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Chinese Authorities Demolish Traditional Tibetan Houses in Lhasa

April 29, 2002

International Campaign for Tibet

Note: for images of the buildings Chinese authorities are demolishing please go to: http://www.savetibet.org/News/News.cfm?ID=1000&c=6

(ICT) Demolition of a large traditionally-built housing and business complex began in the historic Barkhor area Lhasa on Friday, April 26th. The building on Mentsikhang Lam forms the border of what some call the old city. According to Lhasa residents, the traditional building is reportedly one of dozens planned for demolition by Lhasa authorities.

Residents of a smaller traditional building across the main street of Beijing Lam were also given notice to move out as demolition is scheduled to begin this week.

The residential part of the buildings are planned to be rebuilt as concrete living blocks and residents will be given priority to move back in at an increased rental price in smaller rooms. "We were given five days notice. I have to move my entire family out," said an evicted resident contacted by ICT. "I had two large rooms for my family, but Iwill likely not be able to afford even paying for one room after the rebuild."

Representatives of the evicted residents made an unsuccessful plea not to demolish the building on Thursday morning to the local residential management committee. Demolition began the day afterwards. Many residents have lived in the traditional building since it was built after the cultural revolution.

Lhasa residents report that traditional buildings that are not officially protected as historically significant will likely be destroyed in the coming year. "If the houses have the traditional pillars, authorities have said they must go," said a shop owner on nearby Beijing Lam. Tibetans often describe the size of their house by the number of pillars.

The demolition and construction is part of Beijing's ongoing effort to promote their version of development in Tibet. A massive, state-bank-funded construction boom is in full swing in Lhasa, with large scale, concrete residential and business complexes being built throughout the city. ICT estimates that there are approximately 40,000 Chinese migrant construction workers in the Lhasa area, and two times that number of associated migrants provided services. Many new buildings in Lhasa and the surrounding valley stand empty. It is believed that the state banks will wait for the expected population influx with the Golmud-Lhasa railroad before calling in on their loans.

Images of tradional buildings in Lhasa that Chinese authorities are demolishing (click links to view images):

1. The traditional building that began to be destroyed on April 26th. This photo was taken the same day that the residents were told they must leave within 5 days: http://www.savetibet.org/images/client/Large%20Bldg%20to%20be%20demolish ed%202.jpg

2. Demoltion workers throw scrap wood from the second floor of the building on the first day of destructtion. Evicted residents could be seen in the three days before frantically taking out all of their belongings and loading them onto trucks: http://www.savetibet.org/images/client/Demolition%20on%20April%2026th.JPG

3. Residents load up their cabinets and belongings from the building the day before demolition began: http://www.savetibet.org/images/client/corner%20of%20bldg%20to%20be%20de molished.JPG

4. Scrap wood is thrown from the second floor on the first day of demolition: http://www.savetibet.org/images/client/demolition%20on%20Aprile%2026th%2 02.JPG

5. Empty window frames in a building slated for demoltion. Some residents tried to salvage windows from this building as they left. They were told on April 22 that they have 5 days to leave before demoliton started. The buidling is loacted on the north side of Beijing Lam: http://www.savetibet.org/images/client/Bldg%20across%20from%20Tashi%201%20cafe.JPG

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