China’s Policy: In 1998, China’s Agriculture Vice Minister, Qi Jingfa was quoted as saying: ‘All herdsmen are expected to end the nomadic life by the end of the century’.
What Does this Mean? At least 2.25 million – or one-third of Tibetans – live nomadic or semi-nomadic lives, a way of life that is an intrinsic part of Tibetan society. Following China’s military invasion and occupation of Tibet, nomads were classified as ‘uncivilized’ and their lifestyle threatened by China’s agricultural and collectivisation policies.
Although China missed its deadline to end nomadic life in Tibet, in January 2011, Chinese state media reported that 1.43 million farmers and herders had been moved into “new homes”. Efforts to force Tibetans into reservation-style housing blocks is causing massive social and economic problems including unemployment, alcoholism, and suicide.
Nomadic land, seized under false claims of ‘environmental protection’ in the age of climate change, is cleared largely to make way for dams and mining operations. For thousands of years, Tibetan nomads lived sustainably on the grasslands; now China’s policy of ‘converting pastures to grasslands’ is leading to overgrazing in fenced-in areas and exacerbating desertification.
- Nomadic Lifestyle under threat, Free Tibet
- Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Food and Access to Land on the Tibetan Plateau, Free Tibet
- UN Special Rapporteur statement on consequences of settlement, International Campaign for Tibet
- No-one has liberty to refuse, Human Rights Watch
- Tracking the Steel Dragon, Chapter 6, International Campaign for Tibet
- A rare Chinese state media piece acknowledging the failings of the resettlement policy