On a performing system of democratic centralism

Published : Sep 02, 2000 00:00 IST

- Song Heping, Vice-Governor of Lhasa Municipal Government.


Song Heping is Vice-Governor of the Lhasa Municipal Government in Tibet. I interviewed him in his office on the social, political and economic situation in Lhasa. Excerpts from the briefing and interview:

THE city of Lhasa currently has a population of 400,000. The total area of the city is 53 sq km. Originally, the urban area of Lhasa was just 3 sq km. The population of the core city is nearly 200,000. Actually, we are 45 per cent urbanised and the progr ess of urbanisation has been very conducive to our development. You can see that the city has undergone great changes and development. Under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the government and party of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa has experienced great development. With support from the central government and from the provinces responsible for assisting Tibet, the construction of the city has been making very good progress. The city has taken on a new loo k. The functioning of the city has become more and more complete.

Now we have a very good blueprint for our future development. That means overall planning, which has just been approved by the State Council.

Great efforts will be made for road construction in this city. Over the last few years, there have been great achievements in beautifying the city, planting more trees and grass, and greening the city. Since the Lhasa is the centre of the Tibet Autonomou s Region, as the Lhasa Municipal Government, we have the responsibility and obligation to make this city a beautiful one. Our road system is quite complete, the traffic quite smooth, and we have succeeded in greening the city.

During the forthcoming Tenth Five Year Plan period, with the adoptation of the western development policy the central government and the government of TAR will give our city more support. So we believe this city can be built more beautifully. Every time you come to Lhasa, you will be seeing something new, some new achievements. Apart from the drive for modernisation, we attach great importance to the protection of the traditional area of the city and also historical and cultural relics. Since Lhasa is a time-honoured city, the protection of historical relics and also the ancient city areas has always been on the agenda of the municipal government, the TAR government and also the central government. As you know, the Potala Palace has been listed as a Wo rld Cultural Heritage Site. Jokhang Temple has made an application for such listing and some initial success has been won. Other historical sites like the Norbulingka will also apply for this status. We have also formulated the necessary regulations for the protection of old city areas and historical relics.

We also take some strict measures to prevent illegal construction. The government has been very resolute in this.

As you may have seen, the expansion of the square in front of Jokhang Temple is under way. Such efforts have won the appreciation of the Committee on World Heritage, of our country, and of our people here. To protect the ancient style of Lhasa and also h istorical relics, the central government and the autonomous region government invest millions of yuan every year. Our municipal government also allocates money for this purpose.

The development of social and economic conditions has been very quick. By the end of last year, Lhasa's GDP was more than 3.3 million yuan. The average income of farmers and herdsmen here reached 1,500 yuan. The task of ensuring food and clothing for the people has been fulfilled. Part of our population is moving towards a comfortable way of life. However, we are still facing arduous tasks of economic development. It is the responsibility of our government to make our people well off as soon as possible . In the future, our development will increase at a rate of not less than 15 per cent a year and the people's livelihood will be further improved.

In terms of social development, with the support of other provinces and also the central government, the medical facilities and hygiene in the city and the surrounding rural areas have been greatly improved. Everyone will have basic access to health and hygiene by the end of the century, as our government has promised the world. We also have cooperation with health organisations at the international level and there have been great achievement in this regard. At present, in the areas of farmers and herds men, there are some medical and health facilities, but they need to be improved. We will make great efforts in this regard in the future. The upgrading of big hospitals in the city proper will be completed next year. Since this is also necessary to impro ve the the health of our nationality, the government attaches great importance to it.

With respect to education, the city of Lhasa which comprises seven counties and one district has fully implemented six year compulsory education. The city proper and the counties under the jurisdiction of this district have implemented nine year compulso ry education this year. The city proper implemented it last year and the other counties this year. After five years, all the counties will have access to nine year compulsory education. With the expansion of compulsory education, the quality of our popul ation will be improved. This can help to establish a basis for our future development, that is, the intellectual basis. This is also a very important step for the realisation of modernisation.

The traditional ethnic culture has been invigorated and brought into full play. Apart from the preservation of ancient culture, we attach great importance to making innovations in the cultural field, to facilitate the integration of the ancient culture w ith our modern culture, and to promote long-term development of our cultural heritage.

With the support of the central government, such undertakings as radio and television saw rapid development. If you come to Lhasa again next year, you will see a brand new centre for radio and television broadcasting. With the support of the central gove rnment, we will give all villages and townships access to radio and television within three years. This means that in addition to urban centres, we will make television and radio broadcasting available to all rural areas and herdsmen areas. Currently the coverage of radio is 75 per cent and that of TV 70 per cent. This is not good enough. As you know, not only the urban areas but also the rural and herdsmen areas will be opened to the outside world and will know the world.

It is important for us to preserve fine traditions and we must also absorb fine elements from other areas and the world. That means we want to promote economic development through the promotion of cultural development.

We are very earnest in adopting the state policy of freedom of religious beliefs. The people's freedom of religious beliefs has been protected and all legal religious activities are allowed and protected.

We are also making great efforts to let more people have access to science and technology, and to encourage them to acquire more knowledge and put this knowledge to work. This is also a very important step to promote modernisation. In this connection, ap art from protecting the legal religious activities of our people, we are also very positive in making available advanced information and culture from the outside world to our people. That means we want to speed up our economic development with advanced s cience and technology and advanced theories.

In the field of infrastructure construction, we have made some investment for water conservancy projects, for electronic network construction, and also for upgrading some traditional industries. Our social productive forces have been greatly improved. Du ring the period from 1990 to the end of this year, the investment for infrastructure construction in urban areas and the areas of farmers and herdsmen totalled 2.6 billion yuan.

Every year, our Municipal Government makes some promise to our public, to do something useful for them. By these means, we make our government come under the supervision of our society and our great masses. Now, we are adopting a system of National Peopl e's Congress. Our government fully respects the views of Deputies of the NPC. The government will be very active in putting into effect what our people really need.

Our system of democratic centralism has been performing very well. Our government is accountable to the People's Congress at the same level, that is, the Municipal People's Congress. At the same time, we are subject to leadership by the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Of course, there is a lot of work to do. We still lag behind developed areas by a large margin. We need to develop some new fields, some new industries. All this has been fully incorporated or embodied in our planning. We are fu lly convinced that with the attention and care of the central government and with support from fraternal provinces and with the concentrated efforts of the people of this city, the future of Lhasa will be even brighter.

On the relationship between the old and the new in Tibet and Lhasa: To be frank, there are some conflicts. For example, in the process of industrialisation, it is natural that some pollution will come up. At this stage, the level of industrialisat ion is very low, but we can see that in the process of development some problems may crop up. We attach great importance to sustainable development. In our development strategy, development and control of pollution move together. We will try our best not to seek development at the cost of environment. In any case, we must not repeat the mistakes of other developing countries.

This means our development must be guided by a scientific method and our government attaches great importance to this. So, in building our city, we attach great importance to the protection of historical sites. But protection is protection in the process of development and we will not sacrifice development for the purpose of protection. On the other hand, it is not correct to seek development without giving attention to protection. That means we need to have very good coordination between protection and development.

On the relationship between the Communist Party and the government: In our country, the party establishment leads, our legislative organ is the people's congress, and the government is the executive organ. The will of the party and the need of th e people are put into reality by the government. The government is the organ responsible for the implementation of various plans. This is the management system based on the specific characteristics of China and it complies very well with the realities of our country. Both India and China are big countries and developing countries. In developing countries, it is important to have powerful, capable organisational mechanisms so as to ensure there is no major error or deviation in the development of society . In other words, we must try our best to avoid vicissitudes or setbacks.

On the allegation of threatened cultural extinction and suppression of religious beliefs: You have been visiting Lhasa and some other parts of Tibet. The Dalai's assertion of 'cultural extinction' or 'suppression of religious belief' is totally gr oundless. We must, from the perspective of our people, make some fair and responsible remarks. The facts show that not only did peaceful liberation not destroy or damage the ethnic culture of Tibetans, on the contrary, the government has paid great atten tion to protecting ethnic culture and respecting the Tibetan people's freedom of religious belief. This has been the responsibility and obligation of our government at various levels.

The Dalai clique just makes allegations. It is afraid of stability and development in Tibet. Without the interference, interruption and damage done by the Dalai clique, our society would be even more stable, our development would be even more rapid, and our people's live would be even better. A comparison between the realities of the past and of today fully bear out this view. Everyone should be able to tell the difference in terms of social productive forces and our people's livelihood between the peri od when political and religious authority was combined and today. Our hope is that Indian friends can come to Lhasa to see the realities - whether or not it is like what the Dalai Lama alleges.

On the allegation of population transfer and Hanisation: It is true that some comrades and friends from inland areas and other ethnic groups come here to help Tibet's development. Including myself. But it is impossible for any nationality to devel op isolated. Without mutual assistance from others, the development of one nationality may be very slow. The small number of comrades from other parts of the country and other nationalities who come here to help are welcomed by the Tibetan people. Of cou rse, they are not welcome to the Dalai Lama. If a region or an ethnic group is isolated, how will it develop?

Tibet is an inalienable part of our motherland. Every nationality has the fraternal obligation and responsibility to help the Tibetan people to develop. I must make the point that the number of people who work here as technicians and management personnel is limited.

On the political and social situation: The social situation as a whole is very stable. Actually, the Dalai Lama is afraid of this stability. Our people and government are satisfied with the overall social and political situation. But of course, i t will not be responsible to say there are no criminal cases. There are some burglaries and some robberies. I think it is responsible to say that such things happen in Tibet, but they can be seen in any country, even in the country where social managemen t is the most ideal! We have our judicial organs to handle such cases. Our economic development is acquiring a very good momentum. Development will be even better in the future.

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