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The BBC's Troy Shields
"The future for the people who live in this barren land is as uncertain as ever"
 real 56k

Friday, 7 July, 2000, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
World Bank rejects Tibet land plan
Chinese counrtryside
The scheme aims to assist poor rural families
The World Bank has refused to release a loan for a controversial poverty alleviation programme that would resettle almost 60,000 Chinese farmers on traditional Tibetan land.

"The majority of the executive directors did not agree to adopt management's recommendations," a statement from the bank said after protracted discussions.

It added that China had now decided to finance the $40m project on its own.

The BBC's Washington correspondent says the decision is a major and very public embarrassment for the World Bank bureaucracy.


We regret that because of political opposition from some shareholders the World Bank has lost a good opportunity to assist some of the poorest people in China

China's executive director Zhu Xian
The lending deal came unstuck after China refused to accept further conditions on the loan which were being championed by the United States.

The World Bank's 24 executive directors had reconvened on Friday after failing to reach agreement during six hours of debate on Thursday.

Pro-Tibet campaigners have been camping outside the bank's Washington headquarters in protest at the project.

Monks in Xiahe, Gansu province
China stands acccused of trying to snuff out Tibetan culture
They say the relocation of so many Chinese in the north-west Qinghai province would leave Tibetans in the area facing cultural genocide.

The region is the traditional homeland for 4,000 Tibetan and Mongol herders.

Consultation

Backers of the project say it will help impoverished people escape barren lands and raise living standards.

But opponents say the initiative will create a destructive tide of mainly Chinese migration into the region and suffocate the lifestyle of the Tibetan farmers who live there.

Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, is critical of the loan
The scheme has been especially controversial, as an internal World Bank review appeared to back up claims by activists that the Tibetan minority in Qinghai had not been properly consulted.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn has promised to spend $2.5m over the next 15 months to address the concerns of the internal inspection panel.

Buddhist culture

China has defended the relocation project, saying it has been welcomed by the vast majority of people in the region, including the Tibetan ethnic minority.

"The project is the choice of the people in the region," foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said last week.

"It has been carried out in strict accordance with the requirements of both China and the World Bank," he added.

China has ruled Tibet, near Qinghai province, for half a century.

Some human rights groups and foreign governments have accused Beijing of seeking to snuff out the region's Buddhist culture.

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See also:

24 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bank delays China loan review
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China accused of ruining Tibet
26 Feb 00 | Americas
China scorns US criticism
18 Feb 00 | South Asia
Dalai Lama's appeal for Tibet
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