UN Special Rapporteur challenges China’s forced resettlement policy in Tibet

GENEVA, 6 March: The UN Special Rapporteur right to food Mr. Olivier De Schutter this afternoon challenged China’s forced resettlement policy in Tibet during the interactive debate at the UN Human Rights Council 19th Session in Geneva.

“I believe there are many serious problems in China and not least the situation of herders in Tibet,” he said. The Special Rapporteur’s China report was released on 20 January 2012. It called for the suspension of the non-voluntary resettlement of Tibetan nomadic herders from their traditional lands. And said China must improve employment opportunities, education and health services in “new socialist” villages, in order to enable the realization of the right to adequate food of all resettled rural habitants. He visited China in December 2010. (Read report) The report urged China to “allow for meaningful consultations to take place with the affected communities, permitting parties to examine all available options, including recent strategies of sustainable management of marginal pastures.”

During the interactive debate the European Union said, “We are concerned about the impact of these resettlements on Tibetan nomads, herders and other rural residents, and would like to hear more about whether the SR has been able to engage the Chinese authorities with the view to the implementation of these recommendations.” The Chinese delegation expressed concerns about the content of the report. China rejected the allegations made by the Human Rights Watch and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in their oral statements. The delegation said that the nomadic herders were resettled to improve the sustainable economic and social developments in the region and has been widely supported by farmers and herders.  The resettlement of nomads and herders in China’s Western provinces including Tibet were “very popular polices”.

In response, the Special Rapporteur made references to a September 2011 Xinhua news report which said, “Most of the new migrants still miss their nomadic lives, yearning to listen to the yaks and tread the grasslands of their ancestral home.” He said the Xinhua news report quoted a Tibetan saying that his family now lives on an annual governmental subsidies that is “less than the price of two yaks. Everything is so expensive here in town.” The Special Rapporteur said the figures he had given – 200,000 nomads in Qinghai resettlement program alone, 64,000 families since 2009. And the plan is to move 50,000 Tibetan nomads to be resettlement by end of 2012 were data from China’s official News Agency Xinhua. “This policy of forcible resettlement demonstrating that this is very large-scale development,” he said. Mr. Schutter said that the resettlement policies were failing because since March 2011, 25 Tibetans self-immolated in protest against the policies that are implemented in this region. He said 18 of the 25 who burned themselves were actually herders forcibility resettled in the new socialist villages. “This I have to say is not compatible with the idea that these would be I quote “very popular polices”, he said. Responding to Chinese delegation statement that the Special Rapporteur hadn’t been to Tibet, he said, “I am told that I can’t comment on this because I cannot travel to Tibet.” In his final remark he said “regularly the communication system, internet, phones, sms are blocked and that Tibet is currently completely closed to independent observes including the media, in fact BBC journalist was threatened with expulsion if he reported on Tibet.” (Watch)