Across China: Better lives, better schooling in Tibet

Efforts to improve the livelihood of residents in Tibet is seeing good results as the autonomous region prepares to celebrate the 65th anniversary of its peaceful liberation on Monday.

Several years ago, Tseten Norbu's life was filled with concerns. His second son Tenpa was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, with each chemotherapy session costing 5,000 yuan (764 U.S. dollars), posing heavy pressure on his family that depend on farming for a living.

"The government reimbursed a big part of his medical fees, but the rest was still a burden on us," said Tseten, a resident of Medrogungkar County.

In 2015, the county started to apply a new medical insurance program, with the local government paying for the rest of the unreimbursed medical bills for local farmers and herdsmen.

"With the new policy, you basically don't need to pay anything for seeing the doctor, which was a relief for us," Tseten said.

To help local residents enjoy better livelihood, the county government has been drawing its purse strings tight on public expenses.

"We save up to 30 percent in government spending on travels, motor vehicles and reception each year," said county head Tenzin Nyima. "We then allocate the saved money on projects that improve people's livelihood."

In the past five years, Tibet has spent about 525 billion yuan on public expenses, with more than 70 percent on areas such as agriculture, education and healthcare, according to the regional government. Last year, more than 6.56 billion yuan was spent on healthcare, up 34.3 percent year on year.

Medical care is only part of the benefits brought about by the government. Education has also improved.

Since 1985, Tibet has offered free education in pre-schooling, elementary and junior schools. In 2011, the region began to offer free high-school education, with high schoolers and vocational students each getting up to 1,650 yuan of subsidies for each semester.

Thubten Gyatso, a student at the prestigious Peking University, managed to enter college thanks to government support.

Thubten, who lost his parents when he was still a kid, grew up with his sister in Nakartse County, Shannan Prefecture.

"I did not pay for elementary and junior schools, and I received grants for high school," said Thubten, 23. "I would not have made it to college without the education policies."

This year, Shannan Prefecture has begun to increase subsidies for college students like Thubten, with each college student outside and inside the region receiving 10,000 yuan and 8,000 yuan each year respectively. Students for master and doctor degrees will each receive 15,000 and 20,000 yuan in subsidies every year, respectively, according to Shannan's education and sports bureau.

Speaking of his future career, Thubten said he plans to work in Beijing for a few years and then return to Tibet to make his contributions.

Lang Fukuan, head of the department of finance of the regional government, said both the central and regional governments have helped improve the livelihood in Tibet since its peaceful liberation in 1951.

"There are 74 government programs offering direct and indirect subsidies to Tibetan farmers and herdsmen currently," Lang said. "The programs cover a wide range of areas such as poverty relief, education, healthcare, environmental protection and social insurance."

A total of 16.7 billion yuan will be allocated to improve the programs this year, Lang added.