(TibetanReview.net, Mar15’23) – There is every reason why much of the border areas of Tibet, like on the Indian side, have historically remained mostly unpopulated, given the remoteness of their geographical locations and forbidding climactic conditions. However, under China’s border defence village project, officially referred to as Xiaokang (well-off) villages project, the situation has been changing rapidly in recent years. The purpose is to consolidate as well as expand the land border in many parts of what China sees as disputed areas.
The population is growing in the border areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), with improved living conditions and road network being a contributing factor, resulting in a safer and more stable border and safeguarding national security, reported China’s official chinadaily.com.cn Mar 15, citing a deputy of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament.
However, at least the initial the residents of these villages were said to have been made to relocate from their centuries-old settled farming and nomadic areas. China insisted the residents had relocated willingly, as if to prove the allegation.
The report cited Tashi Gyaltsan, an NPC deputy from the TAR and head of Doyul Lhoba ethnic township in Lhunze county, as saying infrastructure in all 28 villages in the county near the border with India has been modernized, benefiting more than 6,000 people. Lhunze, which is part of southern Tibet’s Lhokha (Chinese: Shannan) prefecture-level city, is located near Tibet’s border with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
“Those villages are now connected by roads in good condition. Furthermore, the road network in the border area is expected to be further improved in the future,” Tashi Gyaltsan, a member of the Lhoba ethnic group, has said.
Lhobas are ethnically and culturally Tibetan with a distinct way of life and China has made them a separate ethnic group.
The report said improved transport infrastructure in recent years had paved the way for development, and new roads have allowed people to get to townships and villages in border areas more conveniently throughout the year.
Tashi Gyaltsan has noted, “In the past, Yulmed township, surrounded by mountains, would be cut off by heavy snow in the winter for months. After the completion of a road by the end of 2020, the problem has been solved. What’s more, an airport in Lhunze is now operational, which will surely boost the development of the county.”
He has said all three villages of Doyul Lhoba ethnic township had running tap water and electricity, and infrastructure such as roads and the internet. People’s living standards have been significantly improved in all aspects, he has added.
What is more, the improved living conditions have attracted more people to live in villages and settlements in border areas, and the steady increase in population has been key to maintaining stability, he has said.
A report published in January by the region’s government work report has been cited as saying that to make the border areas more stable and help them thrive, the region had introduced preferential policies in 2022 to assist people moving to 48 settlements.
The report was cited as saying the population in border areas had seen an increase of 10.5% in the past five years, and by 2022, with the length of the road network in such areas being 3.7 times what it was in 2018.
By stepping up efforts in infrastructure construction in border areas and developing suitable industries in those areas this year, the growth in economic development and people’s incomes is expected to exceed the regional average, the report was further cited as saying.