An ethnic Tibetan herder is seen in the Tibetan area of Sichuan province in this file photo. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
BEIJING, January 17: The Chinese government will move more than 52,000 Tibetan herders and farmers into permanent housing this year, state media said on Thursday, a practice rights groups say has been marked by abuses.
"The project to improve their living conditions began in 2006, when the regional government set a target of building homes for 220,000 households," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing local government officials.
"That would mean housing 80 percent of the region's farmers and herders by the end of 2010," it added.
The government has spent 1.3 billion yuan ($179.3 million) in the last two years "to help farmers move into brick houses from wood-and-earth residences and nomadic herders to settle down", it added.
China says it resettles Tibetans -- not just in Tibet but in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces too -- to help protect the environment and boost living standards.
But the resettlements often involve the slaughter of animals belonging to the mostly nomadic herders, relocation to poorly built accommodation and inability to find work due to lack of skills, Human Rights Watch said last year.
Others are forcably evicted to make room for public works projects, like dams and roads, the group said in a report.
Beijing has controlled the remote Himalayan region of Tibet since People's Liberation Army troops marched in in 1950.
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule, and China has ruled with an iron fist ever since.