Report: Chinese Development in Tibet Meets State Needs, Fails Tibetans

2021-02-24
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Report: Chinese Development in Tibet Meets State Needs, Fails Tibetans TCHRD researcher Tenzin Dawa (left) and executive director Tsering Tsomo (right) are shown at a press conference in Dharamsala, India, Feb. 23, 2021.
TCHRD

China’s development drives in Tibet have pulled the region closer to economic and cultural integration with Beijing but have failed Tibetans themselves, creating a “dual economy” that has seen rural Tibetans moved from traditional grazing lands and into urban areas where the best jobs are held by Han Chinese, according to a report released this week.

Driven by state interests, Beijing’s plans for developing Tibet have left Tibetans “alienated and isolated from meaningful development and modernization,” says the report by the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, “Distorted Development: Chinese Discourses on the Right to Development and its Implementation in Tibet.”

“The international community has repeatedly condemned the Chinese government for their violations of human rights inside Tibet,” said TCHRD director Tsering Tsomo, speaking at a press conference in Dharamsala on Tuesday to announce the release of the report.

“But the Chinese Communist Party has explicitly ignored this by highlighting what it calls the heightened Chinese model of development and infrastructure,” which it says is lifting Tibetans out of poverty in Tibet, Tsomo said.

“The Chinese government insists that the economic welfare of the people is their most important right,” Tsomo said, adding, “However, they have threatened all other fundamental rights by making them subordinate to economic rights.”

“And the government has also failed to provide any disaggregated data to show the number of Tibetans who are actually benefiting from this development,” she said.

China’s development policies in Tibet are designed “to assimilate the region and its people into the framework of a single Chinese national identity rather than to meaningfully improve the lives of Tibetans,” TCHRD says in its report, pointing to the widespread forced removal of Tibetan herders from traditional grazing grounds.

“Because China’s development policy has succeeded in urbanizing rural Tibetans and erasing their land rights, it has succeeded in creating pristine wilderness through depopulation, sinicizing economic centres in towns and cities ensuring investments and profits flow back to China Proper,” the rights group says.

It has also built infrastructure, including highways and railways, to pull Tibet and its resources “closer to China, extracting natural minerals and resources, and building hydroelectric power to fulfill distant coastal China’s thirst for energy.”

'Remittance economy'

Bilingual education schemes that undermine the teaching of the Tibetan language have further disadvantaged Tibetans looking for employment in profitable sectors of the economy, while Tibetan herders forced from their land have been left unprepared for a shift to the modern job market now dominated by Chinese migrants, TCHRD says in its report.

Preferential investment by China in Chinese companies in Tibetan urban areas has meanwhile ensured that profits flow out of Tibet and back to China, making Tibet a “remittance economy.”

“In the future, as China accelerates and intensified efforts to move Tibetans to urban centres, this will mean a continued pattern of marginalization and alienation from economic opportunities that are already dominated by migrants,” TCHRD sayds.

“Tibetans insufficiently prepared for the socioeconomic shift from rural living to the modern job market will continue to be relegated in job opportunities in favor of migrants, and directly marginalized by policy implemented in the name of development.”

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Ugyen Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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