China on Saturday opened the first train service to Tibet on the world's highest railway, a controversial engineering marvel meant to bind the restive Himalayan region to China.
President Hu Jintao cut a giant red ribbon at a nationally televised ceremony in the western city of Golmud as the first train left for the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Musicians in Chinese and Tibetan costumes banged drums and cymbals as the train pulled out.
The US$4.2 billion railway is part of the communist government's efforts to develop poor, restive areas in China's west and bind them more closely to the country's booming east.
Activists complain that the railway will bring an influx of Chinese migrants, damaging Tibet's fragile ecology and diluting its unique Buddhist society. They say most of its economic benefits will go to migrants from the east.