Expressing concern over China's railway expansion, the Tibetan government-in- exile, officially known as Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has said Lhasa-Shigatse rail line in Tibet, to be opened to traffic in August, threatens the unique cultural identity of Tibetans.
“The railway network will accelerate the mass movement of Chinese migrants into Tibet, which will threaten the unique cultural identity of the Tibetan through forced assimilation,” said an article posted on CTA's website.
It said that China's expansion of its railway lines towards Tibet's borders have also aroused fears and apprehension among its neighbours, particularly India, with which Tibet shares a 3,500 km long border.
News published in state-run Chinese daily Global Times on Thursday said a railway line linking Lhasa and Shigatse in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), known as the “closest stretch of railway to the sky”, is to open to traffic in August.
The rail link that extends 254 km from Lhasa westwards to Shigatse will be the first in the southwestern area of Tibet.
“The mass influx of the Chinese migrants into Tibet has also led to illegal land grabs by unscrupulous Chinese businessmen and authorities,” alleged the CTA in the article, adding that Tibetans inside Tibet have protested against illegal land grabbing of their lands and rampant exploitation of mineral resources.
It said with the influx of the mining companies and rampant exploitation of Tibet's resources, the ecological balance of the fragile Tibetan plateau was exposed to severe risks of disasters.
The Chinese daily said the Lhasa-Shigatse rail line was an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway that runs from Xining, Qinghai Province to Lhasa.
It will include 13 stations with altitudes ranging from 3,600 to 4,000 metres and was developed to accelerate transportation of mineral products.
The CTA has repeatedly alleged that cultural assimilation and environmental destruction are two of the major causes which drive Tibetans to set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese government.