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23januanry20102Top Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, gathered in Beijing from 18 to 20 January for the fifth conference on Tibetan Work. The meeting, a probable reaction to continuing unrest in the "TAR" and other Tibetan regions since the March 2008 protests, aimed to promote development and integrate the Tibetan Autonomous Region with neighboring provinces.

The Washington Post pointed out that this was the first high-level meeting on Tibet in nine years. China's leaders agreed at the conference to develop Tibetan regions in neighboring Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces as well, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency. Most, if not all, of these regions saw protests shortly after the 2008 violence.

President Hu warned those gathered that development efforts would need to be protected from "penetration and sabotage" by "Tibetan separatists" in favor of independence, Xinhua reported on Friday.

Many believe that there is a political motivation behind China's recent efforts to speed up economic progress in Tibet. According to the Washington Post, One expert on Tibet said China's leaders like to "homogenize" Tibet's problems as a development issue to downplay the region's distinct culture.

"They're persisting in this argument that it's all about money and that Tibetans have no other concerns," Michael C. Davis, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Washington Post reporters. "Including or connecting the Tibetan Autonomous Region with other autonomous areas may just be more of that. Maybe I'm too suspicious."

At the meeting, Hu asserted that the per capita income of Tibet's farmers and nomads should be close to the national level by 2020, Xinhua reported. As of last year, Chinese government statistics showed that these groups earned barely one quarter of the national average of around $2,000 a year. However, reports on the meeting gave no details on exactly how much money will be allotted to Tibet under this new policy.

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