Growth in Tibet benefiting Nepalese workers

Updated: Sept. 10, 2020
Nepal shares a border with China's Tibet autonomous region, and many Nepali people have benefited from the region's development over the past decades thanks to the central Chinese government's steady support.

Aawazman Gubaju, owner of Third Eye, a Nepalese restaurant in Lhasa, is one of them.
The 52-year-old has been living and doing business in Tibet since 1994. Back then, there were few restaurants in the city, so he and his local Tibetan partner opened Lhasa's first Nepalese restaurant with local Tibetans as their main customers.
Without Gubaju's distinctive facial features, one can hardly tell he is not local by his way of talking. He is fluent in Mandarin and the Tibetan dialect and also has a Tibetan name, Tenzin Norbu.
Nepal shares a 1,414-kilometer border with China, mainly with Tibet, and exchanges between the two areas are relatively easy with many border ports along the line.
"In the past, traffic was not as good as it is today, and I had to buy some of the cooking materials from Nepal or from other regions of China," he said, recalling that his first trip to Lhasa took him more than two days by car from the border area.
With the development of transportation, changes came. More people, especially Nepalese, chose Lhasa as a promising place to fulfill their business dreams, and thereafter more Nepalese restaurants opened in the city.
In the 1990s, there was only one or two flights a week between Lhasa and Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Now there are daily flights, Gubaju said.
"Now I can purchase most of the cooking materials from the Indian-Nepalese stores in Lhasa or from online stores. If I need something particular from Nepal, it's no big deal anymore as I travel frequently between the two places," he said.
In addition, regional government policies put in place to support and facilitate local tourism are another engine driving the local catering industry.
"In the past, we only had local customers during the winter, but since the regional government introduced a series of measures to promote winter tourism, my restaurant has been packed throughout the year," he said.
In addition to more restaurants, there are vendors selling Nepali handicrafts and woolen carpets, while others have opened beauty salons and worked as gold and silversmiths, said Jimson Rumdali Rai, acting consul general of Nepal in Lhasa.
According to him, there are about 130 migrant workers and 160 long-term residents from Nepal in Lhasa now, and there are about 100 Nepali people living in Tibet's Shigatse city. He added that since ancient times, Nepali people have been traveling to Gyirong, Shigatse and Lhasa for trade and business.
"Some of them settled down in these cities in Tibet, so a number of Nepali people were born and raised here," he said, adding that they, to an extent, assimilated with the culture and language of their fellow Tibetans, while also preserving some typical Nepali customs and cultures.
In 2019, the total value of imports and exports between Tibet and Nepal reached nearly 3.17 billion yuan ($462 million), an increase of 26.7 percent year-on-year, China News Service reported.
With tourism and traffic booming, Gubaju said he has been renovating one of his restaurants to cater to more people.