Chinese authorities have ordered Tibetan villagers living in a resource-rich county in eastern Tibet to relocate to other areas to make way for mining and development projects, according to a local source.
The move affects nine villages in Chamdo (Changdu, in Chinese) prefecture’s Gonjo (Gongjue) county, and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The villages to be moved include Chaka, Pallo, Yasha, upper Deb, lower Deb, Chulsum, and Garnyi,” RFA’s source said, adding that residents will be relocated to Meldro Gongkar and Toelung in the Lhasa municipality, and to areas in Lhoka farther west.
“The Tibetans in these villages believe that the local Chinese authorities in Gonjo plan to build an electric power plant and do mining in the area, and that this is why they are being moved from their ancestral lands,” he said.
“Some Tibetan villagers in Gonjo are now selling their livestock in the county or taking them to the butchers to prepare for their forced migration,” he said.
Gonjo county is known for its rich natural resources, including an abundance of the highly prized yartsa gunbu, or cordyceps, medicinal caterpillar fungus, RFA’s source said.
The number of villagers affected by the order was not clear. Gonjo county has a population of about 40,000 people according to a census conducted in 2010.
“Under the terms of the China-ordered relocation scheme, the villagers are allowed to come back during harvesting of the caterpillar fungus for the next 20 years,” he said.
The forced relocation is the latest in a series of moves of residents out of Gonjo and into other areas, with several villages forced to move to Nyingtri in the Kongpo prefecture about 10 years ago, sources say.
And in May 2015, Chinese authorities cracked down on villagers protesting road work linked to plans for mining on a sacred mountain in Gonjo, detaining an unknown number and leaving many badly injured, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Construction of the road leading to Mini mountain near Awong village had resumed around April 2 after being blocked the previous year by local challenges to the project, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.
Reported by Dawa Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.