Chinese workers gathered in celebration of a railway Beijing claims will bring prosperity to Tibet but which critics say is a threat to its culture and environment.
The Chinese president led the ceremony inaugurating the world’s highest rail line. It runs for almost 2,000 kilometres from the western Chinese city of Golmud to the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
It took five years to build and the communist government says it will double tourism in Tibet and slash transport costs.
But a trio of western protestors voiced the concerns of many who believe it will lead to a surge in immigration from China that will swamp the mountainous territories cultural heritige. The Dalai Lama said it was a “black day”.
The railway passes spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes of 5,000 metres.
To counter the harsh conditions, passengers have pressurised
cabins and the option of oxygen masks, and double-layer windows that cut harmful ultra-violet rays.
Chinese officials thought for decades about the possibility of such a project. Experts had said it would be too difficult to extend the line to Tibet due to huge swaths of permafrost and extreme temperatures.