Category Archives: nomads

“Tibetan Land Seized For Chinese Migrants”

Amidst all the Chen Guangcheng craziness business is still going on as usual in other parts of China- for example, Qinghai province, where RFA reports that there’s been another round of ethnically-driven land seizures:

Chinese authorities have forcibly grabbed land from three Tibetan nomadic villages in Qinghai province and will give it to tens of thousands of new Chinese migrants, according to a Tibetan resident of the area.

The new wave of migration will result in the growth of a Chinese town fueled by construction of two hydroelectricity projects, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“On April 25, Chinese government officials convened a meeting of five nomadic villages in Gepasumdo [in Chinese, Tongde] county in the Tsolho [Hainan] prefecture in Qinghai,” the Tibetan source said.

“At the meeting, the Tibetan residents of Setong, Dragmar, Seru, Machu, and Goekar villages were told they would have to give up 60 per cent of their land and get rid of 54 percent of their animals within this year,” he said.

The officials said animals would not be allowed to remain on the land taken over by the government, and villagers were advised to reduce the number of their animals by selling them to slaughterhouses.

“During the meeting, the Tibetans from the five different villages unanimously refused to accept the Chinese proposal to take over their land,” the Tibetan source said.

The government officials returned to the county center and later “forced the Tibetan residents of Setong, Dragmar, and Seru villages to surrender all their land,” the Tibetan said.

“The Tibetan land taken by the Chinese authorities … is meant [to cater to] over 30,000 Chinese migrants.”

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TibetWatch: April 19th

By my count it has been more than two weeks since the last self-immolation in Tibet itself, but two immolations in Dzamthang yesterday have broken the lull (via RFA):

Two Tibetan cousins set themselves ablaze Thursday in protest over Chinese rule in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to exile sources.

“Local Tibetans and monks tried to douse the flames and took the two to their homes, but their chances of survival are slim,” he said, identifying the two as Choephak Kyab and Sonam. “There was a gathering among Tibetans later. Police and other security forces arrived and then communications were cut off.”

The self-immolations on Thursday brought to 35 the number of Tibetans who had burned themselves since February 2009 to back demands for an end to Chinese rule and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Twenty-five have died of severe burns.

Aside from Sichuan, the burnings also triggered street protests in the other Tibetan-populated provinces of Qinghai and Gansu as Tibetans questioned Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.

The Dalai Lama last week blamed Beijing’s “totalitarian” and “unrealistic” policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

Also, RFA and TCHRD are reporting that a school in Kardze has been closed for being just a little bit too Tibetan:

Chinese authorities in Sichuan province have closed a school linked to the promotion and teaching of the Tibetan language, detaining two of the school’s teachers and warning Tibetans living in the area not to attempt to reopen the facility, according to an exile source.

The school, which was established in 1987 in the Rongpo Tsa township with approval from Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county authorities, was closed on April 2, a monk living in South India said, citing contacts in the region.

“The school’s efforts toward preserving Tibetan language and culture had annoyed the local authorities,” the source said, adding that two of the school’s teachers—Nyendak, 51, and Yama Tsering, 36—had been detained by the police.

Though language protests in Tibetan areas have been treated in the past as local issues resulting from a “misunderstanding” of government policy, “it is only a matter of time, really, before these issues will be treated in a much more serious way,” Barnett said.

“We’re in a climate now where that’s actually extremely likely, that almost everything will be treated as a political challenge [caused by] outside instigation.”

Finally for today, the Tibetan Plateau Blog has a lengthy post describing a concrete instance of something Tibetans have alleged for years- that nomad resettlement campaigns, ostensibly put in place to protect the environment, are actually being done to clear the way for mining companies:

The establishment of protected nature reserves is a time-tested method of asserting state authority over territories and peoples that were previously subject to weak control. Whether it is in the name of protecting tigers in India, forests in Central America or headwaters in Tibet, the creation of protected parks come with coercive laws that limit the rights of people who live in and around the designated area.

Often the discourse on protected parks portrays them as benign environmental projects. However, on the dark side, protected parks and nature reserves frequently introduce mechanisms for social control and facilitate resource development and eco-tourism plans. It is little wonder that between 1980 and 2003, China has established 70 nature reserve parks in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

They go on to examine a park system in place in Tibet, where the exact areas that were originally sealed off for grassland revitalization have now been given to gold-mining companies.

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Filed under environment, ethnic conflict, nomads, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

February 20th: TibetWatch

First off, yet another self-immolation in Ngaba (via Phayul):

The 18 year old teenaged Tibetan, Nangdrol set himself on fire today in the afternoon in Amdo Ngaba, the nerve centre of almost all the Tibetan self-immolations in the recent months.

“Nangdrol set himself on fire and died on the spot. Right now his body is with the Ngaba Dzamthang monastery,” Tsayang Gyaltso, an exiled Tibetan told Phayul citing his contacts in Tibet.The monastery in the region took the charred body of Nangdrol and performed religious services.

AP has more about what happened immediately afterwards:

Following Nangdrol’s death, police demanded that his body be handed over, but monks at his Samdrup Norbu Ling monastery refused, the international campaign said, citing Tibetan monks based in India. More than 1,000 people gathered at the monastery overnight to stand guard over the body, it said.

Chinese security has cut off access to Tibetan areas, making it virtually impossible to independently confirm such acts. Calls to local government and Communist Party offices rang unanswered on Monday.

Chinese police last Wednesday took Tibetan writer Gangkye Drubpa Kyab from his home in Serthar, another restive Sichuan province county near Aba, the Norway-based Voice of Tibet reported over the weekend. The report said he has not been released.

Meanwhile Philip Wen of the Sydney Morning Herald is following up on his amazing reports from sealed-off Ngaba by raising journalistic hell in Amdo, where he interviews former nomads and recounts what China has done to them:

Losang, a dark, stocky man with a shock of jet black hair and a beaming grin, is known as the happiest man in his village. The former nomad cackles with infectious laughter after almost every sentence, even when telling the story of his own misfortune.

Losang and his family are one of more than 100,000 families who have been moved from the grassland plateaus into permanent homes in government-commissioned nomad resettlement camps in Qinghai, as part of a scheme involving the Tibetan-populated regions in the mountainous and remote western reaches of China.

One particularly large village, in Tongde, has row upon row of identical one-storey houses. And with space running out, Tongde is now building dozens of high-rise dwellings, similar to medium-density apartments in inner-city Sydney. There are also plans to provide centralised healthcare and education (in Mandarin). Tibetan nomads roam the grasslands at high altitudes in summer, usually in communities of up to two dozen, travelling wherever the grass is lush and weather fine. Their yaks are essential, used to carry tents and equipment and for their meat and milk, which is in turn used for butter and yoghurt. Even their dung is dried and burnt for fuel.

For Losang, a lifetime in the expansive grasslands of Qinghai’s mountains has ended abruptly. He knows he is never likely to earn enough to accumulate a self-sustaining herd again, having spent most of the money he got from selling his herd on the RMB6000 payment for the house. The government covered the remainder (about RMB14000).

He finds he has greatly underestimated cost of living in a world where nothing comes free. ”When I was a nomad I ate meat everyday, drank yak milk tea and wore sheepskin robes, now I can’t. I have to buy everything. And I even have to eat [vegetables],” he says.

For many ethnic Tibetans, this year’s Losar, which starts on Wednesday, will feel more like a wake.

”Everything is cancelled this year,” Sonam, a 62-year-old nomad village elder in Zeku, tells the Herald over cups of yak butter milk tea and fried dough, both traditional staples of the Tibetan diet.

”Usually we burn incense in the morning and set off firecrackers at night, but this year we feel very sad about those who lost their lives for us, so we won’t do it.”

Emotions in the numerous government-commissioned resettlement villages visited by the Herald ranged from silent frustration to barely-contained anger over a consistent range of issues: treatment of their monks, perceived restrictions on their own freedom to travel and practice their religion, and their loss of quality of life after being moved from herding yaks in the mountains into nomad resettlement camps.

”We heard what was happening [the protests on January 23] and were thinking of doing the same, but then we heard there were more than 3000 soldiers in the area, so we decided not to,” says Namkha , a 55-year-old villager from Tongren, Qinghai. ”The temple leader told us not to for our safety, so we resisted our anger.”

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February 10th: TibetWatch

Phayul is reporting a self-immolation in Yushu prefecture, home of quake-stricken Kyigundo:

Although initial reports are scarce, the Tibetan is being described as a monk in his thirties from the La Monastery in Tridu, Keygudo.

“A monk in his 30s set fire to himself on the main road of La Township, Tridu County, Keygudo Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Chenduo County, Yushu Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai) yesterday, 8 February, between 1 and 2pm local time,” a release by the London based campaign group Free Tibet said.

Eyewitnesses report that the monk was alive but in a serious condition when he was taken away by Chinese security personnel.

In another protest on February 4 Saturday, four Tibetans were arrested by Chinese security personnel for carrying out a peaceful protest in front of a Chinese police station at Dza Toe town again in Tridu region of Keygudo.

The four Tibetans; Tsering Palden, Tsering Sangpo, Tsering Tashi and Dorjee raised slogans calling for Tibet’s independence and the return of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The current whereabouts of the Tibetans remain unknown.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has written an article about Chinese efforts to keep the press out of Tibetan regions:

China’s investment in high-tech Internet surveillance technology is well known, and the byzantine rules of its Central Propaganda Department have inspired books and academic treatises.

But among the many tools in the box for media control, there’s one that’s very simple and low-tech: Keep journalists away.

That’s the main tool that the state is employing to suppress news of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule. International journalists have been barred from visiting the site of the protests.

It’s not just international reporters who face travel restrictions. Chinese journalists, already hamstrung by censorship, are similarly barred from visiting places where news is happening. Radio Free Asia points to several microblog posts in the past week by Chinese journalists who have been turned away by authorities in Wukan, in Guangdong province.

Placing travel restrictions on journalists may have one unintended effect. It means that when it comes to unofficial news from China, activists and advocacy groups play a vital role in collecting and disseminating information.

Chinese authorities are hard on activists–even harder than they are on journalists. But by preventing reporters from doing their jobs, Chinese officials all but guarantee that activists are the ones reporting the news.

That’s probably fine by Beijing, because traditional journalism would likely come to the same conclusion that the rest of us have reached. Better to have it come from RFA, TCHRD, and Phayul rather than the Washington Post, NYT, and the Guardian, right?

Finally for now, ChinaDialogue has the next part of their series on Tibetan nomad resettlement:

Fifty-eight-year-old Sonka never dreamed he might one day leave his ancestral village of Cuochi, on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, and move to the outskirts of Golmud, a largely Han Chinese city in northwest Qinghai province. Much less did he imagine his family’s entire way of life would change.

In 2005, this family of five, together with almost 300 other herding households from Sanjiangyuan – Qinghai’s “Three Rivers Source” area, which contains the headwaters of the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow River – were relocated to a settlement eight kilometres south of Golmud. The move was part of the government’s “ecological migration” scheme, designed to protect the region’s delicate environment.

The government pays each relocated family an annual subsidy of 8,000 yuan (US$1,266). When they first moved, Sonka thought such a large sum would be enough to feed and clothe all five of them. But he soon found out that, in the new village, everything costs.

In Cuochi, it was different: they had meat and milk from their own cattle, used dung for fuel and wore homemade sheepskin clothing. They rarely needed cash. The family was also used to having meat at every meal, but they can’t afford to buy it at the market in the new place. Sonka keeps in touch with relatives back in Cuochi, and asks them to bring beef or mutton when they visit. And when he goes to Cuochi, he brings back as much meat as he can carry.

Sonka is uneducated, unskilled and can’t speak Mandarin. The only work available to him is basic labouring – construction work, for instance, or moving goods. It’s tiring and the hours are long, and Sonka is often the oldest worker on site. But the family needs the money.

The other families in the village face the same problem: a serious shortage of money. I met Kangzhuo, a nun from a Sichuan nunnery, who was visiting her sister. She said she was disgusted with conditions here: “There’s no grasslands, no cows and no sheep – what have they got? Just a cramped house!”

She pointed at the wasteland surrounding the village. “Who are these people now? They’re not Tibetans and they’re not Han. If they were Tibetan, they would have grasslands and livestock; if they were Han, they could speak Mandarin and work. But they can’t herd, and they can’t work.”

After meeting Sonka, I asked myself whether the relocation policy is worth the sacrifice each member of his family – and others like his – has made. Will it bring them happier lives? Will it protect and preserve the precious Tibetan culture and its simple values? If the answer to these questions is no, then the ecological migration policy should be re-examined.

The historic shift from nomadic life to settlement is probably bound to hit Tibet some day, but the way Beijing is forcing the issue is completely wrong. I’ve never seen anyone report even the slightest bit of satisfaction from resettled nomads, with the sole exception of Xinhua ‘journalists’ and official Chinese government ‘researchers,’ and that says a lot.

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“Protests Spread in China’s Mongolian Region, More Cities Under Martial Law”

Again referring to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center:

Chinese authorities have declared martial law in major cities of the Mongolian region including Hohhot, Tongliao, Ulaanhad (Chifing in Chinese), and Dongsheng in the face of mass protests by students and herders. Tight Security has been imposed as the authorities attempt to quash any protest and unrest. The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) received new photos from Hohhot, showing police and army troops deployed to exert control over possible protesters.

According to reliable sources, despite the tight security, on May 28, 2011, hundreds of Mongolian students and herders took to the streets of eastern Southern Mongolia’s Ulaanhad (Chi Feng) City to demand the rights of the Mongolian people be respected.

“Yes, Mongolian students took to the streets of Xincheng District of Ulaanhad yesterday,” a business person near the Ulaanhad Normal School, home to thousands of Mongolian students, said.

“Some Mongolian herders from fairly long distances also joined the protest,” a Mongolian physician who asked not to be identified told SMHIRC, “but the protestors were dispersed shortly by riot police and army.”

Riot police and army troops have been dispatched to Tongliao Municipality (former Jirim League), home to the largest Mongolian population (1.5 million), where all Mongolian schools and colleges are now under heavy guard.

According to the Washington Post, the Communist Party chief of Inner Mongolia has been taking the (very) unusual step of actively getting out there and trying to assuage their concerns.  I’d assume that the arrival of riot police means that they won’t be able to coordinate many more large-scale protests, so unless something drastic happens I think it’ll probably start to peter out now.

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“Do Tibetans Benefit from ‘Comfortable Housing’?”

High Peaks Pure Earth has a translation of a post by Tibetan writer Woeser.  In it she rebuffs the idea that Tibetans are happy with the forced relocations that have left many former nomads living in tiny, remote settlements with no way to make a living.  The claim that Tibetans are content with this arrangement was most recently advanced by a delegation from the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which toured Tibet last month.  As Woeser says:

Perhaps neither the Chinese nor the American sides have been aware of the fact that the U-Tsang farmers who moved from their old huts built from debris into “Comfortable Housing” came up with a name for their new homes: “Palkhar Lodroe Khangsar” – “Palkhar” means white forehead, which is a metaphor for bad luck; if, for example, both one’s parents die at a very young age, one can say one has “Palko kharpo charsha”, meaning that one’s forehead has gone white. “Lodroe” refers to cow lungs and intestines, which in the past would only be eaten by the lowest class of people; it is a metaphor for a vulgar and poverty-stricken lifestyle. Finally, “Khangsar” means new house – from these names created on the basis of traditional customs, we can see that farmers by no means approve of “Comfortable Housing”. Yet, what can disapproval really do? These are all integration measures taken by the government, one has no choice but to accept it.

People from Kham call “Comfortable Housing”, “Lagyag Khangba”, which means “hand-raising housing”. There is a whole series of “Lagyag” sayings; for instance “hand-raising solar stove”, “hand-raising tent” etc. “Hand Raising” simply means “to agree”. Only if one agrees, one will be given certain things; but the question is, what does one have to agree to? In line with the Party’s political principles of the “politics on command” and “maintaining stability is the top priority”, the first thing someone from the Autonomous Region when going through the civil servant examination has to attest is that one is “against separatism” and that one “criticises the Dalai”. When herdsmen move into “Comfortable Housing”, they have to raise their hands in approval and express that they are “against the Dalai clique” and that they “thank the Party”.

To build these housing compounds for herdsmen, during the first stage, the government provides ten thousand RMB and the people have to ask for a loan of ten thousand RMB, without any exceptions made to the single-storeyed Tibetan clay wall houses. In the second stage, the government provides ten thousand RMB and the herdsmen have to pay back an installment of ten thousand RMB, plus take out an additional loan of thirty thousand RMB, without any exceptions made to the red-tiled Han-style concrete blocks. And all houses have to be decorated with five-starred red flags, if not, they will be denounced. A local cadre said to me: “If one was really concerned about the needs of the herdsmen, instead of focusing on each village, the ‘settlements’ would be built somewhere near to where the nomads dwell during winter, this would actually help them. We know that the government is trying to use economic incentives as enticements. This is a grand idea but it does not really gain the approval of local herdsmen”.

This policy has been a disaster for the livelihoods of herdsmen and nomads, who are frequently left unable to provide themselves with any source of income.  If/when government loans and subsidies run out…

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“A Murder and Protests in Inner Mongolia”

Far less visible than their counterparts in Tibet and Xinjiang, the remaining ethnic Mongolians in the Chinese-administered province of Inner Mongolia have had an equally painful relationship with Beijing.  At ChinaGeeks, the highly-talented C.Custer rounds up and translates news related to some protests there:

“Today on Twitter I saw several interesting messages from @siweiluozi about an incident in Inner Mongolia that apparently led to rather large scale protests the past few days, with the largest being early this morning Beijing time.

What exactly were they protesting, though? I decided to dig more into it. The following is culled together from a variety of sources, and parts of all of it may not be accurate.”

A very interesting story- we’ll see what comes of it.

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