DHARAMSHALA, July 25: Tibetans and supporters in Canada carried out a protest on Wednesday against the forced resettlement of nomads in Tibet and signed petitions urging the Chinese government to halt the “destructive policy.”
The protest led by Students for a Free Tibet, Canada took place in front of City Hall in Calgary.
Tibet’s nomads, approximately 2.25 million in number, are the original inhabitants of the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau environment where they have grazed their herds of yak, sheep and goats for more than 4,000 years.
Last month, global rights group Human Rights Watch came out with a hard-hitting report
which said that since 2006, over two million Tibetans have been relocated under the plan to “Build a New Socialist Countryside” in Tibetan areas.
The group noted that the programme is uprooting entire Tibetan communities, accelerating the steady erosion of Tibetan identity and culture. And, often, because families must pay for the government-mandated relocations themselves, they are often driven deep into debt.
By the end of this year, the report estimates, 90 percent of Tibet’s nomadic population will have been moved into sedentary “New Socialist Villages,” effectively ending their traditional lifestyle and, because many know no other way to provide for themselves, making them reliant on the Chinese government.
“The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being remodelled by mass re-housing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the post-Mao era,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW. “Tibetans have no say in the design of policies that are radically altering their way of life, and – in an already highly repressive context – no ways to challenge them.”
Sattelite images released by Human Rights Watch shows a 2004 image of the original Tibetan town of Bagkarshol in Taktse county on the left. On the right is a 2009 image, which reveals the town almost entirely destroyed (the report says 95 percent of buildings have been demolished) and replaced by a “New Socialist Village.”
HRW called on the Chinese government to halt all projects involving mass relocation and re-housing, and allow an independent assessment of the design and impact on these policies, including by agreeing to long-standing visit requests by various United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
Chinese authorities in the so called Tibet Autonomous Region have announced plans to further re-house and relocate more than 900,000 people by the end of 2014. In Qinghai province, the authorities have relocated and settled 300,000 nomadic herders since the early 2000s, and have announced their intent to turn an additional 113,000 nomads into sedentary dwellers by the end of 2013.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter after his visit to Tibet and China in 2010, had urged the Chinese authorities to take “all appropriate measures to immediately halt non-voluntary resettlement” of nomadic herders from their traditional lands and non-voluntary relocation or rehousing programmes of other rural residents
Following the protest, SFT members handed a report on the forced relocation of Tibetan nomads to the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Nexen, which was recently bought by China National Offshore Oil Corporation, a Chinese state-owned oil firm. CNOOC reportedly dedicates a large part of its social aid funds towards nomadic resettlement in Tibet.
“The nomads of Tibet have a basic human right, and that is the right to their own way of life,” said Tonie Minhas, Regional Coordinator with SFT Canada. “Nexen is now complicit in funding the forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. As Canadians, we cannot fund the destruction of another indigenous group and their way of life. 2 million is enough, and we need to stop this now."