Woeser: “Our Lhasa is on the Verge of Destruction!”

The Chinese government’s development of Tibet in recent years is resulting in the destruction of many historically and culturally significant areas, especially in Lhasa. A recent post by Tibetan writer Woeser looks at the destruction of Lhasa and calls on the international community to help. Translated by High Peaks Pure Earth:

Of course, the Barkhor, which was originally a place of religious significance, won’t turn into a deserted street. On the contrary, it will become a bustling street, existing only for the benefit of tourists. But it will never again be the street of those Tibetans who circumambulate, come on pilgrimage, and prostrate themselves. Even if there manage to be pilgrims making prostrations there, they will simply serve to liven things up as background for the tourists, as one disaster follows another, winding down to a pathetic and miserable end for Lhasa. Historically, Lhasa has never had a mining cave-in. And now, it has had a mining cave-in. Historically, the Kyichu has never been blocked and dried up. Now it is drying up to the point that the fish are all dying. Historically, the Old City of Lhasa has never existed solely as a backdrop for tourists. And now it’s being changed into a replica of Sifang Street in Lijiang and Daka Dzong in “Shangri-La.” Might it be that one day, perhaps very soon, entry into the mountain fortress version of these tourist traps, “Old City Lhasa,” will require the purchase of tickets?

No place has disappeared so quickly; no place has been inundated so quickly. Sick at heart, Andre Alexander wrote; “Each time I go, the old houses are clearly fewer, stone by stone, brick by brick, alley by alley, street by street; even the dogs are going missing.” And today it’s being relaced by a new Lhasa City that is being commercialized by those in power. From here on in, it’s not just me, one individual, it’s many people who are losing the few remaining bits of the Lhasa cityscape that they so deeply love; from here on in, it’s not just my life, one individual life, it’s the lives of many people, all mixed together with memories of Lhasa, that are being covered over. It’s just as one internet friend bitterly put it: “Dismantling the old structures, excavating tunnels, building crossover bridges, stopping up the Kyichu, draining the groundwater: these people are truly the incarnations of hungry ghosts! Whatever they can carry away, they carry away, and what they can’t carry away they destroy!” [Source]

Woeser’s post also includes a number of photos of Lhasa under construction. The Jokhang Temple has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A recent post by Tea Leaf Nation (via CDT) looks at the environmental degradation of Tibet and the reasons why the international and domestic NGO community do not speak out against it.