The government has issued policies and regulations for better learning, use, and development of the local spoken and written languages.
There are clear-cut stipulations in the policies, which help the local people quite a lot by allowing them to use their own language in their work and other aspects of life. We have also finished the process of compiling the Tibetan language teaching text, which is currently used in schools, as well as in other aspects of the protection of local culture.
With respect to freedom of religious belief, it is quite ideologically respected and protected in Tibet. We currently have 1,700 sites for religious beliefs, with 46,000 monks and nuns living in monasteries and temples, satisfying the needs of worshippers.
As living standards improve and as transportation conditions become better, more and more people outside of Tibet are involved in religious activities, which means that the Tibetan government and the government in Lhasa need to do more to provide related services. The people worship in various ways. They kneel down in the kowtow position, with the prayer wheel in their hands, or they go inside the monasteries to worship.
Many Canadians have visited Tibet, and I think you know a lot about that.
The ecological environment is well protected in Tibet. There are very good conditions for ecological protection from a global perspective.
In terms of ecological protection, the improvement is attributed to many things. First, there is the improved awareness in those from all walks of life there. We carried out the concept proposed by President Xi that the Green Mountains are mountains of treasure. Even the Tibetan Plateau is snow-capped, but we still think it can also turn into a mountain of treasure if we protect the environment well.
Second is that the state council, or the central government, has a plan for the ecological environment of Qinghai and the Tibetan Plateau. To be specific, there is about 770 million RMB in funding for environmental protection, of which two million RMB are for the protection of grasslands in Tibet.
The third point, which is last but not least, is that we have allocated about one-third of the total territory of Tibet to be a natural reserve. It covers about 410,000 square kilometres, providing good conditions for environmental protection.
I worked in Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region. We have quite good environmental quality, maybe in the top three cities in China. For the first quarter of this year, we ranked second among all of the cities in this country.
I will just stop my introduction here and say that during my two short days in Canada, I have learned a lot of good things and had good experiences.
I will take those back to my country and to my region, which can further improve the local area a lot in the future.
[Member speaks in Tibetan
Members might not know, but that was—though badly—the first time the Tibetan language has been used thus far in this meeting. Perhaps it's revealing enough, sir, that you came here and spoke as a representative purportedly of the Tibetan people, but you didn't use the Tibetan language; you spoke Chinese.
Of course, members might know that there is a gentleman, Tashi Wangchuk, who is an advocate for the Tibetan language, who currently faces 15 years in prison as a result of his advocacy and his simple statements on his blog that China's own laws should be followed with respect to the ability to use the Tibetan language.
I'm also struck by how you talk about all these alleged economic improvements, yet Canadian officials tell us that they can't even get basic access to Tibet to check on the status of Canadian development projects. How are we in any way to assess the credibility of the claims you're making when our officials can't even get in to see progress on projects that Canadian tax dollars are funding, and they're told by Chinese officials, after those projects are complete, that they are no longer concerns of Canada even though they're Canadian-funded projects?
All these claims about human rights and about economic development are striking in light of the complete denial of access and in light of the fact that Freedom House says Tibet is the second-least free place in the world, after Syria. We have no ability to assess your claims, because your government doesn't allow us access. That's unfortunate, because I think we would like to assess the veracity of the claims you've made.
I want to ask you a specific question dealing with the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama.
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is recognized by the Dalai Lama and by the international Tibetan community as the 11th Panchen Lama.
Oh, I'm sorry, the translation—
I'm talking about human rights, and I think there's no conflict between the protection of the local Tibetan spoken and written language and the rule of law. What the person you mentioned said was to protect the local languages, no matter whether they're spoken or written, and what he did was to incite separatist activity…and we need to focus on what he did, rather than what he said.
Second, you mentioned Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. I would like to repeat again that he has a really healthy and happy life in Tibet, and he has received a good, modern education. We need to respect his willingness and also his family members. When talking about human rights there, we need to respect everybody's rights, including those of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. If he doesn't want to be interrupted by the outside world, then we need to respect him. It is irrational, I think, for the....You mentioned the Canadian delegation or the international delegation coming to Tibet, which may interrupt his life.
Third is the middle way and the negotiation and the dialogue between the central government and the Dalai Lama. I think the so-called middle way has no way. He targeted the Dalai clique. He aims to have Tibetan independence. They have their own slogan, but we also need to see what he did. He wanted to achieve the independence of Tibet. If you have basic knowledge about the situation of Tibet, you would not believe what he said.
The Dalai Lama said the greater Tibetan zone will never be accepted by the central government of China and also the people of Tibet. The Dalai clique wanted to achieve so-called high-level autonomy and the middle way, but I think the ultimate motivation is to maintain the privilege of the feudal serfdom system, which was exercised before the liberation of Tibet.
I suggest that when you're talking about the issue of Tibet, you need to figure out from what perspective you are looking at this issue. We need to focus on and take into consideration the requirement and the willingness of the majority, the farmers and herdsmen living in Tibet, what they require and what they want to have and to see, and then we can have better discussions relating to the Tibetan people. Without knowing the basic situation and the basic willingness of the people, how can we have a sound conclusion about Tibet? In addition, in recent years we have had a very stable situation in Tibet, without any self-immolation. Maybe there are rare cases in other provinces that were inhabited by the Tibetan people as well.
Four of us are Tibetan people; we were born and grew up in the Tibetan plateau and also worked there for many years. I myself have been to 74 of the counties and towns in Tibet, and for each county and town, at least three times.
Mr. Pubudunzhu is now the mayor of Shannan City. He previously worked in Lhasa and in many other cities of Tibet.
From our discussion and dialogue with the local people and the grassroots people, we understand well what they want physically and spiritually and what they need. We need to take into consideration fully the requirements of the majority of the Tibetan people.