A campaign this week to demolish unapproved structures along a stretch of scenic Qinghai Lake has resulted so far in the destruction of over 600 homes and shops, with not only Tibetan but also Muslim and Han Chinese property owners affected, sources say.
The assault beginning June 1 on Tanakma (in Chinese, Heimahe) township in Chabcha (Gonghe) county in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was carried out by hundreds of police officers led by a county official and accompanied by heavy machinery, sources in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
More than 600 structures, mostly shops and restaurants but including private dwellings, have been torn down so far, with demolition expected to continue after a weekend break, a local resident told RFA.
“A third of these belonged to Tibetans, with the rest belonging to Muslims and [Han] Chinese,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The reason given for the buildings’ destruction was they were “illegal structures,” the source said.
“However, the owners said that they had applied to officials for permits to build but had failed to pay them bribes, and that authorities had then turned down their applications,” he said.
Five property owners—three Tibetans and two Muslims—had protested the destruction of their properties and were put in shackles by police, but were released after being detained for a day, he said.
“We fear that neighboring areas like Chang Shikhuk, Hodon Yangtrang, and Chik Nga Chik may be the next targets of the government demolition plan,” he added.
Tibetan landowners in Chabcha are often forced to sell their properties to wealthy businessmen who pay bribes to local authorities to force the sale, one source said in an earlier report.
“And when Tibetans try to resist the taking of their land, county officials crack down on them.”
“It is extremely rare to find even one county leader who is fair and reasonable” in his dealings with Tibetans, he said.
“Both officials and business owners exploit the land owned by the nomadic community.”
Tibetans living in China frequently complain of political, economic, and religious discrimination as well as human rights abuses, and sporadic demonstrations challenging rule by Beijing have continued in Tibetan-populated areas since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.