Tibetan residents of Nangchen county in China’s western province of Qinghai have begun a boycott of Chinese vegetable shops, vowing instead to buy exclusively from Tibetan vendors who sell at lower prices, sources in the region and overseas said.
“Since shortly before the Chinese New Year, Tibetans in Nangchen began boycotting Chinese vegetable stores and businessmen,” a source with contacts in the area said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The price of vegetables in Nangchen is extremely high,” compared with other Tibetan counties nearby, he said.
At first, Tibetans from a local community organization went to ask the Chinese sellers to lower their prices, but the Chinese refused, the source said.
“The community organization then held a meeting which was attended by many Tibetan men and women, and a decision was made to completely boycott the Chinese vegetable stores,” he said.
Following this decision, the source said, the organization spoke with Tibetan businessmen in Nangchen who agreed to travel to the provincial capital Xining to purchase vegetables and sell them at a lower price.
‘Important and effective’
Currently, “the majority” of Tibetans in Nangchen are participating in the boycott, the source said, adding that organizers said they had drawn their inspiration in part from the successful use of boycotts in India’s independence movement.
Speaking in an interview, Tenzin Dorjee—director of the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet—called the boycott “important and effective,” adding that Nangchen residents had found it difficult to meet the prices charged in Chinese shops.
“For example, a kilo of apples usually sells for 2 yuan. But the Chinese shops were selling the same quantity of apples for 8 yuan,” he said.
“It seems that the Chinese vegetable sellers are now having a hard time finding customers because of their high prices,” Dorjee said. “However, Tibetan merchants are now buying vegetables in inland China, and are transporting them to Nangchen to sell to Tibetans at a cheaper rate.”
“The Tibetans are having fewer difficulties now,” he said.
Dorjee added that although Chinese merchants have complained to local authorities about their loss of business, the police have refused to interfere, saying the dispute is none of their concern.
‘Very, very helpful’
Meanwhile, in the earthquake-damaged town of Jyekundo, also in Qinghai, local Tibetans have recently opened vegetable shops to compete with Chinese storeowners.
“This has been very, very helpful,” a Tibetan resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Nine vegetable shops have been opened by Tibetan businesspeople from Nangchen and Surmang, and one was opened in the home of Nangchen Tashi, since his house was not completely damaged by last year’s quake,” he said.
“If we buy lettuce in a Chinese owner’s shop, it will cost from 4.3 to 5 yuan for a half-kilo,” he added. “A Tibetan shop will sell this same amount for only 2 yuan.”
“[The Tibetans] have transported not only all kinds of vegetables to sell, but also tea, flour, and oil.”
“Seeing how hard they work has touched me deeply,” he said.
Reported by Choegyi and Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Choegyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.