More than two million Tibetans in China have been forced to change homes or relocate in a government-sponsored programme that is damaging their traditional culture and rural lifestyle, a human rights monitoring group said.
“The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being remodelled by mass rehousing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the post-Mao era,” Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said in a release accompanying the report.
“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,” she added.
Citing Chinese official figures, the report, entitled “‘They Say We Should Be Grateful’: Mass Rehousing and Relocation in Tibetan Areas of China”, said that two million people “were moved into new houses or rebuilt their own houses between 2006 and 2012”.
The number of people affected accounted for “more than two-thirds of the entire population” of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), it said.
Additionally, “hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders” in Tibetan regions outside the TAR, such as in Qinghai province — which lies in the eastern portion of the massive Tibetan plateau — were “relocated or resettled”, said the report, released Thursday.
Citing China’s 2010 census, it said there were about 6.2 million ethnic Tibetans living in China, with 2.7 million of them in the TAR, the group said.
“A chief aspect of the policy regarding herder communities, and one that upsets many Tibetans because of its impact on Tibetan culture, is that many of those rehoused or relocated have been sedentarized, moved off the land and into permanent structures,” the report said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said that it interviewed 114 Tibetans outside China over a seven-year period from March 2005 to June last year in compiling the 116-page report.
According to Human Rights Watch, the report cites violations such as lack of consultation and proper compensation, quality defects in housing and the disregard for autonomy rights in Tibetan areas.
The Chinese government blasted the report.
“The organisation you mentioned often criticises China wilfully and makes groundless statements,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing Thursday in response to a question. “I would not read seriously their reports, nor would I make any comments here,” she added.
“It is an undeniable fact that Tibet has made huge development and progress on all fronts including politics, economics and society in recent decades.”