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Make 'em an offer they cain't refuse

A Chinese Government campaign requiring Tibetan villagers to rebuild their houses under strict official specifications is leading to poverty rather than boosting economic development, according to a report by the New York based Human Rights Watch.

The report, dated December 20, 2006, says the campaign, "Namdrang Rangdrik", began in 2005 as part of China's 11th Five-Year Plan. "Tibetans have reported being told by local officials that clean, modern houses are necessary to make a good impression on growing numbers of visitors and tourists as the region modernizes," it said.

The report said, "The campaign's stipulations for the financing of reconstruction also stand to impoverish affected Tibetans. The cost of building a new house that meets the government's standards is about US$5,000--6,000, though the government lends households only about $1,200 for construction costs.

Nearly all must therefore supplement these funds with considerable bank loans, as they lack the significant capital investment required. The poorest households are not even eligible for loans, but the campaign's guidelines allow no exception for this situation. Even the most affluent households have been forced into debt, and those who default on their loans will forfeit the right to occupy the house they have built or started to build."

The report said the affected Tibetans were not provided with the choice not to participate in the campaign. It said, "None of those interviewed reported being given the right to challenge or refuse participation in the campaign. Tibetans have described incidents in which those who refused to participate or those who were unable to participate because they could not secure the necessary loans had their homes bulldozed by local authorities."

From: Rights Group Says New Housing Campaign Deepening Poverty in Rural Tibet, Human Rights Watch, 19 11 06

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