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Tibetan nomads appeal for return of land seized for tourist project

May 16, 2018

Radio Free Asia, May 14, 2018- Around sixty nomad families living in Tibet’s Nyemo county are appealing the loss of grazing land seized by Chinese authorities for future use as a tourist zone, Tibetan sources say.

The land, which has supported residents of Marthang township’s Lhadul village in Nyemo, an area west of Lhasa city, had already been fenced off in a scheme to promote farming that had yielded no crops, a local Tibetan told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Now, the Chinese have started a project in the area to develop the land for tourism,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Around sixty Tibetan nomad families’ herds and domestic animals depend on this land for grazing,” he said, “And with the seizure of the land, they are being deprived of their main source of livelihood.”

Now, in a video filmed locally and circulating online, the families are appealing for justice to Chinese authorities at a higher level, he said.

Earlier moves by Chinese authorities to settle nomad families by fencing off grazing areas for farming had caused the death of large numbers of herd animals, the source said.

“Last year, several thousand sheep and goats and over a hundred domestic animals starved to death, and this was a huge financial blow to local Tibetan families,” the source said. “And the authorities gave them nothing to relieve them of their hardship.”

“Now, with no domestic animals or herds, the local Tibetans are facing a daunting challenge to survive,” he said.

Threatened with arrest

Because local village heads and township leaders are directly appointed by Chinese authorities, local Tibetans have no role in making the decisions that affect their lives, RFA’s source said.

And when higher-level Chinese officials pay visits to the area, local authorities prevent Tibetan residents from appealing to them directly, threatening them with arrest if they try to speak their minds, he said.

“They claim that the land belongs to the Chinese Communist Party, and that in collaboration with developers they have the authority to take it for whatever use they want.”

“So the local residents have now made a film of the seized land in order to appeal to appeal to higher authorities to intervene as soon as possible, and to ask for justice and care for their well being,” he said.

Chinese development projects in Tibetan areas have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms and local officials of improperly seizing land and disrupting the lives of local people.

Many result in violent suppression, the detention of protest organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.

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