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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 04:26 GMT 05:26 UK
Tibet: Your questions answered
The BBC's Michael Bristow has recently returned from remote Tibet, from where he sent a series of reports looking at the economic, cultural and religious impact of being governed as an autonomous region of China.

Here he answers some of the questions readers have been asking about his trip.

How much journalistic freedom did you have to make your reports? Could you go where you wanted or were you taken to the places the Chinese wanted you to see?
Michael Massey, Nancy, France

I was on a tour on which a group of foreign journalists based in China was taken to Tibet by the Chinese Government.

A Buddhist monk
Tibetans enjoy a certain level of religious freedom
The government planned our itinerary and escorted us during the entire six days we were there.

I think it's safe to assume that officials took us to places they wanted us to visit.

Having said that, journalists were given some leeway to break off from the schedule, go to places on their own and conduct their own interviews.

Government-supplied interviewees were also prepared to answer any questions put to them.

It is very hard for me to understand how you can claim that there is even minimal political and religious freedom in Tibet.
Johann Kupeczki, Cooloola Cove, Australia

People can worship openly on the streets and in temples and monasteries, so there is at least some level of religious freedom.

However, the fact that the Dalai Lama cannot be openly venerated shows the limits to that freedom.

Politically, Tibetans, just like people in other parts of China, are subject to one-party rule. Tibet's sensitive status means there are tighter restrictions there.

But the Chinese Communist Party claims it listens to what ordinary people say before making decisions. This is how they define democracy.

Of course, Westerners would not recognise this as political freedom.

Have you ever seen any human rights activists in Tibet gathering first-hand information?
John, Maryland, US

I'm sure most human rights groups would welcome an invitation to visit Tibet, but they are not welcome.

The experiences of Manfred Nowak, the UN's Rapporteur on Torture, illustrates just how unwelcome independent investigators are in China.

He visited China in 2005 - 10 years after an initial request. While here, he says his work was obstructed by security officials.

Faced with this situation, human rights groups act in different ways. Some try to sneak in and carry out what research they can, others decide not to try.

They also say they try to engage the Chinese government in discussion about their work, but with little or no success.

China is often accused of actively promoting the immigration of Han Chinese into the Tibetan autonomous region in order to change the culture of Tibet forever. How true is this?
Chaitanya Siriprolu, Delhi, India

The Chinese government is very sensitive to this accusation.

A Buddhist temple in Tibet
The Dalai Lama is not discussed openly in Tibetan temples

To counter the claim, many business-related interviewees on the trip would stress the importance of giving the majority of jobs to Tibetans.

The government also claims Tibetans occupy most senior government posts.

But it was not hard to discover that these claims do not fully reflect the reality of the situation.

One construction worker, for example, told me that most workers on the site were non-Tibetans from nearby Sichuan province.

And I met several Han Chinese people who had moved to Tibet in recent years to find better jobs without any great difficulty.

On the political front, there are reports that Tibetans are being increasingly excluded from top jobs in the party, which wields real power in Tibet as in the rest of China.

What is the annual income of Tibetans?
Yuen Tek Pang, Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia

According to Chinese government statistics, there's a wide difference in the amounts earned by rural Tibetans and those living in urban areas.

Last year, per capita income for urban residents was 8,941 yuan ($1,177, 598), but farmers and herders earned less than a third of that - 2,435 yuan ($320, 163).

The urban-rural income divide is similar to wage differences found all over China.

It certainly seemed to me that there are large income differences between rural and urban people in Tibet.

Swiss watches are advertised in the capital Lhasa, but children were running around barefoot in a village outside the second city, Shigatse.

I'm going travelling and will be spending some time in China. Is it difficult to gain access to Tibet?
Caoimhin Raghallaigh, Belfast

Visiting Tibet is certainly not as easy as travelling to other parts of China - where tourists just need a visa and a passport - but it's not too difficult to arrange.

You firstly need to get a special permit for Tibet, which can be obtained through a travel agent in China.

You might also need to get other permits while in the region, depending on where you want to go.

But rules seem to change quite quickly. There were reports that tourist restrictions were tightened earlier this year after a demonstration by free-Tibet supporters at Mount Everest base camp.

It's best to check with a travel agent in China.

Read Michael Bristow's reports from Tibet:

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


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