Are Tibetans in Danger of Becoming A Minority in their Own Land?
There is strong evidence that, as a result of Chinese population transfer, Tibetans are becoming a minority in their own land and are thus finding themselves marginalized in economic, political, educational, and social spheres. The Chinese government encourages the Han Chinese to move to Tibet through financial incentives, stipends, hardship posting allowances, extended vacations, and attractive benefit packages. Annual wages for Chinese personnel are 87% higher in Tibet than in China. Chinese settlers are given the most fertile lands, driving the Tibetans to more and more barren lands. They are given tax exemptions, almost all key administrative posts, and preference over Tibetans in jobs created by forestry and mineral exploitation in Tibet. Furthermore, they are given loans to start businesses, whereas the Tibetans are not. Of the roughly 13,000 shops and restaurants in Lhasa, only about 300 are owned by Tibetans. The ownership ratio is similar in other Tibetan towns. The situation is far worse in the urban centers of Amdo, where, according to one British journalist, Tibetans are reduced to “tourist curios”. It promises to get only worse since the Railway to Lhasa from China opened in July 2006, bringing with it thousands of Chinese tourists and businesspeople per day.
This policy of immigration is sometimes known as “The Second Invasion” and poses the greatest threat to the survival of the Tibetan people and their nation. The transfer of civilians by an occupying power into the territory it occupies is a violation of international law, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. However, it has often been used by occupying powers to break resistance to their rule and consolidate control over a particular territory. That is what was started in 1949 when China invaded Tibet and what is still happening today.
By 1985, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi announced its Government’s intention to populate the TAR in order to change both the ecological and population imbalance between Tibet and the Mother Country (there was not much arable land or underground resources left in China). Deng Xiaoping admitted that the Chinese were being encouraged to move to Tibet because the local population was inadequate to develop its resources. By the mid-1980s, over 60,000 workers were arriving in Tibet daily in order to install electricity and build schools, hotels, cultural institutions, mills, and factories. Additional Chinese immigrants doubled the population of Lhasa between 1985 and 1988. Such a large influx of population caused a great disturbance to public security.
To encourage Chinese settlement in Tibet, the Chinese Government offers an array of benefits to its personnel and civilian population. Typical rationale for providing conditions and services that are significantly better than those available to Tibetans are that the personnel brought in from developed regions (China) cannot be expected to live on the local fare of tsampa (roasted barley flour) and raw meat. They need good housing, hospitals, cinemas and schools for their children. Other costly subsidies include high-altitude allowance, and transporting wheat and rice by truck to Tibet.
Annual wages for Chinese personnel are 87% higher in Tibet than in China. The longer the stay in Tibet, the higher the benefits. Vacations for Chinese personnel in Tibet are far longer than those in China. For every 18 months of work in Tibet, they receive a three-month leave back to China, and all the expenses are paid by the Chinese government. The Chinese entrepreneurs receive special tax exemptions and loans at low interest rates in Tibet, whereas for Tibetans to start an enterprise in their own homeland, even getting the license is difficult.
In 1992, China announced the opening of Tibet’s economy to “foreign investments,” which in reality is designed only to encourage the settlement of Chinese population in Tibet. New villages can be seen springing up alongside the road in many areas of Tibet.
Besides inundating the country with millions of settlers from China, the Chinese Government is also employing various coercive birth-control measures to stem the growth of the Tibetan population. The aim of this twin demographic policy is to see to it that the Tibetans are reduced to an insignificant minority in their country so as to render any resistance against China’s rule ineffective. It is exactly for this reason that some observers have termed this policy as China’s “Final Solution”.
From 1984 China imposed its policy allowing Tibetan couples to have only two children. It was announced that only 12% of the population in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) fell within the scope of this policy. This was because in the countryside, Tibetans were supposed to be exempt from such restrictions. But in reality, orders were issued for fines (ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 yuan or 400 to 800 USD) for the birth of a third child. Extra children were denied ration cards and workers violating the rule had their pay cut by 50%, or in some cases withheld altogether for three to six months.
Such coercive measures are employed in a number of ways. Mobile birth control teams roam the countryside and round up women for abortion and sterilization. Even women well advanced in their pregnancy are forced to undergo abortion followed by sterilization. As a rule, the enforcement of birth control measures in Tibet is highly erratic, differing from place to place and time to time, and depends on the zeal of individual local officials who are given carte blanche to implement this policy.
As a result of Chinese population transfer, Tibetans are becoming a minority in their own homeland and are increasingly finding themselves marginalized in economic, political, educational and social spheres. In the early 1980s, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile estimated the Chinese population in the whole of Tibet at 7.5 million. The figure today, twenty years later, is well in excess of that. Whereas the number of Chinese settlers is increasing at an alarming rate, the number of Tibetans has decreased drastically, dropping from over six million before the Chinese invasion to only two million currently living in Tibet, while the remaining four million are living either in exile or in other provinces of China.