Category Archives: forced relocation

“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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Filed under ethnic conflict, forced relocation, nomads, Tibet

“The Chinese Remaking of Kashgar”

The Huffington Post has a good article from Amy Reger, a researcher at UHRP:

Uyghurs view Kashgar as the spiritual and cultural heart of their culture, and the cradle of Uyghur civilization. However, reminiscent of the demolition of traditional Tibetan buildings in the city of Lhasa that were carried out around a decade ago, Kashgar’s Old City has been demolished piece-by-piece since early 2009. As the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) wrote in a recent report, Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities, the majority of the Old City has now been demolished, together with traditional Uyghur communities throughout East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China).

After the creation of the special economic trading area in Kashgar, real estate prices in the city skyrocketed, as investors from places such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangxi scrambled to secure their own piece of a state-led economic boom. At the European View Gardens apartment complex, one of a spate of new residential complexes that has sprung up alongside demolitions and investment in Kashgar, a New York Times reporter asked a Chinese salesman why there were no Uyghur-language promotional materials. The salesman responded by saying, “What’s the point? They can’t afford this place.”

In an online marketing video for European View Gardens, which is located on land formerly owned by Uyghurs, a Chinese-speaking narrator promotes digitalized images of the property’s beautiful landscaping and cascading fountains, which are populated by families and security guards who appear to be Han Chinese.

The new housing developments featured in the videos are indistinguishable from cities in eastern China, thereby enticing Chinese residents who otherwise may have been uncomfortable moving to an environment outside of the Han cultural domain. These videos, and their lack of representation of Uyghurs and other non-Han peoples, raise doubts about who is benefiting from government policies to drive investment to Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan. In Kashgar, officials have suggested that Uyghurs would be able to return to their rebuilt Old City residences in the wake of construction, but financial constraints make this seem unlikely.

A quick look at recent online job advertisements in Kashgar reveals a number of instances in which candidates are openly limited to members of the Han Chinese population. Several ads placed on a website for “Dongcheng Huayuan” (东城花园), one of the many new residential complexes springing up in the city, specify that applicants must be Han Chinese. One ad seeks two Chinese individuals with mechanical repair skills; another seeks an office manager and an office clerk, each of whom must be Han Chinese; and a third seeks an accountant and a cashier, each of whom must be Han Chinese. Examples of recent online job ads for companies throughout Kashgar that specify applicants must be Han Chinese also include this ad for two truck drivers; an ad for ten cashiers; and an ad for 12 advertising salespersons, 12 telephone marketing representatives and two website editors.

As Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan become increasingly “Chinese,” Uyghurs are being pushed further to the margins, both in terms of their living spaces and their role in society. The widening ethnic gap in who benefits from regional transformation raises concerns about ethnic relations and the prospects for sustainable progress in East Turkestan.

It’s scary how accurate this story remains if you switch out Uyghur for Tibetan or Mongolian and Lhasa or the Inner Mongolian grasslands.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, forced relocation, Xinjiang

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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Filed under censorship, ethnic conflict, forced relocation, nomads, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“The Wukan Protests –Because Something Is Happening Here But You Don’t Know What It Is”

China Law and Policy has an article for people wondering about exactly how the situation in Wukan developed. If you are curious about why land grabs are such a common source of anger in China, take a look. Otherwise, their conclusion about whether or not Wukan represents some kind of change:

Wukan is not an example of villagers seeking their rights under the law. China’s property laws – the PRL and the LAL – provide little rights to villagers.

But there is certainly something happening here… I’m just not so sure what it is and perhaps it is still too early to determine if Wukan is in fact a harbinger of something more. Protests in China against rural land takings and the lack of just compensation occur on an almost daily basis. But in Wukan, these protests were large, public and extreme. Add to the mix that one of the protest leaders died while in police custody.

On some level Wukan had the potential to end differently, to end violently. But it didn’t. Instead, the provincial government stepped in to admonish the local officials (although interestingly enough such punishment is going to happen outside of the legal system and under shuangguai, the Party adjudication method – see Nanfang translation), praise the villagers, admonish against further protest and agree to provide greater compensation.

But how often can the provincial or central government step in and continuously calm these tensions? Arguably the government must recognize that it is the structure of the law itself that leads to such discontent. But such a discriminatory law is necessary to provide for real estate development, an increasingly important part of China’s GDP. Will the government change this paradigm and provide equal property rights to villagers? Right now it is unclear. Wukan seems to have ended in the same way as all of these protests do. But perhaps this time the central leadership will realize that constantly involving itself in these local protests is unsustainable.

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Filed under forced relocation, housing demolition, protests

“4,500 march against land grab in Lufeng, Guangdong”

Via Shanghaiist, reports and pictures from a protest in Guangdong:

Thousands of protestors from Wukan village marched today in what appears to be a well-organised, peaceful demonstration in Guangdong’s Lufeng city. They carried colourful banners with slogans against corrupt government officials and dictatorship as they demanded for the return of their farmland.

‘The government promised to solve the land problem but they haven’t… If they don’t handle it this time, it won’t be peaceful next time.’ The protest centres around land requisitioned in Wukan village, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Lufeng government.

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Filed under forced demolition, forced relocation, housing demolition, protest

“Blue Dragon Mountain: the Chinese village ‘that doesn’t exist'”

An interesting one from Peter Foster at the Telegraph about one case where the forcefully relocated have managed to hold their own:

In December 1998 bulldozers demolished their homes to make way for a reservoir to supply drinking water to the rapidly expanding tourist centre of Harbin, but when the local government failed to give adequate compensation, the villagers decided to move back in.

“We returned to the village on April 10 [1999] and at first it was very hard,” recalled Yu Liyou, one of the original returnees, speaking under the watchful gaze of Chairman Mao Zedong whose beatifically smiling portraits are still found in rural homes in China.

“We all lived together in a simple collective house and divided into four work brigades to rebuild the village. It was just like the production teams in the old days.” And so began a decade-long stand-off against the local authorities that continues to this day and has become a national example of how the nameless, numberless casualties of China’s economic progress can sometimes stand up for themselves.

Officially the village of Blue Dragon Mountain – Qinglongshan in Chinese – ceased to exist in 1998: its name was erased from maps, the electricity was disconnected, the dirt road closed and its inhabitants relocated to neighbouring districts where – officially – they still ‘live’.

“I talked to those government people, and they said, ‘there’s nothing here, look on the map, you don’t exist’,” said a 76-year-old village elder, Xiao Yongting, “So I replied, ‘well, if we don’t exist, what are we? An independent nation state?”

This story of bravado in the face of officialdom, delivered by the old man as he cracked sunflower seeds expertly between his two remaining teeth, raises a round of appreciative snorts from the fellow villagers.

But the seditious cackles disguises the limits of the villagers’ victory: for all their defiance, the government officials are factually correct; in the eyes of the all-powerful Chinese bureaucracy the inhabitants of Blue Dragon Mountain don’t exist as they have no ID cards and no resident’s papers.

Without these documents they must live in limbo, unable even to buy a train ticket, or check into a hotel (ID card required), which makes long-distance travel all but impossible; they also cannot open a bank account, apply for rural medical insurance, take a job with a registered company or enroll in a university.

He goes on to say that there’s growing pressure to reform or end the hukou system. That’s true, but it seems far too useful a tool for the government to give up. We’ll see what they do with it.

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Filed under development, forced relocation, housing demolition

“China’s coal rush leaves three million living on the edge”

From Malcolm Moore at the Telegraph, a story about one of the costs of reliance on coal:

In the dust-blown mountains of China’s coal belt, locals have lived for years with choking clouds of soot and the continual roar of mines that never sleep, digging for 24 hours a day. Now they face being buried alive as China tries to extract every last nugget of coal from beneath them.

Shanxi Huang Jia Po is a village on the edge. For centuries, 500 farmers have lived here, carving stepped fields into the side of their mountain and planting corn, marrows and aubergines in the fertile yellow soil that covers Shanxi province.

But the children of the farmers will have to live somewhere else, because it is only a matter of time before the village falls into the honeycomb of mining tunnels below. Standing in his courtyard, Lu Linhu points to a 30ft deep hole that has opened up in the cement outside his front door. Behind him, wide cracks have appeared in the walls and ceiling of his bedroom. The 38-year-old Mr Lu, like many other villagers, has used gaudy posters to cover the holes and ease his state of mind.

“We cannot really sleep properly any more,” he said. “At night, we can feel the shaking of the ground when they use dynamite in the mine. And when it rains, the water comes flooding in through the cracks.

The local government reported earlier this year that excessive mining had made an area of 8,000 square miles, roughly the size of Wales, unstable and dangerous. But in the trade-off between the millions of peasants who live here and China’s booming economy, there was likely to be only one winner. At Liulin, 94 families have already had to abandon their homes and move down the mountain after their farmland sheared away beneath them. Soon, they will have to abandon their new homes as well.

Li Lianji, the former head of coal industry research at Shanxi’s Academy of Science, said: “The problem is that Shanxi has soft soil.

“It is difficult to calculate exactly how many areas have been hollowed out, but wherever there is a coal mine, the villagers nearby will definitely have been affected. The only solution is to fill up the mines after digging, but that doubles the cost. And at the moment, as we build the economy, China cannot afford for coal to double in price.”

And here comes my skepticism again- in this country, with all this manpower, they can’t find a way to fill the mines without doubling the price? ‘Coal mine owner’ has the same ring ‘oil baron’ does in America- I feel like they could figure out some way to mitigate some of this, if they were so inclined.

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Filed under environment, forced relocation, pollution

“Villagers Tie up Police, Douse with Gasoline, Over Land Conflict”

I’m somewhat reluctant to use the Epoch Times here. Run by the Falun Gong, I’ve seen a handful of their stories collapse over the years, and their tone can be a bit strong at times. They do run a lot of good content, though, and this story seems to hold up:

Villagers in Guangdong Province tied three plainclothes policemen to the base of an overturned truck and doused them with gasoline on July 23, before pelting them with rocks in apparent retaliation for land confiscations over a period of years.

It was the latest eruption of raw violence against the authorities in China. Desperate citizens have resorted to force in a string of cases in recent months, attempting to make their feelings known to a system whose formal mechanisms for redress often end up leading to further victimization.

Land confiscations are one of the most acute points of contention between Communist Party officials and ordinary Chinese, as corrupt cadres collude with real-estate developers, and often gangs of thugs, to forcibly evict people from their houses before selling the land. Compensation is promised more often than it is honored.

Photographs of the incident in Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong Province, were uploaded to Sina Weibo, a microblog service, soon after it took place on July 23.

The three men in the photograph appeared to be struggling to free themselves and appealing to onlookers. Witnesses said that angry villagers regarded the men as no better than gangsters and threw stones at them. Elderly villagers cried as gasoline was poured over the three policemen, though they were not set alight.

More than 1,000 riot police later descended on the village, capturing at least 30 villagers and injuring many others.

A resident, Mr. Deng, told The Epoch Times that contrary to state-run media reports, the conflict was about land confiscation and not fishing rights. “We don’t have much land left; most of it was taken by the government. Without land for farming, we will not have any food to eat,” he said.

“The land was taken for construction, but the government only gave very little compensation to the villagers,” he added.

Mr. Deng said that the three policemen had first apprehended several villagers before others came to their rescue, subduing the men and lashing them to a truck that had been overturned.

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Filed under China, forced relocation, violence

“Averting a nightmare on the Nu”

ChinaDialogue has an article about the ongoing battle over damming the Nu River, in southwest China’s Yunnan province.  Scientists have been urging the government to abandon the plan, due to frequent seismic activity in the region, and a number of other environmental concerns.  Area residents would also pay a very steep price:

On my last day in the Nu valley, I stopped at the controversial resettlement village of New Xiaoshaba. To make way for the Liuku dam, which is yet to be approved or built, the entire village of Old Xiaoshaba has been involuntarily resettled here. I met with two residents of the former village who had refused to leave their land.

Studies of the Liuku case have shown that the compensation scheme for New Xiaoshaba violates a number of China’s Regulations on Land Acquisition Compensation and Resettlement for Large and Medium Size Water Resources and Hydroelectric Construction Projects, issued in 2006. For instance, residents were required to purchase their houses rather than being given the opportunity to build their own, as required under the 2006 regulations. The rules also say farmers must be given new farmland in an amount equal to that lost in the resettlement process, but this did not materialise.

The new resettlement houses are a gleaming white on the outside but, after only two years, their poor construction has started to show in the form of cracks, leaks and mould. According to one of the villagers, some of the farmers still return to their old fields to grow their crops.

The Three Gorges Dam had similar implications for its area, and has been the subject of ongoing controversy ranging from whether it would survive an earthquake to the effects of its large and horrifically polluted reservoir.  Here’s to hoping this one gets a little bit more thought before they give the orders.

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Filed under China, environment, forced relocation

“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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Filed under China, forced relocation, nomads, Tibet