(TibetanReview.net, Aug12’20) – China says it is stepping up efforts to relocate Tibetans to the border with India and Bhutan and developing infrastructure there to boost both national security and quality of life, reported China’s party mouthpiece globaltimes.cn Aug 11, citing residents and officials. It has called the resettlement voluntary, even to a previously uninhabitable area where winter is the only yearlong climate.
Cona (Tibetan: Tsona), “an important border county in Shannan” (Lhokha) Prefecture, plans to relocate 3,222 people of 960 families to the weakly controlled areas on the borders on a voluntary basis, the report cited Budo, deputy Party secretary and chief of the county, as saying. He has said the distances between the relocation destinations and LAC (line of actual control with India) will be shorter than 2 kilometers in a straight line and 5 kilometres on the ground. “The India-controlled areas are just a mountain away,” he has said.
The lengths of Cona’s borders with India and Bhutan were respectively 213 kilometres and 55 kilometres, the report said.
The report said the relocation project was also meant to deal with the problem of a weakening border force in Cona’s Lebugou region caused by the outflow of residents throughout the past decade. To date, Lebugou has moved 134 people from 40 households in three other villages with harsh natural conditions to Mama Menba township, the report added.
The report said that Yumai village in Lhunze County, also located in Shannan, was the PRC’s least populous administrative village with only 32 people of nine families in 2017. At present, there have been 191 people from 56 households settling in this village since the relocation project started there in 2017, the report added.
The report said that including Lhunze and Cona, all the four border counties in Shannan Prefecture were actively promoting the relocation project which involved a total of some 6,000 residents. The prefecture is also planning to relocate people from non-border counties to its border ones, the report added.
The report also said that Gongzhangpu in Luoza (Lhodrag) County, located on the border between Tibet and Bhutan, was previously just a pasture. Its elevation was 4,674 metres above sea level and the climate very harsh, with winter being the only season. Nevertheless, since Mar 2017, 20 people from 10 families had “voluntarily” moved to the border out of a feeling of patriotism, it added.
The report said that the Lebugou region in Nacuo (Nakartse) County in Shannan Prefecture bordered India and Bhutan, where 72 villagers from 24 households in Le village have moved from their old wooden houses to modern Tibetan-style buildings and houses in 2018. For residents who set up a home close to the borderline, herding is patrolling and living is guarding the frontier, the report said.
The report cited Le village chief Puba as saying, pointing to a mountain shrouded by mist, “This mountain is already in the India-controlled area, which is less than 5 kilometres from where we now stand.”
The report said Border villages were thriving and free trade was flowing thanks to the efficient construction of local infrastructure such as tarred roads.
The report cited Zhai Kun, secretary of the Party committee of Shannan Development and Reform Commission, as saying the China National Highway 219 (G219) connected several border counties in Tibet. He has called building roads to the border a demonstration of the PRC’s sovereignty.
“It can be said the construction of infrastructure in Tibet not only revolves around development and stability, but also revolves around national sovereignty interests,” Zhai Kun was quoted as saying.