“Comfortable Housing Program” for Tibet not so comfortable

China’s not the first country to bestow a nice-sounding moniker on a bad program (Healthy Forests Initiative, anyone?), but to call the mandatory resettlement of 250,000 Tibetans the “Comfortable Housing Program” is, shall we say, creative. For the past year, China has forced a quarter of million Tibetans to relocate to cookie-cutter houses (which the ...

601981_070510_tibet1_05.jpg
601981_070510_tibet1_05.jpg

China's not the first country to bestow a nice-sounding moniker on a bad program (Healthy Forests Initiative, anyone?), but to call the mandatory resettlement of 250,000 Tibetans the "Comfortable Housing Program" is, shall we say, creative. For the past year, China has forced a quarter of million Tibetans to relocate to cookie-cutter houses (which the Tibetans must pay for themselves) in "socialist villages" throughout the countryside. Each dwelling, which costs an average of $6,000 despite the fact that the average annual income for a rural Tibetan is around $320, comes complete with a Chinese flag flying on the roof. 

China’s not the first country to bestow a nice-sounding moniker on a bad program (Healthy Forests Initiative, anyone?), but to call the mandatory resettlement of 250,000 Tibetans the “Comfortable Housing Program” is, shall we say, creative. For the past year, China has forced a quarter of million Tibetans to relocate to cookie-cutter houses (which the Tibetans must pay for themselves) in “socialist villages” throughout the countryside. Each dwelling, which costs an average of $6,000 despite the fact that the average annual income for a rural Tibetan is around $320, comes complete with a Chinese flag flying on the roof. 

The forced relocation hasn’t been big news—Chinese state media reported briefly that “beaming smiles” were “fixed on the faces of farmers and herders”—and foreign journalists are prohibited from entering the region unescorted. McClatchy only managed to score this scoop because the reporter, Tim Johnson, posed as a tourist. China has said that it will allow foreign journalists to travel freely during the Olympics next year. If that includes Tibet, we’ll no doubt see some equally disturbing signs of China’s long policy of strangling Tibetan identity.

Be sure to check out Johnson’s narrated slide show of his journey. 

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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