Despite Chinese attempt to project a positive response to Tibetan sensitivities concerning the controversial Golmud-Lhasa Rail link, Tibetans in Tibet have been speaking out about their fears of Chinese domination in the process of the railroad construction.
In an article on October 29, 2003, titled “Tibetans Fear Strangulation by Rail,” the Los Angeles Times carries reactions from some Tibetans who feel the project will only increase inequality between Tibetans and Chinese. The article said, “Of the 38,000 hired for the job, only 6,000 were Tibetans. The rest were trucked in from inland provinces.” A Chinese settler in Tibet told the Times that he believed the project was there to benefit the Chinese people. Other Chinese detailed how they have been benefiting from the railroad project. In contrast, Tibetans have complained saying they were unable to get jobs on the project.
“We went to inquire about railroad jobs but they said it’s all been taken,” said Tenzin, a 22-year-old Tibetan farmer from Gansu, formerly part of Tibet, but now a Chinese province. “We’ve been here four months and we can’t find anything. We’re willing to be waiters, security guards, tour guides, anything. But no one wants us.”
The article said, “The Chinese seem to have an extra edge. That’s because education and the ability to speak Mandarin Chinese are the basic criteria for most jobs.”
Meanwhile a Xinhua report of October 27, 2003 talked about the completion of a tunnel in Toelung Dechen county (Ch: Doilungdeqen ), near Lhasa, which is “painted red and white, traditional colors used on Tibetan lamaseries and palaces, and decorated with traditional auspicious patterns.” In order to stress that this was a measure to appeal to Tibetan sentiments, Lu Chunfang, general director of the railway construction project, said the designers have been trying to make the 1,118-km rail route from Golmud in present-day Qinghai province to Lhasa a showcase of Tibetan culture.
The authorities also agreed to give a Tibetan name (instead of the Chinese name Zao’erfeng) to the tunnel following calls from the local Tibetans. “As far as I know, it is the first time that the naming has been taken so seriously in railway design and construction,” Ran Li, chief engineer of a survey and design institute attached to the Ministry of Railways, told Xinhua.