China Detains Tibetans in Lhasa Trader Dispute


Police walk past a disputed traders' area in Lhasa. Photo: RFA

WASHINGTON--Chinese authorities in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa have detained six Tibetans after they lodged an appeal against the relocation of their trading stalls to make way for a new pedestrian walkway.

"The Lhasa municipal government detained six Tibetans on Sept. 13 for appealing against the official order of relocation of their shops near the Tibetan Medical Center in Lhasa," a caller from Lhasa told RFA's Tibetan service.

"All the traders selling their merchandise on stalls in front of the Tibetan Medicine the Central Cathedral area were ordered to move their shops to the third level of a new business complex in the Bakhor area."

A group of traders had staged a sit-in at the Lhasa municipal government offices in protest, saying that business wouldn't be nearly as good in the new location.

Petition to government

The fact is that all good business locations in Lhasa area are going to Chinese and the Tibetans are losing them.

The traders had originally been given carts by the government and had gradually bought them as part of a poverty alleviation scheme.

"We want to request that the Lhasa municipal government allow us to continue in the same place," one Tibetan trader said.

"If we move to the other building on the third floor of the new complex, there will be no business. We rely on these small businesses for our livelihood. and if we are relocated, our business will suffer," he said.

"China's Communist Party is all—powerful, and many dare not raise their voice. We are actually bringing our concerns about our daily livelihood to the authorities and we are not talking of politics. But many Tibetans dare not speak up for fear of reprisals."

"The fact is that all good business locations in Lhasa area are going to Chinese and the Tibetans are losing them," he added.

An official who answered the phone at the Lhasa municipal government confirmed the dispute had taken place, but declined to give further details.

Strong economic growth

"It was about the cart shops. The issue was resolved," the official said.

Residents of Lhasa say they have seen little benefit from a new U.S.$5 billion railway connecting the Tibetan capital with the Chinese frontier city of Golmud, a year after its completion and in spite of strong economic growth in the region.

Residents have described a 'frightful explosion of the Chinese population' in the city, and many Tibetans in Lhasa fear they are being driven into a minority since the railway opened.

Tibet's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 14 billion yuan (U.S.$1.84 billion) in the first six months of 2007, 2.2 percentage points higher than the same period of last year, according to the Tibet Regional Statistics Bureau.

Original reporting in Tibetan (Uke dialect) by Dolkar and Yandon. Service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Karma Dorjee and Sarah Jackson-Han.


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