Tim Johnson of McClatchey Newspapers reports that "in a massive campaign that recalls the socialist engineering of an earlier era, the Chinese government has relocated some 250,000 Tibetans - nearly one-tenth of the population - from scattered rural hamlets to new "socialist villages," ordering them to build new housing largely at their own expense and without their consent.
The government calls the year-old project the "comfortable housing program," and its stated aim is to present a more modern face for this ancient region, which China has controlled since 1950.
It claims that the new housing on main roads, sometimes only a mile from previous homes, will enable small farmers and herders to have access to schools and jobs, as well as better health care and hygiene.
But the broader aim seems to be remaking Tibet - a region with its own culture, language and religious traditions - in order to have firmer political control over its population. It comes as China prepares for an influx of millions of tourists in the run-up to next year's Summer Olympic Games.
A vital element in the strategy is to displace a revered leader, the Dalai Lama, now 71, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating resistance to the communist government. The government hopes to replace him after he dies with a state-appointed successor, and in the meantime it's opened the gates of Tibet to greater numbers of ethnic Han Chinese and tightened control of religious activity.
It's pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into road-building and development projects in Tibet, boosting the economy, maintaining a large military presence and keeping close tabs on the citizenry through a vast security apparatus of cameras and informants on urban streets and in the monasteries."This type of social engineering is reminiscent of Mao's 'great leap backward' , which resulted in the impoverishment and death of millions of Chinese peasants. The systematic repression of the Tibetan people is one of the greatest & unmitigated human rights disasters of modern times.
The Chinese people must awake to this ongoing violation of international law and human rights covenants, perpetrated by their government in their name, if China wishes to be perceived as a good international citizen. The impetus for human rights reform must come from within if China is going to take its rightful place as a key actor for global peace and prosperity.