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HRW: Compulsory reconstruction of houses increases poverty


20 December 20066

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Chinese government's programme which forces Tibetans to reconstruct their homes as deepening poverty rather than boosting economic development. The programme, known in Tibetan as "Namdrang Rangdrik" ("Do-It-Yourself Programme") was launched in 2005 and requires villagers to rebuild their houses in accordance with strict official specifications within two to three years. Affected villagers are not able to contest the decision or refuse to participate, even if complying causes them economic hardship and places them in debt. Beginning in 2000, the Chinese government launched a series of centrally mandated initiatives designed to alleviate poverty in Tibet that stipulated that the poorest families in a given village were to be relocated to new settlements of uniformly built houses along main roads, and encouraged them to start businesses or seek employment. The new houses were to be jointly funded by the government and the families in question. But according to HRW, local officials have frequently embezzled the centrally allocated funds, while ordinary villagers have been expected to contribute free manual labour to build the houses. "In recent years we've seen a slow but steady effort to separate rural Tibetans from their livelihoods in the name of economic development", said Richardson. "But it has become increasingly difficult to see how these campaigns have brought economic gains or equal participation for Tibetans".


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