Tibetans graze their yak in the grasslands of the high Tibetan plateau in the county of Naqu, Tibet, China in this July 2006 photo. (AP/Elizabeth Dalziel, File)
Beijing, June 11: China is forcing nomadic Tibetan herders to settle in towns to clear land for development, leaving many unable to earn a living, a human rights group said in a report issued Sunday.
Herders have been forced to slaughter herds of yaks, sheep and goats and Communist officials have paid minimal compensation and failed to protect Tibetans' legal rights, Human Rights Watch said. It said tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people have been affected.
The group appealed to Beijing to suspend the resettlements until a review system is put in place and to allow Tibetans to return to their land if they were forcibly moved or received no compensation.
"They are destroying our Tibetan (herder) communities by not letting us live in our area and thus wiping out our livelihood completely," one Tibetan, identified only by the initials F.R., was quoted as saying.
Human Rights Watch said the resettlements in Tibet and in adjacent ethnic Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces are linked to Beijing's effort, launched in 1999, to develop China's poor, restive west and bind it to the bustling east.
China's Foreign Ministry and the local governments of Tibet and the provinces cited did not respond to requests by phone and fax for comment.
The resettlements began in 2000 and have taken place more intensively since 2003, Human Rights Watch said.
"Many Tibetan herders have been required to slaughter most of their livestock and move into newly built housing colonies in or near towns, abandoning their traditional way of life," the report said.
"Many Tibetan agricultural communities have had their land confiscated, with minimal compensation, or have been evicted to make way for mining, infrastructure projects or urban development," the report said.
The most extreme efforts were in Sichuan's Golok region, where authorities banned grazing in 2003 and required herders to sell their herds and move into newly built townships, Human Rights Watch said, citing interviews with Tibetans who were affected.
It quoted one as saying: "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."
Chinese authorities explained the changes as a response to overgrazing by Tibetan herds that was causing erosion and soil loss, Human Rights Watch said.