Sunday, July 24, 2022

Chinese Panchen Lama visits an 'Indian' Village

On July 22, China Tibet Network posted an article announcing that the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama (Gyaltsen Norbu) visited a village on the Indian border: “Panchen: Guarding the border is a great cause,” was the title of the article.
It mentioned the name of a 71-year-old Tibetan lady “wearing new clothes, wearing new hats and holding white khatas eagerly waiting, with faithful masses, in the fine rain,” for the arrival of the Lama
The name of the village as given by the article is Lowa.
It is probably a Tibetan translation for Lho(pa)-wa, i.e. Lhopa tribe village.
But the newly-built village is in fact Longju, the site of the first bloody clash between India and China in August 1959.

The line depicted on this map is the approximative LAC in the area.
though Longju is south of the International Border (IB)

For decades, India has considered the place, where the new village is located, to be in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh and not in Tsari Township of Lhuntse county in Lhoka prefecture as mentioned by the Chinese.
"Knowing that Panchen Rinpoche was today going to visit our village for inspection, we waited at the entrance of the village early in the morning, looking forward to seeing Rinpoche as early as possible," said the lady.
The article added: “On July 21 in the morning, the Panchen Erdeni [Chinese name for Gyaltsen Norbu] a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Vice-president of the Chinese Buddhist Association and President of the Tibetan branch of the Chinese Buddhist Association, came to Lowa New Village.”
The narrative continued: “The new village lying quietly at the foot of the Himalayas became lively with a strong smell of mulberry smoke in the air; the masses of believers welcomed him, bowed and prayed.”

Gyaltsen Norbu being explained the history of Longju

 Wang Shu [Wangchuk], the secretary of the Party Branch of the new village gave an introduction to the Panchen Lama about the situation in the new village.
According to China Tibet Network, the new village is located on the border at 2,735 meters above sea level, 7 kilometers from the seat of the township government (Tsari/Migytun): “in the village, two-story small buildings are lined up, staggered and greenery is found in front of each house with flowers in full bloom, a vibrant scene.”
The article admitted that the ‘Lowa’ new village is part of the ‘relocation’ scheme and new inhabitants arrived on January 15, 2021. Since then, more than 90 families have moved in.
The village Party Branch Secretary showed the Panchen Lama around and explained the construction of the new village on an exhibition board showing the new village's relocation; the role of the villagers, living in well-off houses, who have to guard the border and improve the rural revitalization conditions as well as the industrial and ecological development of the area.
The local Party Secretary added: “In addition to the high standard construction of well-off houses, the Party and the government also invested in the supply of water, electricity, telecommunications and other infrastructure facilities as well as the construction roads. It is supporting the construction of bamboo processing plant, Tibetan incense plant, greenhouses and other special industries.”

Meeting the 'masses'
Gyaltsen Norbu asked: “How many children do you have? Where do the children go to school? Where are the teachers from?”
He later went into the first floor of the Village Committee House and visited two households “to talk to the masses of relocated households to understand their living situation after relocation.”
"Going around the village, you can see that our current housing, living and other conditions which are particularly good," said the villagers.
The Panchen Lama looked at the happy smile on the face of the border people and told that they were different from others; your tasks to guard the border: “it is a great cause, you should feel the Party's grace, listen to the Party, follow the Party, to do a good job in the new era of garrison people, continue to work hard to guard the territory of the motherland. I believe your future life will be even better.”
The article mentioned that in 2021, the per capita disposable income of the new village of Lowa reached 25,804.08 yuan. It is pure propaganda as the village did not exist a few months earlier.
But in 2022, the villagers' income has doubled and more prosperous days are ahead, said one of the villagers while guarding the border is not only “our unshirkable responsibility, but also our glory, we firmly believe that under the wise leadership of the Party and the State, the new village of Lowa will have a better tomorrow.”

Blessing the 'masses'

At the end of the inspection, Gyaltsen Norbu walked out of the new village on foot, touched the heads of the villagers and gave his blessings to the religious people lined up at the entrance of the village, and presented the religious people in the village with enlightened Vajra knots, dharma photos and medals.”
No photos of the Dalai Lama, of course.
The article concluded that after receiving the blessing from Panchen Lama, “still many religious people who did not want to leave for a long time.”
One of the villagers said: “I didn't expect Rinpoche to travel so far to visit us in the village. Before, I had only occasionally seen Rinpoche on TV, but I never thought I could see him with my own eyes in this life.”
With tears in her eyes, the old lady immediately enshrined the picture of Lama on the altar of her house after returning home.
Probably along with the photo with Xi Jinping.
It is pure propaganda to show that Longju belongs to China, and the Tibetans are given the freedom to practice their religion, but where are the stupa, the gompas, the prayer flags, the prayer mills in the new villages.
Nowhere, but is clearly a provocation in retaliation against the Dalai Lama's visit to Ladakh.
But a poor retaliation, for the Dalai Lama there was a 10-km line-up in Leh, in Longju hardly 20 people, representing the 'masses'.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Hot 'Political' Summer on the Plateau

Wang Yang in Tibetan areas in Qinghai
In the recent months, several ‘important’ visits have taken place in Tibet.
One was of these visits was by Hu Chunhua, a member of the Politburo, a Vice-Premier of the State Council and head of the National Leading Group on Poverty Alleviation.
Last year in August, he had already 'inspected' many sites in Tibet.
Let us remember that at one point, Hu was Xi Jinping’s heir apparent.

In July 2021, Hu, who served several years ago in Tibet, “went deep into the eastern part of Ngari Prefecture, western Nagchu City and other extremely high altitude areas to investigate poverty alleviation and animal husbandry development.”
He had then to give a feedback to the leadership assembled in the seaside resort of Beidaihe for the annual ultra secret conclave.
At that time, it was reported that Hu Chunhua went to the home of herders in the remote Dawa village in Tsochen county in Ngari Prefecture to check the production and conditions of farmers and nomads living in high altitude areas.
It was probably the first time that these neglected populations met a politburo member.
The Chinese media had reported that Hu had 'successively' walked into the most remote counties of Ngari Prefecture; deep into villages while visiting enterprises and grassroots organizations (incidentally, Hu speaks good Tibetan).

Hu's 2022 Visit
According to Xinhua, Hu Chunhua was again on the ground in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) from July 1 to 4 “to supervise the work of consolidating and expanding the results of poverty eradication and revitalizing the countryside.”
Hu is said to have stressed the need “to thoroughly implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's series of important speeches and important instructions, resolutely and forcefully consolidate and expand the results of poverty eradication, accelerate the comprehensive promotion of rural revitalization, ensure that there is no return to poverty on large scale, and strive to take the people out of poverty at even higher level.”
The ‘important’ speeches of Xi Jinping are leitmotivs in the Chinese official reports. Every officials, high or low has to pay homage to the Emperor.
The report of the news agency continues: “Tibet combines ethnic areas, border areas, high altitude areas in one, the development foundation is relatively weak, the task of consolidating and expanding the results of poverty eradication is very heavy. Hu Chunhua has come to Chamdo City, Biru County, Lhorong County, Pelbar County, Nagchu City, Lhari County, Lhasa City, Meldro Gungkar County.”
It was an in-depth field inspection for studying “poor village households, relocation community, agricultural products processing enterprises, schools and hospitals, etc.”
Hu Chunhua’s objective was to get a detailed understanding “of the employment of the masses out of poverty to increase income, the development of special agricultural and animal husbandry, the rural infrastructure construction and the public service development.”
The Vice Premier stated that “the areas out of poverty should continue to consolidate and expand the results of poverty eradication in the first place, so that the foundation of poverty eradication obtains more solid, more sustainable results.”
He encouraged the local leaders to rely on the plateau characteristic advantageous resources, “for better and stronger modern agriculture and animal husbandry, to speed up the development of agricultural products processing, the rural tourism and in order to realize the integration of the industries and the growth of the county rich people's industry, and promote the sustained income of people out of poverty.”
Hu has probably visited the area of Nagchu City (prefecture) from where large percentage of the population has been removed in order to be relocated South of Lhasa, near Gongkar airport (see our post last week)

The objective of the Chinese government is said to “successively promote the development of ethnic areas, and promote the common unity and struggle of all ethnic groups, common prosperity and development.”
It is what Beijing says…

Wang Yang speaking to the children

Wang Yang Visit to Qinghai
A few days earlier, Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), visited several Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province “to research counterpart aid work for youth.”
During his tour, Wang, No 4 in the Party, stressed the need “to deeply understand the Communist Party's strategy for governing Tibet in the new era, adhere to the main line of casting a firm sense of Chinese national community, to bring innovative ideas for the youth-aid work, to enhance the comprehensive benefits of youth-aid, to help Tibet-related states and counties in their high-quality development, and not fall behind in the overall modernization process of the Chinese nation.”
From June 27 to 28, Wang went to Xining City (which had just come out a severe lockdown), Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture; he also visited Shanghai-supported Xining Golok High School, Tianjin-helped Tsim Sha Tsui County Deji Village and other places. He wanted to understand the situation in detail, says the official report.
Wang asserted that since the 18th Party Congress (2012), provinces and cities as well as central state organs and central enterprises have implemented the directives of the Central Committee to support Qinghai: “to build a moderately prosperous society. …In the new journey, more attention should be helping the recipient to develop industries with special advantages as well as develop markets.”
Wang Yang urged the local cadres to make efforts to explore new approaches for ethnic minority areas and march towards modernization and common prosperity.

Learn Chinese and Blend
He also mentioned ‘intellectual support’ and the consolidation of the results of education assistance to Qinghai, i.e. helping people in ethnic areas to master the common language (read Mandarin): “More attention should be paid to encouraging ethnic minority people to go out, providing assistance for them to study, work and start businesses in the central and eastern regions, broadening the channels of income and wealth, and promoting exchanges and blending of ethnic groups.”
Wang Yang visited the Qinghai Tibetan Culture Museum, the Dragon Tree Painting Garden and ancient temples to understand the historical and cultural protection heritage.
The next day, Wang presided over a meeting on supervision and consultation over some key proposals concerning protecting and keeping alive the historical and cultural heritage in the course of planning and construction in urban and rural areas.
On June 29, Wang presided over a meeting for the supervision and consultation of some key proposals concerning protecting and keeping alive the historical and cultural heritage in the course of planning and construction in urban and rural areas.
He wanted that the CPPCC play its role in implementing related decisions and plans of the Central Committee. Wang further stressed that “from the height of enhancing historical consciousness, firm cultural confidence, in-depth understanding of General Secretary Xi Jinping on the protection of historical and cultural heritage heritage and effectively implement the relevant decisions of the Party’s Central Committee.”
Wang recommended that the revision of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics and the Law on Intangible Cultural Heritage should be accelerated, and local regulations be formulated to reasonably define the scope of protection and inheritance of cultural objects.
A census of historical and cultural heritage should be carried out and a database of immovable cultural relics should be established, he said and in order to strengthen the study of historical and cultural heritage, “excavate the historical stories, cultural values and spiritual connotations contained therein, to avoid the loss of its form and its essence.”
The Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism, dear to Xi Jinping, was not mentioned.

Li Zhangshu inspecting an afforestation project

Visit of Li Zhanshu
Two more members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo visited Tibet around the same time that Xi Jinping was in Xinjiang.
First, Li Zhanshu, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress was in Tibet from July 12 to 15 “for research on ecological protection legislation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.”
During his visit, he stressed the need to have a legislation to protect the ecology of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; his objective is “with Xi Jinping's thought of ecological civilization, to adhere to systematic protection, coordinated protection and special protection, and develop a good law that can stand the test of history and the people in the spirit of science.”

Li Zhanshu in the Tashilhunpo monastery

On July 13, Li Zhanshu went to Shigatse and visited the north bank of the South Woodland Ecological Demonstration Area of the Yarlung Tsangpo to investigate the planting of trees. He was accompanied by Wang Junzheng, the TAR Party Secretary.
Li Zhanshu inspected the protection of wetlands, river mudflats, reforestation projects, water resources protection, mine restoration among other things; during a forum, he listened to the views and suggestions of the stakeholders. He spoke of the great achievements made in ecological environmental protection on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and discussed with everyone the key issues involved in the development of the new law.
Li Zhanshu noted that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecological Protection Law is a major initiative “to implement the important instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping on the ecological protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: "The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has a special ecological status and value, and plays an extremely important role in the national and even global ecological security."

Li Zhangshu In Tibet
A question could be asked: will tens of millions of tourists visiting the plateau every year conducive to the protection of the environment?

For Li, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecological Protection Law will be a special regional protection law, but its significance and impact will reach far beyond the plateau to which the law will apply; he said while drafting this law, it was necessary “to have a big picture of the overall situation and the very high altitude; the idea of the legislation is to support ecological protection policy initiatives and also reflect Tibet’s own characteristics.”
Li Zhanshu noted that to implement the new development concept, one should adhere to systemic thinking, in a scientific attitude and problem-solving spirit, in order to strengthen the protection, governance, restoration and risk prevention and control of each important ecosystem, and provide a strong rule of law protection for the ecological protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.”
Once again it sounds good (despite the verbiage), but what about the high speed development (roads, railway lines, airports) already started.
Li Zhanshu visited the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and the Tashilunpo monastery in Shigatse.
He said that “the most fundamental issue lies in the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, in the scientific guidance of Xi Jinping thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, uncompromisingly put into practice the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping on the work of Tibet and the party's strategy for governing Tibet in the new era. It is necessary to further implement the strategic thought of "ruling the country must be ruling the border, and ruling the border must first stabilize Tibet", implement the Party's guidelines and policies on ethnic and religious work, make safeguarding the unity of the motherland and strengthening ethnic unity the focus and point of emphasis, achieve long-term peace and stability, and promote high-quality development.”
Li is clearly on Xi Jinping’s side in the power struggle ahead to the 20th Congress in November.
In Beidaihe, he will present a report on the ecological achievements of the General Secretary on the Plateau. The reality might be different.

Vice-Premier Han Zheng in Tibet

Han Zheng’s Visit
Xinhua also reported that Han Zheng, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council visited Nyingchi and Yushu in Qinghai province from July 14 to 15.
He stressed to unswervingly take the road of ecological green development and constantly promote high-quality development to achieve new results.
As usual, Han Zheng stressed the need to adhere “to the Xi Jinping thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as a guide, in-depth implementation of the new development concept, unswervingly take the ecological priority, green development and solidly promote the construction of major projects and ecological protection, and constantly promote high-quality development to achieve new results.”
On July 14, Han inspection the Sichuan-Tibet Railway presently under construction (only the section between Nyinchi and Lhasa is completed).
Han Zheng went to the Serkhyem La pass at an elevation of 4.567m (14,983ft) above the sea level. The new railway line will go through a tunnel and the line will apparently run parallel China’s National Highway 318 (G318), also known as China-Nepal Highway and the Friendship Highway.
According to a website for tourists: “The road is asphalted. Usually impassable from October to June. The summit offers a breathtaking scenery. The road is long and arduous and crosses several mountain passes through remote areas, so you need to be prepared. Do not take this drive if you have respiratory problems or any type of heart condition. Notorious lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. A major hazard of altitude is the sickness that can indiscriminately affect anyone regardless of age or fitness. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions.”
This pass links Bayi and Bomi counties; on top of the pass, one gets the incredible view of Namcha Barwa (7756m) …when the weather is clear.
Han Zheng was shown an exhibition explaining the overall situation of the construction of the railway; he conducted a field inspection of the construction of the energy-saving and environmental protection features of the tunnel.
Han said that “the construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway will implement the new era of the party's strategy for the governance of Tibet a major initiative to promote the western region, especially the economic and social development of Sichuan and Tibet provinces.”
He added that during the construction of the project, everyone should adhere to the time and quality and to ensure the safety of the project. 

Han Zheng inspects the new railway line between Tibet and Sichuan

Probably more Worrying for India
Han Zheng first came to Milin County in Nyingchi City to “listen to the development of clean energy on the Yarlung Tsangpo River and he was briefed about the construction of the major hydropower development project.
Apparently, this refers to the mega HPP on the Yarlung Tsangpo, which has often been mentioned on this blog.
Han pointed out that “it is necessary to coordinate the rational development and utilization of water resources and protection, and build a national clean energy base. The construction of major projects should adhere to scientific evidence, comprehensive consideration of geological conditions, ecological environment and other multiple factors, and do a solid job in the preliminary work of the project.”
Han clearly bats for the giga project on the Yarlung Tsangpo, which will bring destruction in the Great Bent area ...and in India.
It means that China will go ahead with the project on the transnational river, which becomes the Siang in India and later the Brahmaputra.

The Sanjiangyuan National Park
The Sanjiangyuan (Chinese: Source of Three Rivers) is an area of the Tibetan Plateau in today’s Qinghai province; it is the headwaters of the Yellow, the Yangtze, and the Mekong which originate from this area. They come under the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR), or Three Rivers Nature Reserve.
According to Wikipedia: “The reserve consisted of 18 subareas, and each contained three zones which were managed with differing degrees of strictness. In 2015, the Chinese government decided to implement a new national park system, and created Sanjiangyuan National Park, which is set to open officially in 2020.”
To protect the grasslands, pastoralists are not permitted to graze their animals in designated called ‘core zones’ and grazing is supervised in the SNNR. In addition, residents have been resettled from these core zones and other grassland areas of the SNNR, and the rangelands have been fenced; they are in the process of being privatized throughout the Sanjiangyuan Area.
After his visit of the Yarlung Tsangpo, Han Zheng inspected the Yushu Ecological Environment Monitoring Center and was briefed on the ecological protection in Qinghai Province.
Han got a report on the construction of Sanjiangyuan National Park through the remote video monitoring system; he virtually visited the Sanjiangyuan projects, met grassroots cadres, he had a field inspection of the waters of the Tongtian River. He later went to the site of the Sanjiangyuan Nature Conservation Monument.
The Shi Chu (Tibetan) or Tongtian River is 1,012 km long; it flows within Qinghai Province. It is begins at the confluence of Togtog (or Mar chu) River and Dang chu River and flows towards southeast and becomes a Jinsha River near the border of Qinghai and Sichuan. The Jinsha River is a primary and westernmost tributary of the Yangtze River (‘Chang Jiang’).
Han Zheng noted the achievements of the construction of the Sanjiangyuan National Park; he mentioned the benefits of the project for the whole country, as well as for future generations.
He said that “to protect the Sanjiangyuan as the top priority of the construction of ecological civilization in Qinghai, to guard the natural ecology, conservation of natural resources, to protect the Chinese water tower.”
Han Zheng later went to the Qinghai Longbao (National) Nature Reserve where he interacted with the staff of the station.
The Longbao National Nature Reserve was established in 1986 and has an area of about 100 km2 covering wetlands and meadows. The reserve is located about 50 km northwest of Jyekundo, the Yushu County seat, lying just south of the highway connecting Yushu and Ritoe Counties. The reserve’s primary area of ecological importance is a wetland that is approximately 14 km long with a maximum width of about 3.5 km. The maximum depth of the wetland is reported to be about 4 m, but most of the wetland is generally much shallower. This wetland lies at an elevation of about 4,200 m in a broad mountain valley flanked by ridges that typically rise up to 750 m above the wetland. The wetland is fed by groundwater, streams, precipitation, and snow-melt, and it drains into the Yi Chu River to the northwest, a short tributary of the nearby Tongtian River.
Han Zheng stressed again the need “to actively promote the construction of wetlands, strengthen biodiversity protection, reduce human activity interference, promote the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, and continue to build a solid national ecological security barrier.”
The visit of the site of the mega HPP on the Yarlung Tsangpo should worry India.
In the meantime, a lot to discuss in Beidaihe next month...

HPPs on the Yarlung Tsangpo

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Season of Coincidences and Change

Do you believe in coincidences?
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama reached Ladakh on July 15.
Two days later, the 16th round of Corps Commander-level meeting between India and China is to be held at Moldo/Chushul, near the Pangong tso (lake). Led by Lt Gen A Sengupta, the Fire and Fury Corps Commander, the Indian side will discuss disengagement from friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh with the Chinese commander of the Kashgar Sub-Area Command of the Xinjiang Military District (XMD).
Was it a coincidence, but on July 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the Dalai Lama over the phone on the occasion of his birthday: “Conveyed 87th birthday greetings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the phone earlier today. We pray for his long life and good health," PM Modi tweeted.
We can’t call everything a coincidence, but President Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) visited Urumqi, the capital of the restive Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) two days before the Dalai Lama arrived in Ladakh. According to Xinhua, he inspected a university, an international land port area, a residential community and a museum.

The Dalai Lama in Ladakh
But let us first look at the Tibetan leader’s visit to Ladakh first.
The Chinese are not going to be happy, though they still consider the Union Territory as a ‘disputed territory’ between India and Pakistan and cannot claim it as their as they do for Arunachal Pradesh.
This reminds us the long negotiations for the so-called Panchsheel Agreement in 1954. The discussion was stuck on the issue of Ladakh and more particularly on naming Demchok a landport for the mountainous region.
On April 24, 1954, the Indian Ambassador to China, N. Raghavan, who was himself conducting the talks, informed his Foreign Secretary in Delhi (NR Pillai) that at the suggestion of Zhang Hanfu, the Chinese deputy foreign minister, the plenary sessions on the previous day had been cancelled “he and I carried on informal discussions between 12:00 and 13:00 hours and 19:00 to 23:15 hours.” Raghavan explained that it was ‘royal fight’ from beginning to end: “Zhang took a very recalcitrant attitude but finally gave in on most points,” …except for Demchok.
The Chinese virulently objected to this route been included in the Agreement; they quoted an oral understanding “they would not like in writing even by implication to have any reference to Ladakh.”
For Beijing, the mountainous region was a ‘disputed’ area.
India had taken the stand that Ladakh was part of Indian territory and the route should be mentioned, as its omission would be invidious, but the Chinese remained adamant.
Raghavan finally accepted a compromise which meant that most of the other routes between Ladakh and Western Tibet (particular via Rutok) were abandoned and the trade stopped. This anecdote shows the importance of Ladakh for Beijing (incidentally, the unresolved dispute over Demchok, dates from that day).

The PM’s Birthday Call
With regard to the one-month visit of the Tibetan leader to Leh, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has so far kept quiet, but Zhao Lijian earlier protested about the Prime Minister’s phone call to the Dalai Lama: “The Indian side also needs to fully understand the anti-China and separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama. It needs to abide by its commitments to China on Tibet-related issues, act and speak with prudence and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs."
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi immediately answered that it was “a consistent policy of the government to treat the Tibetan spiritual leader as an honoured guest and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India."
The fact that the Dalai Lama will stay for a month in Ladakh is definitively a re-assertion of India’s policy vis-à-vis the Tibetan leader.

Xi Jinping’s visit to Xinjiang and the 16th Round of Talks
Tough low-key, during his visit to Xinjiang, Xi meet with officials of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), an organization intimately linked with the PLA. In the past, through its numerous economic activities the state-owned economic and paramilitary organization has not only built towns, farms and provided land and employment for disbanded military units, but also looked after the re-settlement of Han migrants as part of the infamous campaign of sinicization in Xinjiang.
Xi, who is Chairman of the Central Military Commission also met the top brass of the XMD, including Lt Gen Liu Lin, formerly responsible for the talks in Ladakh and now XMD’s Commander, a rising star in the PLA; they are bound to have discussed the forthcoming round of talks in Moldo/Chushul and the XMD has certainly received instructions from the Big Boss.
The 15th round China-India Corps Commander-Level Meeting had been held at the border meeting point on March 11, while the 14th round had taken place on January 12. Earlier, according to media reports, the PLA had pulled back troops from the Galwan valley, PP-15 (Patrolling Point 15) and Hot Springs in Eastern Ladakh area by 2-2.5 kms; the Indian side has consequently pulled back some of its troops and equipment from these areas.
Today it is doubtful if China will agree to a further disengagement from existing friction points in Depsang plains, Gogra and Demchok, especially a few months before the crucial 20th Congress in Beijing; too much is at stake for Xi Jinping. 

Change in India’s Policy?
Many observers see all this as a signal to China of a change in India's Tibet policy.
It is true that in the recent weeks, India has hardened its stance; for example the situation in Eastern Ladakh prominently figured in the talks between External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali on the sidelines of a conclave of foreign ministers of the G20 nations earlier this month (on July 6, the Dalai Lama’s birthday). During the encounter, Jaishankar strongly conveyed to Wang the need for an early resolution of the outstanding issues in Ladakh.
Back in India, Dr Jaishankar, while attending an interactive session with young voters said that India had explained: “We would like to resolve it on terms that are fair, equitable, mutually agreed upon and do justice to our claims. We can’t resolve it by having one country saying that this is the solution and for us to accept it.” This had been the case in 1954.
Here too, the tone seems to have changed.

The Season of Coincidences and Change
While entering the Season of Coincidences and Change, it is worth mentioning a bill recently introduced in US Congress. According to International Campaign for Tibet, it will be a ‘concrete action’ to resolve China’s decades-long illegal occupation of Tibet by fully recognizing Tibet’s unresolved status and faulting China for violating the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.
The Act “Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict” affirms that Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law, despite more than six decades of China’s illegal occupation and the Chinese government’s disinformation falsely claiming that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times.
If the legislation is passed by the Congress and the Senate, the official US policy will be that Tibetans have the right to self-determination.
Here again, the spokespersons of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing are bound to see red and be displeased.
The new policy would not only reject as ‘historically false’ China’s claim that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times, but also “make clear that Tibet includes not only the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region of China but also Tibetan areas of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces.”
It is serious implications for the Tibet-India border too.
It will be interesting to see how Delhi will react in case the bill is passed.
Today, there is no doubt that the poet might have been right, “for the times they are a-changin'.”
Interesting times indeed.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Forced Relocation: for what?

Three years ago, we mentioned a large scale relocation program on this blog.
It looks as if the Chinese government has decided for another round.
On June 30, The China Daily published an article announcing “Thousands to be relocated from high altitudes.” 
 Two days earlier, Xinhua had published another article on the same topic with different figures.
The second article reported that some 26,300 rural residents (from 6,306 households) would be relocated to a site named Sinpori in Lhoka prefecture (City) before August 11, 2022.

Sinburi is located in Gongkar (Konggar) county in Lhoka at 29°18′57″N 90°46′55″E; it is also known as Senburi Cun (森布日村) or Shengbore (省波热).

When one looks at the location, it is strikingly close to the Gongkar airport, the main airport  for civil and military use on the plateau.
Why to bring a new town in this strategic area is a mystery.

The China Daily says that thanks to the Tibet Autonomous Region's (TAR's) relocation policy, “started in 2016, many rural residents living at altitudes above 4,800 meters have been moved to lower valleys more suitable for human habitation.”
The rationale for the scheme is that the nomads living in high altitude in Ngachu City can’t breath at altitude above 4,000 or 4,500 meters. But they survived quite well for centuries.
The mouthpiece of the Communist Party further explains: “The latest relocation plan will help residents from 58 villages in 12 townships in the counties of Tsonyi, Amdo and Nyima in Nagchu. With an average altitude above 4,500 meters, Nagchu is one of the region's highest cities. Residents are mainly herders and nomads, most of whom change their dwelling and herding pastures a few times in a year.”
Why to move nomads to sedentary ghettos?

One of the reasons is that it is easier to control  and monitor the nomadic population when they are brought in these new townships, often located at the border with India (and equipped with facial recognition cameras, etc). 

perhaps because nomads are born-free, they are an issue for the totalitarian regime in Tibet.

Scheme Over in August
The China Daily says that the relocation is planned to be over on August 11, 2022: “The first group of families is expected to arrive in their new community by July 15.”
The article adds that being the busiest time for the nomads: “some residents will remain in their original places.”
What is the big hurry in any case …except if the TAR government is planning to immediately re-employ the nomads on some large infrastructure projects near the airport or at the airport.
Finally, the article says that to ensure the safety, smooth traffic, control of the pandemic as well as proper medical rescues and emergencies, “more than 200 government workers from all walks of life have been dispatched to relocation sites to provide support.”
The government of Lhoka was asked to accelerate infrastructure construction, including housing, water and electricity supplies, traffic, schools and clinics.

A First Article
A few earlier, Xinhua had announced that a total of 17,555 people were to be relocated away from Nagchu City, ”thanks to a local program to improve people's living and protect the plateau region's fragile ecosystem.”
Quoting Wu Wei, director of the regional forestry and grassland administration, Xinhua asserted: “The people had lived in places with harsh weather and relatively backward production and living conditions, where the grassland degraded. The relocation scheme reflects a people-centered development thought, taking into consideration both the ecological protection and people's demand for a better life," Wu said.
The fact is that for centuries, it is the nomads and herders who looked after the conservation of the natural environment; it is of course not mentioned (or even taken into account).
The objectives of the relocation scheme is somewhere else, as Xinhua admits: “The region's overall relocation plan will cover more than 130,000 people in Tibet's nearly 100 townships in eight years.”
This is big, and for India, it is a worry, as many of these new township may come near the border.

The Three Counties

It is worth looking at the three counties from where the relocated herders will come from.
The chart below shows the area and the population of the three counties of Nyima, Amdo and Tsonyi of Nagchu City.

What is striking is that ONE-THIRD of the population is being relocated.
Why such large percentage?
What will happen to these already sparsely inhabited areas?
It looks a certain death for these counties?

Tsonyi (Shuanghu) County







Location of Tsonyi Special County

Total Area  =  116,700 km2 (45,100 sq mi)
Elevation = 4,960 m (16,270 ft)
Total Population (2014) =  13,470
Density  =  0.12/km2 (0.3/sq mi)

Simplified Chinese  =  双湖县
Tibetan =   མཚོ་གཉིས་རྫོང

 Amdo County


Location of Amdo County within Tibet Autonomous Region

Total Area  =  43,410.85 km2 (16,761.02 sq mi)
Total Population (2000) =  32,843
Chinese name =安多县
Tibetan name = ཨ་མདོ་རྫོང་།



Nyima County



Location of Nyima County within Tibet 

Tibetan: ཉི་མ་རྫོང་།, Wylie: nyi ma rdzong,
Simplified Chinese: 尼玛县; traditional Chinese: 尼瑪縣; pinyin: Nímǎ Xiàn)
The northern part of the county is within the Changtang area.
With an area of 72,499 km2 (27,992 sq mi) and a population of 29,000 (2012), it has an average population density of less than 0.4 people per square kilometre.

The scheme raises some important questions:

  • Why one third of the population of these three counties are forcibly relocated south of Lhasa.
  • What will the life of the pastoral populations who for generations have lived in the Changthang? 
  • Can they survive in the new ‘urban’ conditions?
  • Why to relocate such a large number of people near the airport?
  • Which type of employment will they be given? 
  • Is there a mega infrastructure in the pipeline? The area is already served by the Expressway to Lhasa, by the railway line (Lhasa-Nyingchi), by different haighways (G318, G4218), etc. 
  • Which type of new infrastructure is China planning?
  • A new airstrip for the dual use airport?
The developments in the area need to be watch carefully.