BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
TodayBBC Radio 4

Listen Again
Latest Reports
Interview of the Week
About Today
Today at 50
Message Board
Contact Today

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

Weekdays 6-9am and Saturdays 7-9am How to listen to Today
Latest Reports

Tibet - The Forgotten Land.


A temple in TibetA small temple in Lhasa.
It's now 45 years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet fearing for his safety following the Chinese occupation. Matthew Grant was given rare access to visit Tibet as a journalist for this programme.

Matthew Grant gained rare access to Tibet to discover how the Chinese authorities plan to ensure it remains part of China.
The palace of the Dalai Lama.

The Palace of the Dalai Lama.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

The Vice President of Tibet Wu Yingjie

The Vice President of Tibet Wu Yingjie.
A tourism student

A tourism student in Tibet.
Traditions are still kept sacred in a Tibetan Buddhist temple.

Traditions are still kept sacred within a Buddhist temple in Tibet.
Migrant Workers still forced to live in poverty.

Migrant workers still forced to live in poverty.
For years Tibet was a forbidden country, shut off from the outside world, a land of mountains, monks and mysticism. Decades of sometimes brutal repression followed but the modern Tibet now boasts a stock exchange, and even a red light district.

The hundreds of Chinese pouring into Tibet have resulted in the economy growing. The problem is that many Tibetans say this leaves them worse off than ever. Criticising the regime remains dangerous, but when no one is listening many of them claim they are being forced out of business, their livelihoods and culture swamped by migrants from China.

The capital Lhasa is now believed to be home to more Chinese people than Tibetans. Wu Yingjie, Tibet's vice chairman, who is himself Chinese, denies this. He says the Chinese in the capital are there to help.

"The large immigration from China to Tibet increases the living standard of the Tibetan people," he tells me. "The Tibetan people welcome them to participate in the construction of Tibet. After the construction they will go back to inland China."

"Also a pillar of industry in Tibet is tourism, if there is no tourism, where can we make money from?"

And amongst the newest arrivals are one hundred tourism guides from China, here to teach the locals. I ask Meema, who is from Lhasa and one of the students in the class, whether she finds it strange that she is from Tibet and that people from China are coming to teach her about her area. The answer is revealing by what she chooses not to dwell upon.

"I think the most important thing is the situation is like this, so what we should do is to put more effort into our study," she replies.

"So we shouldn't think about this thing all the time, we should put more enthusiasm into our study to be a good tour guide when we are doing our job."

Tourism is certainly big business with about a million visitors last year - the vast majority of which were from China.

What they come to see is the temples and monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism - and the palaces that used to be home to its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. At Norblinka, the Dalai Lama's former summer residence, they can even gaze upon his abandoned toilet. It's a strange scene and whilst pictures of the Dalai Lama are still forbidden, China's building an industry around the man it won't even talk to.

Many ordinary Tibetans feel excluded in their own land, leaving them with few options. Prostitution is increasing. The red light district, like everything else, is segregated into Tibetan and Chinese.

In the Tibetan district I find one young girl prepared to tell her story. After a few minutes, despite her surroundings, she starts to cry.

"Before we came here we were told we were going to be singers in the biggest song and dance place in the city of Lhasa," she explains.

But she arrived in the Tibetan capital to find that she and her sister had been tricked.

"It turned out we became prostitutes here. We tried to escape once, but we were caught by the boss and brought back here. Now we have no money so we have to stay here."

China is now building a railway line from the mainland into Tibet. This is a feat of engineering - much of the line will run at an altitude of above 5,000m where the ground is permafrost. But it could have a more far-reaching significance - when the railway is finished, it will bring more workers and tourists from China.

Back to Reports Homepage

Latest Reports

Back to Latest Reports Homepage

Audio Archive
Missed a programme? Or would you like to listen again?
Try last 7 days below or visit the Audio Archive page:


Today | Listen Again | Latest Reports | Interview of the Week | About Today | Today at 50 | Have Your Say | Contact Today

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy