It’s the Tibetan Economy, Stupid

“More than violations of human rights and religious freedom, lack of economic opportunity fueled the riots in Tibet last week,” writes Abrahm Lustgarten in The Washington Post:

On a winter night not long ago, I walked through the glowing doorway of Lhasa’s newest nightclub, Babila, for an interview with its owner, a Chinese entrepreneur. Disco balls spun from the ceiling. Fiber-optic strands of plastic beads drizzled down like rain to a long, sleek stainless steel bar. On the stage, dancers in stiletto heels and lingerie gyrated to thumping music.

“Tibetan culture is so deeply rooted here,” the owner told me. “I don’t think it will be diluted — it’s important for business.” Yet looking around, I saw no Tibetan employees, and Tibetans represented only a smattering of customers. The bar served mostly Chinese businessmen and army officers, whose tabs could run as high as $2,000, several times the per capita income in Tibet.

The nightclub owner’s comments underscored the very problem Tibetans have with Chinese rule. Their culture has been packaged for tourism. Business is booming. Yet they aren’t getting any of the bounty.

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