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NEWS//Relocation in Tibet

NEWS//Relocation in Tibet

Life for thousands of Tibetian sheepherding nomads has drastically improved through a government relocation program, says Xinhua News Agency.  Xinhua is the official state-run press agency of the People's Republic of China.

Improving life in Tibet

Xinhua describes the remote mountains of Tibet as rife with endemic diseases such as rheumatism and heart disease. Life expectancy is no more than 60 years. Storms and heavy snow seal the mountain passes every winter. Basic public services including education and medical care are not always accessible. The local primary school only offers education for students from grades 1 to 3. Very few students are admitted to Chinese universities.

This part of China's relocation program will resettle 27,880 residents from 6,910 households in the five years between 2016 to 2020. Their homes will be in the area of Lhasa, Tibet’s capitol. Xinhua says these families will have newly constructed homes, better education for children, and medical care for their elderly. The flocks they left behind will be cared for by cooperatives that will share profits with the relocated families.

In addition, the government will use the unoccupied land to expand and restore the Qiangtang National Nature Reserve, an important habitat for Tibetan antelopes.

See the promotional video below. [This article continues after the video.]

Criticism of Tibet's relocation program

Not everyone is convinced that this program is a win/win situation. Concerns about the administration of the Tibetan resettlement program stretch back many years.

Voice of America reports (2014) that “critics say the program ignores environmental realities, however, and is really a way for authorities to control the livestock and land that belonged to the nomads.”

Human Rights Watch (2011) has called on the Chinese government to end the relocation program.  It maintains the program is responsible for 

  • Extensive rights violations ranging from the absence of consultation to the failure to provide adequate compensation;
  • Defective housing;
  • Absence of remedies for officials’ arbitrary decisions;
  • Failures to restore livelihoods;
  • Disregard for autonomy rights nominally guaranteed by Chinese law in Tibetan areas.

Radio Free Asia (2012) reported that “authorities have confiscated the residency permits and other personal documents of a group of Tibetan nomads in northwestern China's Qinghai province who refused to move from their traditional grazing grounds to impoverished resettlement towns, according to Tibetan sources.”

Sources:, Voice of AmericaHuman Rights Watch, Radio Free Asia