Local residents walk past a row of newly built houses in Chushur region of central Tibet in January 2006. (File photo)
DHARAMSHALA, July 17: A Tibetan writer born to a nomadic family inside Tibet has blasted China’s mass resettlement policy of Tibetans and listed eight “losses” nomads (Tib: drogpas) have suffered post resettlement.
Written in Tibetan under the pseudonym Bongtak Rilu, the writer says that nomads are “a proud, compassionate, honest, cultured and productive people who crafted their own independent source of living for centuries.”
According to Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, the writer laments the losses nomads are currently suffering, including the loss of precious folk culture, because of their resettlement in urban areas.
TCHRD translated the article which was first published on na shon sar pa (New Tibetan Youth), a popular website run from within Tibet, and had “struck a deep sympathetic chord” with readers because of the critical issues raised.
The writer states the eight losses
drogpas suffer post-resettlement as loss of independent livelihood, loss of unity and solidarity, loss of culture of decency and respect, loss of a unique livelihood, loss of ancestral homelands, loss of drogpa folk culture, loss of culture of shame and modesty and loss of drogpa humanity.
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 Chinese policy of resettling Tibetan nomads and herders into so-called policy of mass re-housing and relocation defects in the quality of the houses provided, absence of remedies for arbitrary decisions, failures to restore livelihoods, as well as a disregard for autonomy rights nominally guaranteed by Chinese law in Tibetan areas.
“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.”
The New York based group pointed out that while some Tibetans have welcomed the policy of resettlement, many others face financial difficulties as a result of having to move, reduce their herds, or demolish and reconstruct their houses. Moreover Tibetans households have to bear the greatest share of the overall cost of rebuilding their houses – up to 75 percent.
“The Chinese government claims that it is bringing economic benefits to Tibetans by building modern ‘New Socialist Villages,’” Richardson said. “And while it may be true that some Tibetans have benefitted, the majority have simply been forced to trade poor but stable livelihoods for the uncertainties of a cash economy in which they are often the weakest actors.”
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.
Richardson further noted that forging ahead with mass relocation and re-housing programs in a broadly repressive environment will only fuel tensions and widen the rift between Tibetans and Chinese state.
Since 2009, as many as 119 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.