Tibet passes new law to make ethnic unity mandatory

For the first time, Tibet has passed a law making ethnic unity mandatory, reflecting the significant role it plays in the sensitive remote Himalayan region's economic and social development.

The People's Congress of Tibet on Saturday passed the legislation, which will take effect from May 1, guaranteeing ethnic unity in the territory, a Global Times report said on Monday.

The new law makes it clear that Tibet has been an inalienable part of China since ancient times, and it is the common responsibility for the people of all ethnic groups to safeguard national reunification, strengthen ethnic unity and take a clear-cut stand against separatism, it said, quoting a report in Xinhua news agency.

"This is the first legislation on ethnic unity at the autonomous region level across China," Penpa Lhamo, deputy head of the Contemporary Studies Institute at the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, told the daily.

The law reflects the important role of ethnic unity in the region's economic and social development, the report said.

There are more than 40 ethnic minorities accounting for 95 per cent of Tibet's over three million population.

Lhamo said that the legislation work started early last year and it collected opinions from all sections of the society.

"The legislation considers local ethnic characteristics of Tibet. Ethnic unity is an important goal of stable social governance in the region. The move is also in line with the Constitution's provisions on ethnic unity," he said.

Official figures released by China in March last year on Tibet said the region's population has grown from 1.23 million in 1959 to 3.44 million in 2018, with Tibetans accounting for over 90 per cent.

Overseas Tibetan groups allege large scale migration from the Chinese mainland to Tibet to exploit the abundant natural resources in the Himalayan region which is resented by the local population.

While releasing a white paper on Tibet showcasing its development under the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), Tibet's executive vice governor Norbu Dondrup denied there was any significant support for Tibet as a separate political entity.

"The issue of Tibetan independence does not exist," he said.

About 150 Tibetans have committed self-immolation since 2009 calling for the return of the Dalai Lama from his exile in India and improvement of human rights conditions in the homeland of the top Tibetan Buddhist leader.

China terms Dalai Lama as a splittist and a separatist.

In November, China objected to the US plans to take up the issue of the successor to the 84-year-old Dalai Lama to United Nations saying that Washington is “misusing” UN platform to interfere in its internal affairs. Beijing asserts that his successor should be endorsed by it.

China says Tibet for centuries has been its territory well before the People's Liberation Army (PLA) took control of the region in 1950. 

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