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Chinese ethnologist: Tibet's development allows no misinterpretation

2008-04-11
BEIJING, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The improvement of cultural and educational undertakings and health services in Tibet in the past 50 years is an undeniable fact and allows no misinterpretation, Saturday's Economic Daily quoted a senior Chinese ethnologist as saying.

    "It is groundless and untruthful for some Western media to put the blame on China, by saying that a huge amount of investment has gone to infrastructure construction instead of local education and cultural services, leading to the recent Lhasa riot," said Chuai Zhenyu, deputy director of Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

    "Before the peaceful liberation of Tibet, except monks and aristocrats, very few people were entitled to learning how to read and write, and 95 percent of Tibetans were illiterate," he said.

    "The past 50 years has witnessed rapid development of education in the area and now the illiteracy rate has dropped to 4.8 percent among young and middle-aged adults," the scholar said.

    "China has allocated a huge amount of money into the education sector in Tibet since 1978, when the reform and opening-up policy was adopted," he said.

    About 98.2 percent school-age children now have access to primary education, up 22.2 percentage points over 1981. And for middle school students, the figure has soared from 29.6 percent to90.7 percent, the expert said.

    The government allocates 720 million yuan (about 101 million U.S. dollars) annually to subsidize boarding schools in the region's rural and pastoral areas, where the Tibetan students are exempted from education, boarding and living expenses for the nine-year compulsory education, he said.

    The nine-year compulsory education refers to six years in primary school and three years in junior middle school.

    "The current education policy in Tibet also allows the urban students to receive free nine-year compulsory education," Chuai said. "The educational undertaking in Tibet is in its best period ever."

    Health services have also progressed by leaps and bounds since the peaceful liberation, he noted.

    Almost no modern education institutions existed in the autonomous region back in the early 1950s. By 2006, 903 hospitals and 446 clinics had been set up.

    The country has invested more than 2 billion yuan (280 million U.S. dollars) over the past 50 years into Tibet's health sector, he said.

    The government has also raised the bar of health insurance for the farmers as many as seven times, the scholar said, citing that the medical subsidy for farmers has reached 100 yuan each.

    Some epidemics, including smallpox, cholera and scarlet fever that were rampant in the region are now under control and the death rate for pregnant women have decreased from 5 percent in 1959 to the current 0.7 percent, infant mortality rate from 43 percent to 0.57 percent.

    The life expectancy of Tibetans reaches 67 years, almost double the figure in the 1950s, which was 35.5 years, he said.

    "Some Western media recently attempted to link the Lhasa riot to some irrelevant issues to serve their ulterior motives," Chuai said.

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