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Foreign Business in Tibet? Investor Beware

Activists say mining will bring physical harm to Tibetans and represents neo-colonialism in the already volatile region. There's even a website,, dedicated to keeping miners out an area that's obviously believed to be loaded with minerals.

In a more recent case, the group Free Tibet has gone after Intercontinental Hotels (IHG). Its 2,000-room resort hotel planned for the regional capital Lhasa will cater to ethnic Han Chinese, Free Tibet says in a statement online. Most local Tibetans presumably couldn't afford a room for the night. The statement also alleges that hotel chain "display their ignorance about Tibet" in defending their plans for the resort.

Activists often see the Han Chinese as occupiers in a region that Beijing should leave alone. "Given that more than 95% of visitors to Tibet are Chinese, and that business facilities will have to rely on Chinese trade, we are also concerned that the hotel's presence will further entrench the occupation and may even be used as the venue for discussions by the (Chinese Communist Party)," says Alistair Currie, campaigns and media office with Free Tibet in the United Kingdom. Starwood Hotels (HOT - Get Report) is already on the ground managing the St. Regis Lhasa Resort.

If you really want gold from a Tibet investment, try the Chinese airlines, but check out their overall financial flight plans first. Despite the 1,956-kilometer-long railway, ballyhooed in state media as a major engineering feat, people generally find it faster and more comfortable to fly to Lhasa from other parts of China.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines (CEA), China Southern and four smaller state-run peers are assured business as long as passengers of any ethnic group find Tibet appealing for any reason. Among them are packs of foreign tourists.

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