Thousands of Tibetans Driven From Their Homes by China to Make Way For National Park

A map showing the location of Themchen county in northwest China's Qinghai province
A map showing the location of Themchen county in northwest China’s Qinghai province. (RFA)

Plans by China to build a national park in Tibetan-populated areas of Qinghai province are forcing thousands of nomads from their ancestral land, with final removal of the herders scheduled by the end of this year, Tibetan sources say.

The evictions will clear the way for the creation of the Mount Qilian National Park, a 50,200 square kilometer parkland and wild animal preserve straddling parts of Qinghai and neighboring Gansu, with the greater part lying in Gansu.

Around 4,000 Tibetan farmers and herders living in Themchen county’s Muru township and Suru and Drugkhyung villages have now been ordered off their land and told to move to Golmud city in Qinghai by the of 2020, one local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“The relocation project is in full swing right now, and the forced displacement of Tibetan nomads from their homes has become a matter of great concern for the local people,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The nomads from these areas are not willing to part from their ancestral land, but who is really able to defy China’s policies?” the source said.

On Sept. 3, Themchen county authorities held a meeting led by county governor Sengdrug in which Tibetan residents were pressured to comply with government orders to move, with officials adding that establishment of the national park was in line with Chinese president Xi Jinping’s concern for environmental conservation.

The official website of the Themchen county government on Sept. 3 confirmed the meeting had been held, saying it was “convened to appraise the local Tibetan nomads that the relocation project has to be completely carried out by the end of the year.”

Illegal mining had been carried on for many years at Mount Qilian, RFA’s source said.

“And now, in the name of environmental conservation and protection, Tibetan nomads must leave and move to Golmud. Local Chinese authorities have carried out a campaign to collect signatures and have held ‘awareness training sessions’ urging the nomads to willingly accept the project and their orders to move,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, Tsering Dhondup—a former Tibetan political prisoner now living in Australia and a native of Bongtak Themchen, one of the affected areas—said that any Tibetan speaking out against China’s policy of displacement would face serious political consequences.

“In reality, in the name of environmental protection, the Tibetan people and their lives are being completely upended,” Dhondup said.

Resettlement schemes in Tibetan areas of China in recent years have driven thousands of Tibetans from their homes and into urban areas where they often live in crowded conditions with large families piled into single dwellings and opportunities for employment cut off, sources say.

According to the International Campaign for Tibet, Chinese authorities announced in 2017 in a policy criticized by Tibetans that “vast areas of Tibet will be turned into ‘national parks’ – contingent upon the removal of Tibetans from their ancestral lands.”

Reported by Thaklha Gyal. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.


Source: Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.