New York: The Chinese government is subjecting millions of Tibetans to a policy of mass rehousing and relocation that radically changes their way of life, and about which they have no say, Human Rights Watch said in a new report published on Wednesday.
Since 2006, under plans to "Build a New Socialist Countryside" in Tibetan areas, over two million Tibetans have been "rehoused" - through government-ordered renovation or construction of new houses - in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), while hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau have been relocated or settled in "New Socialist Villages."
The 115-page report, "`They Say We Should Be Grateful`: Mass Rehousing and Relocation in Tibetan Areas of China," documents extensive rights violations ranging from the absence of consultation to the failure to provide adequate compensation, both of which are required under international law for evictions to be legitimate. The report also addresses 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 remodeled by mass rehousing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the post-Mao era," said Sophie Richardson, Chinadirector at Human Rights Watch. " Tibetans have no say in the design of polices that are radically altering their way of life, and - in an already highly repressive context - no ways to challenge them."
The authorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region have announced plans to further rehouse and relocate more than 900,000 people by the end of 2014. In Qinghai province, on the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, 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.
The Chinese government asserts that all relocation and rehousing operations are entirely voluntary and respect "the will of the Tibetan farmers and herders."
It strongly denies that any forced evictions take place in the process, and suggests it is being culturally sensitive by stating that the design and appearance of the new houses suit "ethnic characteristics."
The government also claims that all those who have moved to new houses are satisfied and grateful for the improvement in their living conditions.