WSSD Tibet delegation

Members of the WSSD Tibet delegation at Johannesburg Stadium just before the start of the Global Forum Opening Ceremonies. ICT’s Lisa Sock is third from left.

Johannesburg, South Africa – While many governments will be criticized at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) for not adequately addressing their countries’ development problems, the Chinese government may have gone to the greatest lengths to silence legitimate criticism of its development policies on the Tibetan Plateau – an issue of global consequence.

During the preparation process for the WSSD, Beijing targeted Tibet-related non-governmental organizations for exclusion from the international forum, utilizing political pressure and procedural measures to block the accreditation of critical groups, including the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

Tibetans depend on the strength of international support to ensure that issues directly affecting their lives, such as population transfer and environmental degradation on the Tibetan Plateau, are fully examined on the world stage.

“With the Tibetan people barred from full participation, those who can speak freely have a special responsibility to question the Chinese government’s officially-sanctioned positions,” said John Ackerly, President of ICT.

One of the greatest development concerns in Tibet is the construction of a railway to connect Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, with China’s extensive railway system. Construction of the railway, seen by many Tibetans as an extension of the infrastructure of occupation, will result in a dramatic increase in the Chinese settlers and a stronger military presence in Tibet while Tibetans will enjoy few benefits. In the absence of policies driven by Tibetans that would provide for economic opportunities and the preservation of their cultural identity, the railroad could lead to the erosion of Tibet’s distinct culture and facilitate the sinocization of Tibet.

ICT has acquired satellite images of Tibet that reveal some of the demographic and environmental impacts of Chinese population influx. Analysis of these images shows the extent of urban development that has accompanied the influx of Chinese settlers as well as the resulting impact on the surrounding environment, particularly on wetland areas.

“From the giant brown cloud over Asia to the recent, devastating floods, development policies that impact this region cannot be ignored,” said Ackerly. “Tibetan stewardship has safeguarded the Tibetan Plateau for millennia; Tibetan voices need to be heard.”

ICT is participating in the WSSD as part of a larger delegation with other NGOs and country delegations. At the summit ICT will seek to advance a debate on China’s development record and Tibetan concepts of sustainable development in Tibet.