A human rights group appealed to China on Thursday to end what it called forced “mass rehousing and relocation” of ethnic Tibetans that it said had uprooted more than two million people in the past seven years.
The report, by New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Chinese authorities threw lives into disarray by denying rights to forcibly relocated ethnic Tibetans with insufficient compensation, sub-par housing and lack of help in finding jobs.
“The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being remodelled by mass rehousing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the post-Mao era,” said Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson.
“Tibetans have no say in the design of policies that are radically altering their way of life, and - in an already highly repressive context - no ways to challenge them.”
More than two million Tibetans had been relocated in Tibet since 2006, as well as hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau such as in Qinghai province, the report said.
The aim of the programme, it added, was in part to help economically, but also to combat separatist sentiment “and is designed to strengthen political control over the Tibetan rural population”.
Phone calls to the Tibet autonomous region government office seeking comment were not answered.
Violence has flared in Tibet since 1950, when Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” the region. Many Tibetans say Chinese rule has eroded their culture and religion and agitate for the return of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.
The Chinese government, which brands the Dalai Lama a dangerous “splittist”, denies trampling on Tibetan rights and boasts of having brought prosperity to the region and ending serfdom.
Since 2009, at least 117 Tibetans have committed acts of self-immolation in China in protest against Beijing’s policies. More than 90 have died.
But in a possible sign of China loosening some restrictions, authorities in Tibetan-populated areas of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces are allowing monks to openly respect the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, although not as a political figure, Radio Free Asia said.
While the move appears limited to Sichuan and Qinghai, it nevertheless contradicts the long-time Chinese policy of prohibiting veneration of the Dalai Lama, Radio Free Asia said, citing sources who in turn cited official documents introducing the experimental policy.