Letter to the Daily Telegraph about the St Regis Hotel, Lhasa (1 June 2011)
The opening of the St Regis Hotel Lhasa ('Lhasa, roof of the world, gets first five-star hotel', Malcolm Moore, 31 May http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/tibet/8547872/Lhasa-roof-...) is controversial for many reasons.
Does the presence of the hotel represent an endorsement of China's occupation of Tibet? Will it become part of the problem, further contributing to economic disparities between Tibetans and migrant Chinese, and deepening the sense of injustice many Tibetans feel? Or is it possible for the hotel to empower Tibetans, for example by defending their Tibetan employees' fundamental rights, training and promoting Tibetan staff to senior positions and securing Tibetan guides and services for their guests?
One thing is for sure, the owners of the St Regis cannot rely on the Chinese state to help make their business a success; Tibetan travel agents are reporting that permits for foreigners to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region won't be issued between late June and the end of July - prime tourist season. It's all down to something that China likes to call the 60th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, but others prefer to call 60 years of military occupation (see www.chinasfailedtibetpolicies.org).
Executive Director, International Tibet Network