Thousands of Chinese migrants seeking work in infrastructure projects have poured into Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture over the last four years, displacing Tibetan residents whose farms and homes have been taken over to make room for high-rise housing, Tibetan sources say.
“Many Chinese have moved into Tibetan areas, and their numbers are already surpassing the numbers of Tibetans still living in Chamdo” a local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“According to official Chinese sources, at least 26,000 Chinese have migrated to Chamdo since 2016, but their numbers are probably greater than that,” said Shidey Dawa, a researcher at the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group.
“Chamdo is a highly Tibetan-populated region, and is known for its rich farmlands for the harvesting of crops,” Dawa said, adding that China has been relocating Tibetan residents of Chamdo to more urban areas as part of what it calls a Poverty Eradication plan.
“This is really just an attempt to destroy the Tibetans’ culture and identity, though,” Dawa said.
In a resettlement scheme launched in 2014-2015 authorities have already ordered thousands of Tibetan residents of impoverished areas of Chamdo, the easternmost part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, to move from their farmland to areas closer to the TAR’s regional capital Lhasa, where they live with large families piled into single dwellings and cut off from opportunities for employment.
New areas of settlement for families forced from Markham and Gongjo counties include the Lhasa-area counties of Toelung Dechen, Tagtse, Maldo Gongkar, and Phenpo Lhundrub, sources say.
“When Tibetans are forced to relocate from their villages to tiny box-like houses provided for them by the Chinese, getting accustomed to living such different lives in a different place takes a huge toll on them,” another Tibetan source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“But now in Chamdo, knowing the Chinese language has become essential to finding work. And without knowing Chinese, it is difficult to find a job even in stores and hotels,” he said.
Hundreds of Tibetan families temporarily absent from their homes in Chamdo prefecture have meanwhile been left without permanent places to live after being struck from the lists of residents now ordered by Chinese authorities to relocate from their ancestral land, local sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The families, comprising around 4,000 residents of Chamdo’s Markham (in Chinese, Mangkang) and Gongjo (Gongjue) counties, have also been forbidden by authorities to return to their native places, leaving them in “a difficult situation,” one source said.
Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.