China is planning to construct the world’s highest airport at an altitude of 14,500 feet (4,436 metres).
The airport will be built in the Nagqu prefecture of Tibet – what’s been called ‘the roof of the world’. The region is home to a mostly ethnic Tibetan population of about 400,000.
The airport, to be located about 140 miles (230kms) north of Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, will be the sixth in the region, which has been ruled by China for almost six decades. It is expected to surpass Bamda Airport, also in Tibet, by 335ft (102m).
This is the latest in a series of ambitious infrastructure projects being carried out by China. A railway line connecting Tibet to the rest of China opened four years ago, and the government is constructing six new rail lines in and around the vast region, which is rich in natural resources.
Critics of China’s rule say this new infrastructure is allowing its ethnic Han majority to flood Tibet, exploit its resources and consolidate political control. But Beijing has insisted that such projects will raise the standard of living in the remote region.
Construction will begin next year and is likely to last three years. Experts say the task won’t be easy given the altitude and the climate – average temperatures there stay below zero throughout the year.
by Andy Moreton
Tibet has re-opened to foreigners, three months after the Chinese authorities banned such visits in the face of violent anti-government protests.
A Swedish couple, 77-year-old Kurt Persson and 62-year-old Eva Sandstrom, were the first tourists to arrive in the capital, Lhasa, after the stoppage. They were presented with hada, a long piece of silk used in Tibet as a traditional gift of welcome.
“We’ve been looking forward to visiting Tibet for many years - its monasteries and landscapes are fascinating,” said Ms Sandstrom.
Tibet has been under disputed Chinese administration since 1951. There will shortly be more talks between China and representatives of the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who wants autonomy for the region.
by Andy Moreton
For the more adventurous traveller, Tibet in Central Asia has always been a fascinating and somewhat mysterious destination.
But for the past two weeks, disturbing reports and images of the worst violence there for 20 years have been flashing round the world. Anti-Chinese demonstrators have clashed with troops and Chinese shops have been ransacked and burned. A number of people have been killed.
The region’s been under disputed Chinese administration since 1951. The Chinese government has accused the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of orchestrating the protests. He has said he will resign if the situation ‘spirals out of control.’
The British Foreign Office says the situation remains tense. Its latest advice is to steer clear of areas where demonstrations are taking place and avoid unnecessary movement within the capital, Lhasa, until the situation has eased. “While the Chinese authorities have said there is no curfew in force in Lhasa, they have also said that they will not process applications for travel to Tibet. You should not attempt to travel to Tibet without permission from the Chinese authorities.”
by Andy Moreton