China To Resettle Over 52,000 Tibetans this year

China To Resettle Over 52,000 Tibetans this year

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January 22, 2008

Moving along with its pleasant-sounding “comfortable housing program,” a lofty endeavor that aims to forcefully move 250,000 Tibetans into featureless apartment blocks under the auspices of ‘protecting the environment and boosting living standards,’ the Chinese Government announced it will relocate more than 52,000 Tibetan herders and farmers this year.

Human rights groups have been consistently speaking out against this program because the resettlements are in fact lowering the Tibetan Peoples’ standard of living. This is made evident in the report “No one has the Liberty to refuse,” by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which details how the Tibetans are being thrust from a traditional, self-sufficient life to one where they simply cannot have their needs met.

[…] In stark contrast with glowing accounts in the official media, a number of academic studies of the ecological migration policies in Qinghai obtained by Human Rights Watch confirm the reality of the livelihood difficulties recounted by resettled herders. Employment opportunities are often lacking. “Because they are not skilled enough … upon resettlement, ethnic minority laborers don’t find job easily,” acknowledges one study. Interviewees told us that taking up business or other forms of income generation is impractical or even impossible without any background skills or experience, especially as the market for labor and commerce has become highly competitive in Tibetan areas in recent years. As one person explained,

My father says that… the government is destroying the wealth of the [herders] and eliminating their livelihood. Even if we become town dwellers and try to do business, we don’t have the education or the experience to succeed. We don’t even know how to live from farming. So in future we will face great difficulty.

Equally disturbing, are the cases where communities are evicted from their lands for the needs of development, such as with the Shawo Dam project:

The Shawo (Shao) Dam Power Station on the Machu (Yellow) river in Qinghai province is one of the “Western Development” mega-projects. The project reached completion with the damming of the river in 2004 and the flooding of prime agricultural land. One of those affected in Chentsa county, Malho TAP in Qinghai, S.G., told Human Rights Watch how more than 300 households in Nangra township, and around 200 others from other parts of Chentsa county, lost their homes and lands without prior notification that the land was to be flooded, and were rendered homeless.96 Some found shelter with family and friends, but for over 100 homeless families it took a complaint to the provincial government to secure them temporary accommodation in tents:

Those families have many members and they face difficulties such as insufficient space … as they live together in one tent. Not just that, this winter they are facing lots of difficulties due to cold .… The Qinghai provincial government has given them 3,000 yuan [for the winter] …. It is pitiful to see the hardship of the winter cold and wind faced by those living in tents. 97

Unlike many other resettlements, the people displaced by the flooding of Nangra township were not ordered into urban areas, but were given an area of previously unused dry pasture 20 kilometers away at a former prison camp called Shasang Tang.

In nearly every case of resettlement, the Tibetan People are not consulted and not given any real choices. If they try to protest, the effort is forcefully suppressed. If they try to complain, their words are simply ignored. They seem to have no options but to accept it with a smile on their face; to be thankful for this abhorrent colonial dream that threatens to make Traditional Tibet into a myth.

This seems to be something the government wants very badly, perhaps, because of what China has long since forgotten.

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