Hundreds of Tibetan families temporarily absent from their homes in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture have been left without permanent places to live after being struck from the lists of residents now ordered by Chinese authorities to relocate from their ancestral land, Tibetan sources say.
The families, comprising around 4,000 residents of Chamdo’s Markham (in Chinese, Mangkang) and Gongjo (Gongjue) counties, have meanwhile also been forbidden to return to their native places, leaving them in “a difficult situation,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The local government in Chamdo has disqualified those families from resettling, and they are also not allowed to remain in their places of origin or hometowns,” RFA’s source said, adding, “Therefore, those families have nowhere to live at present.”
Writing in a petition sent last year to central authorities in Tibet, the families left in limbo said they had left their home areas only briefly to find work or educate their children and had not voluntarily moved away for good.
“Our households are still registered in our hometowns and places of birth, and we never reported to village or township authorities that we were migrating voluntarily,” said the petition, a copy of which has been seen by RFA.
“If we are not counted now as part of the population of Markham and Gongjo, where do we belong?” the letter asks. “And if we are still included as residents, what has happened to the subsidies we were promised by the Chinese central government? Who has taken them?”
“We call for an urgent investigation into this matter,” the petition said.
Crowded conditions, no employment
In a resettlement scheme launched in 2014-2015, authorities have ordered thousands of Tibetan residents of impoverished areas of Chamdo to move from their farmland and homes to areas closer to the regional capital Lhasa, where they live in crowded conditions with large families piled into single dwellings and opportunities for employment cut off.
New areas of settlement for families forced from Markham and Gongjo include the counties of Toelung Dechen, Tagtse, Maldro Gongkar, and Phenpo Lhundrub, sources say.
Many of those resettled are unhappy with their new living conditions, though, and complain of resources inadequate to support their families.
“We were forced to resettle in Toelung,” one man said, speaking to RFA. “Our ancestral land and everything we had has been taken by the government in Markham, and nothing is left for us now where we were born.”
Though his family and others were given money and places to live in their resettlement towns, these were not sufficient for large families, and the money they were given quickly ran out, he said. “Besides, we are unable to send our children to school yet.”
“It is hard for us to find jobs, even jobs working as servers in restaurants, which our daughters found out when they were turned away because they can’t speak Chinese. We have asked the government to allow us to return to our old homes, but they won’t let us do it,” he said.
Several families who tried to return quietly to Markham on their own were later “chased away by force and had to come back here,” he added.
Reported by Sonam Lhamo and Yangdon Demo. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.