Authorities in China’s Qinghai province are threatening to close a school catering to Tibetan nomad children, saying that its operation has interfered with government plans to move the nomads off their pastoral lands, sources said.
The authorities issued a “second warning” this week to local officials in Tsokyareng town in Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) prefecture’s Matoe (Maduo) county demanding that the school be closed, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.
“On May 20, Chinese authorities convened a local meeting and said that government officials are having trouble carrying out China’s policy of moving the Tibetan nomadic community into townships,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“So to make implementation [of this policy] easier, the school in Tsokyareng may be closed very soon,” he said.
It was not immediately clear when the demand was first made to close the school.
Citing what it described as overgrazing by “excessive numbers of cattle herds,” China in the 1990s launched a campaign to close off wild grasslands in Tibetan regions and drive nomadic communities into townships, the source said.
“This policy has disrupted the traditional Tibetan way of life and has created many problems,” he said.
Only local school
Local Tibetans are now worried by the news that the school, which was established in 1970, will be closed, he said.
“The school has about 50 students studying in the first through fourth grades, and is the only school where the local Tibetans can send their children for an education.”
China last year “continued its campaign to resettle Tibetan nomads into urban areas and newly created communities in rural areas across the TAR [Tibet Autonomous Region] and other Tibetan areas,” the U.S. State Department said in annual human rights report released this year.
“There were reports of compulsory resettlement,” the State Department’s report added.
Though stated goals for the campaign include improved housing conditions, health care, and education, “there was a pattern of settling herders near townships and roads and away from monasteries, which were the traditional providers of community and social services.”
“A requirement that herders bear a substantial part of the resettlement cost often forced resettled families into debt,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) last year said that resettled Tibetans interviewed by the rights group complained of reduced living standards in the townships to which they had been moved.
“In many cases they are in effect being forced to trade poor but stable livelihood patterns for the uncertainties of a cash economy in which they are often the weakest actors,” HRW said.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.