By Tenzin Dharpo
Bharkor area in Lhasa, file
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 5: In a new Chinese government project spanning over the next five years, traditional Tibetan houses in three Counties outside Lhasa city will be replaced by Chinese styled buildings.
The project is expected to begin in 2016 in Lhasa city’s neighboring Tagtse (ch. Dazi), Lhundrub (ch. Linzhou), and Meldro Gongkar (ch. Mozhugongka) Counties, according to a report by RFA.
The official directive issued by Lhasa City government has been passed down to County offices which informed residents of the three counties for registration for the project, the report mentioned.
In what is perceived as a further ‘disneyfication’ of the region and resembling familiar tones of the much chanted- ‘new socialist village projects’, Tibetan traditional homes are to be razed to the ground even as the Tibetan homeowners are against such schemes.
The disenchantment does not only limit to a home owner’s willingness but also puts a huge financial burden as the Chinese government has demanded enormous sum of 2,00,000 Chinese Yuan equivalent to more than 31,000 USD (20,81,950 INR) from each home owner for the expenses for the revamp in the Meldro Gungkar area.
“We are being forced to accept and support the plan without any choice, our own house is in very good shape and doesn’t need reconstruction,” said a Tibetan homeowner.
Every homeowner whether or not they are not receiving Chinese government subsidy has to register for the project. “The project will begin with those families who are recipients of government welfare, and then move on to those families who don’t receive benefits,” said the same source.
“Families have been promised the keys to their new homes when the work is finished,” added the source but with increasing cases of land grab, forceful buy out of lands and enforced demolition of Tibetan homes, such promises are hard to heed even for the most optimistic of individuals.
The 2013 project to modernize the Bharkor market area in Lhasa city attracted condemnation from organizations and people around the globe. Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser called it a ‘frightful modernization’. “Lhasa is being destroyed by excessive commercial development. Lhasa doesn’t exist for only tourists, there are real people who live here and it’s also a religious place. You can’t just turn it into a Sanlitun village,” the Beijing based Tibetan writer told the South China Morning Post in 2013.
In a landmark incident rebuking China’s infrastructure projects in Tibet, a Tibetan woman named Tashi Kyi, age 55, self-immolated on Aug. 27, 2015 and died the next day in a ‘new socialist village house’ provided to her as a relocation scheme by the Chinese authorities in Ngulra Village in Sangchu County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province.