China building roads, bases on its India border: Wikileaks

The Chinese are pouring in massive amounts of money into the Tibetan region and creating huge infrastructure, some of which may be militarily used against India, noted David Brown, the US Consul General for Chengdu according to a cable released by Wikileaks.

The official was describing the massive ‘overinvestment’ he saw in the Tibetan town of Lhoka, three hours north of Arunachal Pradesh (which is claimed by China) after a visit to the town early last year (2010).

“The city appears to serve as a rear base (houjing) for the PLA [the official People’s Liberation Army of China] should China need to supply its forces in case of a conflict with India.

“We observed a medium-sized PLA facility on side of the main, two-lane road leading south to the Indian border, some three hours away. Further down the same road, on the opposite side, we observed the construction of a large, new military facility…

“..there were other telltale signs. Some telephone lines had signs posted in Chinese that they belonged to the PLA — perhaps to deter thieves. Many of the streets were made with thick cement that could support the weight of tanks,” Brown noted towards the end of a rather long descriptive cable.

The Chinese caputured considerable amount of Indian territory in their 1962 incursion, claiming what is called Arunachal Pradesh today as theirs. However, puzzling the Indians, they withdrew almost as abruptly as they had advanced, leaving the territory back under India.

China still maintains that the region belongs to it.

“While this 1962 border clash [between India and China] may seem like a distant memory, it can be imagined vividly when visiting the large “Shannan Martyrs’ Memorial Park” for China’s war dead located at the end of “Anhui Boulevard” — an empty, four-lane street in the central part of Lhoka’s new part of town,” he noted, adding that many of the soldiers who are buried there probably died fighting the Tibetans rather than the Indians.

“The local government compels ethnic Tibetan students to visit the cemetery and sweep its tombs — which our source said would be like the Japanese government forcing Chinese students to clean up Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo,” he added.

Brown noted with interest the massive investments being made or facilitated in the town by the Chinese government.

He pointed out that different prefectures (zones) in the region were assigned to more prosperous ethnic Chinese (Han) dominated districts in other parts of China under a ‘Help Tibet’ program.

This has led to the springing up of spanking new buildings and structures in an otherwise unremarkable town.

“According to ConGen Chengdu LES, who visited twice before in 2003-4, there has been a huge improvement in the city’s infrastructure in the last five years, including new telecommunication facilities and vastly improved roads. Some of the newly built buildings appear to be nearly empty…

“One take on Lhoka’s construction boom might hold that the central government ordered the provinces to promote economic growth and raise living standards in their assigned Tibetan prefectures. Lhoka’s new, haphazard construction may simply reflect money being poured into the prefecture without well thought out planning.

“A darker view would be that the Chinese [PRC] government is investing massively in Tibet, not so much to benefit Tibetan people living there, but rather to consolidate its control over this vast territory on its southern border. Development creates economic incentives that are encouraging the migration of Han and other nationalities to the Tibetan Autonomous Region [TAR].

“One additional reason for the buildup is to prepare Lhoka and its greatly improved infrastructure to serve as a rear-base should there be another border clash with India,” he noted.

He pointed out that during most times of the year, nearly 40% of the population of what used to a purely Tibetan town is now Han Chinese.

“Few Tibetans were visible on the streets of Lhoka’s new, “China Town,” — even the pedicab drivers are Han migrants
from Sichuan and elsewhere.

“We saw a few Tibetan farmers driving their tractors and some weathered Tibetan laborers with their skin wrinkled and darkened by the intense sunlight and UV rays of the high, Tibetan plateau.

“In fact, all the storekeepers in the central part of “Chinatown” near our hotel were Han Chinese. Many were tending small stalls carrying a minimal amount of food, alcohol, and tobacco products.

“One shop had a Budweiser sign: “Drink Budweiser to Celebrate the Sixtieth Anniversary of the PRC [People’s Republic of China]”.