The Party carries the people in its heart …when they are away from the border
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy on the Indian borders is two-fold: one, to build ‘model’ villages (the villagers are said the ‘Guardians of the sacred land and the builders of happy homes’); two, to relocate recalcitrant Tibetans to place further away from the sensitive Indian borders.
Li Keqiang’s visit
Remember Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Southern Tibet on July 25. The Premier went directly to Nyingchi (Nyingtri in Tibetan) Prefecture (now City) bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
He visited a village (Shiga village?) in Mainling County; it is a new village inhabited by Monpas.
Why Monpas in this area?
According to a press release, the inhabitants of this ‘Monpa’ village have been relocated from ‘impoverished areas’.
The ‘impoverished’ region is the wealthy Metok County.
The Chinese Premier asked a ‘relocated’ villager: “What is the main source of income? How much could you make in a year? What about your health care and children’s education? What kind of difficulties do you still have now?”
Kunsang, one of the villagers, told Li that his family moved from Metok County, where ‘road travel is fairly difficult’.
This is rather surprising considering that after a tunnel was opened in 2013, the area is doing rather well, thanks to the tea plantation and large income brought by tourism; at the same time, the Chinese propaganda kept insisting that Metok, after the arrival of the all-weather road (via the tunnel), is doing well.
Better communications, are the positive ‘changes’ often mentioned for Metok.
Kunsang explained to the Premier that his family has now an income of 150,000 yuan a year (US $ 2,400), thanks to farming and tourism. Further, the State “ensured health care service and children’s education program.” There are a total of 72 households in the new ‘relocated’ village and 90% of families have similar income. Li affirmed that he was really pleased “to see that the villagers have cast off poverty, though the relocation program and lived a prosperous life.”
It is difficult to understand why this family was shifted from Metok to Mainling County. The only reason can be: the Party wants only ‘safe’ Tibetans on the borders with India.
Strengthening the border north of Bhutan
A few days ago, another article appeared in the French edition of China Tibet Online, it was titled: “Relocation of the villagers of Lhodrak: mission over”
It affirmed “After a first wave of successful relocation on October 15, a second wave is now over.”
Lhodrak, the legendary birthplace of Marpa the Translator is located north of the Bhutanese border.
An explanation is given with several telling pictures: “The villagers’ relocation project represents the completion of scheme which is part of the strategy of the CPP’s Central Committee’s for strengthening of the border. It is also a good example to illustrate that ‘the Party carries the people in its heart’, it provides a housing solution to families in need, and a strengthening of the masses on the borders and a strengthening of the border defence.”
Tibetan ‘uniforms’ are clearly provided for the photo op.
Relocation started long ago
On October 19, The China Daily published another article on “Relocation raises living standards for Lhopas”.
Lhopa or Lhobas, according to Wikipedia is “any of a diverse amalgamation of Sino-Tibetan-speaking tribes living in and around Pemako, a region in southeastern Tibet.” It included Metok and Zayul counties in Nyingchi Prefecture and Lhuntse County in Lhoka (also known as Shannan). The Chinese government officially recognizes Lhoba as one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China.
The article affirmed: “The lives of members of the Lhoba ethnic group in the Tibet Autonomous Region have improved markedly in recent decades, thanks to the reform and opening-up policy that was launched 40 years ago.”
What were these reforms?
It is explained that until about 50 years ago, the Lhobas were savage, they lived in the forest as hunters: “Now, about 3,000 Lhobas live in Tibet, in sparse communities such as the group in Mainling county.”
A Lhoba named Dawa was interviewed by the newspaper: “As hunters on the mountain, we lived in simple wooden sheds and our diet mainly consisted of meat from animals we hunted, corn we grew, and a few edible wild herbs. People often suffered from hunger, and they were forced to exchange bears’ gallbladders and the skins of the animals they hunted for daily necessities such as grain, salt, tea leaves and clothes.”
But in 1985, a first group of 18 households, totaling 80 people including Dawa, were relocated from remote mountain and forest areas to Tsedro, a village where they were given houses, fields and livestock. Since then, the number of households has risen to 41, with more than 190 people.
This was probably one of the first cases of ‘relocation’.
But today’s relocation is done more systematically way and on a much larger scale.
The Modern Villages
On October 19, China Tibet News reported that since the beginning of 2018, Tsona County, near of Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh has been “vigorously promoting the construction of border well-off villages.”
We are told that Tsona County has invested 519 million yuan in the construction projects of 9 border well-off villages which can benefit 1961 people of 617 households. Some 42.3% of the total project quantity has been completed, and an investment of 2.2 billion yuan has been spent.
In May, China Tibet News said that Lepo Valley, the first village in Tibet, north of the Tawang district, boasted of a rich vegetation and clear waters: “With impressive natural scenery and unique ethnic customs, Magmang ecological civilization village is also situated in Lepo Valley, Tsona County. …The construction of Magmang ecological civilization demonstration village began on March of 2014 and was completed on December. On January of 2015, this village was put into operation. In 2016, Magmang village was awarded the name “China’s beautiful leisure village’ by China’s Ministry of Agriculture.”
China has 26 national key tourist attractions; Lepo Valley is on the list.
A new scheme is now implemented, “Slowing down the speed of tour, enjoying the sea of azaleas in Lepo Valley”, it prolonged the peak season said the authorities.
Dekyi Tsomo, a 27-year-old villager of Magmang, told the journalist: “Previously, houses in the village looked fairly rundown, and all roads leading to the village are muddy. Nowadays, the houses we live in are comfortable and big, with underfloor heating and hot water supply. This kind of house costs more than 400,000 yuan. We only pay 120,000 yuan, the other is paid by the government. Facilities in family inns are provided by the government, for which we all feel grateful.”
The Chinese website concludes: “Magmang village persists in following the notion that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, focusing on the ecological conservation and promoting ecotourism.”
Incidentally on March 30, 1959, the Dalai Lama spent his last night in Tibet in Magmang; he was on his way to India. The next day, he crossed the border in Khenzimane/Chuthangmu.
Since then, he never returned to Tibet. He would certainly not recognize the ‘model’ villages.