Tibet: more arrests, forced relocations

China’s official media reported the arrest of 59 Tibetans Dec. 25 on charges of inciting protests during the March unrest in the region. Reports cited Xin Yuanming, deputy director of the public security bureau of Lhasa, as saying “some people started making up stories and spreading rumors, posing a threat to the security of the region and its people.” The 59 are accused of acting under orders of the Dalai Lama, and of downloading “reactionary” songs from the Internet for distribution within Tibet.

“After the violent incident in March, some people with ulterior motives under the scheming and encouragement of the Dalai splitist clique intentionally spread rumours and incited ethic feelings, threatening national and personal security,” China News Service said. Rights groups say hundreds of Tibetans still remain behind bars in the wake of the March protests, with many having “disappeared.” (Tibet Review, NYT, Dec. 25)

China’s official Xinhua news agency also boasted that the central government has moved some 300,000 Tibetan farmers and herders from 57,800 families into permanent brick houses in Tibet this year in a program “aimed at improving living conditions”—which rights groups say has been marked by gross abuses.

Between 2006 and 2007 alone, Chinese government relocated some 250,000 Tibetan farmers and herders, nearly one-tenth of the population, to resettle to new “socialist villages” from scattered rural hamlets. Reports show they were often ordered to build new housing largely at their own expense and without their consent. (Phayul, Dec. 27)

China spends more state money on the Tibet Autonomous Region than any other province. However, the money is being spent in ways that disproportionately benefit ethnic Chinese, who have migrated to Tibet in search of jobs building new roads, office towers, and the high-elevation railway linking the region to the rest of the People’s Republic, noted Joshua Kurlantzick after a visit to Lhasa, writing in the New Republic Dec 23.

He also writes that though Beijing usually refuses to admit this ethnic strategy publicly, Chinese state officials have actually reported that Lhasa, heart of Tibetan culture, is no longer a majority Tibetan city. Kurlantzick notes: “Outside of the Barkhor, the old Tibetan area of town, I found the city looked much like other provincial capitals, with its rows of hotpot restaurants catering to Sichuan migrants and squat office towers housing neon-lit Chinese shopping malls selling mobile phones, jewelry, and other expensive items.” (Tibetan Review, Dec. 27)

See our last posts on China and Tibet.

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