BRUSSELS, April 23 (Xinhua) -- No one can deny the rapid social and economic development in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region over the past few decades, a renowned Belgian professor specializing in Oriental Studies has said.
Charles Willemen, a lifelong fellow of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of democratic reforms in Tibet.
"The first trip I made to Tibet was in the 1980s, when Tibet was still very underdeveloped," said Willemen. "Now the development rate has soared, and no one can deny these achievements."
Noting that a large part of the success can be attributed to the ongoing process of democratic reforms launched 60 years ago, Willemen said these reforms have changed the social system of Tibet and led to a policy of freedom of religious belief and respect of the rights of citizens.
"In Tibet today, all religions and denominations are equally respected and protected, and true religious harmony has been achieved," said Willemen.
The sinologist also pointed to the potential that remains in Tibet for closer ties with the rest of China.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government implemented a national policy based on equality of nationalities, regional ethnic autonomy and a common prosperity of all ethnic groups, said Willemen.
"I have just been to Xiamen, and the situation in Xiamen is not the same as Beijing. Shanghai and Hangzhou are not the same. Yunnan and Inner Mongolia are not the same," said Willemen. "It is precisely this richly-diverse and multiethnic make-up that defines the great nation of China."
With Tibet's great development potential, particularly in tourism, culture and agriculture, Willemen believes "the future of Tibet should be more integrated into the development of the whole country."