(N.B. On-line version, titled “A Well-off Village on the Tibetan Border Seeks to Secure the Border and Comfort the People”, with the sub-title “Village Construction Is Sound and the Team to Guard the Land and Secure the Border Is Growing”.)
“Striving to be the protector of the sacred land and builder of the happy homeland”. This is a common phrase heard by Huan Qiu Shi Bao reporters during their recent interviews in Shannan and Nyingchi in the Tibet Autonomous Region. In recent years, the construction of moderately well-off villages in the border area of Tibet has been remarkable, and the frontier guards defending the territory of the border area have also been constantly growing in numbers. The local government has earnestly fortified the national border by promoting the project of relocation of people to the border areas called “deployment of guards and reassuring the people at the same time, alongside consolidation and prosperity of the border areas”. During the interview, the reporter was also deeply impressed by the “simplicity” and “depth” of the border people living at high altitude and even in the difficult areas as they patriotically guard the border.
The picture shows the former site of the front-line headquarters of the self-defense counterattack against India near Mama Township, Cona County, Shannan City, Tibet. This is already the patriotism education base in Cuona County. Photo by Zhao Juehui
A border village reborn
Starting from the Cona county town of Shannan City in southeastern Tibet, traveling about 40 kilometers along the winding mountain road, the altitude drops from 4380 meters to 2800 meters, and you can reach Lebugou in the border area. Lebugou is a south-extending grand canyon in the eastern section of the Himalayas. The vegetation is dense and the climate is humid. The snow-capped mountains to the west are Bhutan, and the swift Niangjiang River stretches southward along the canyon to the “Southern Tibet of China” Tawang area, known as the “gateway” but still occupied by India.
The southernmost point in Lebugou and closest to the actual line of control between China and India is Lecun in Lemenba Nationality Township (Lexiang). Standing on the square in the village and looking south, Pouba, the vice chairman of the CPPCC of Cuona County and the mayor of Lexiang, pointed to a cloud-shrouded mountain and said to the HQSB reporter: “That mountain is already an India-controlled area. Our location is less than 5 kilometers.” The locals often say “to live on the edge, to produce on the edge, grazing is to patrol, and life is to guard the edge”. For decades, people have shouldered the heavy responsibility of defending the sacred land, and their lives have undergone earth-shaking changes.
In 2017, the Tibet Autonomous Region issued the “Plan for the Construction of Well-off Villages in the Border Areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region (2017-2020)”, and decided to review the 628 first- and second-line administrative villages in the region (including 427 first-line villages, 201 second-line villages and Zayu Farm) The implementation of the construction of a well-off village mainly focuses on improving the production and living conditions of border residents in ten aspects including water, electricity, roads, education, science, culture, and sanitation, involving 62,000 border residents and 242,000 people. As the first batch of well-off border villages in Shannan City to start construction, villagers in Le Village moved to a new home in early 2018. 24 households with 72 people bid farewell to the old wooden houses and lived in Tibetan-style buildings and “villas.”
It is difficult for everyone, including the villagers of Le Village, to imagine the living conditions here today-Xinfang’s water, electricity and network are readily available. The largest apartment size exceeds 200 square meters. The dirt road in the village has become an asphalt road. There are squares, tourist reception centers and business districts. The 63-year-old villager Gu Ru lives in a small 4-story building. He told the HQSB reporter: “The new house has one floor for his own home, two floors for a supermarket, and three floors and four floors for farmhouse guest rooms. Only supermarkets and tourism are available. , The annual income is nearly 100,000 yuan.”
Such changes have not only occurred in Le Township, but also in Jiba Township, Mama Township, and Gongri Township in Lebugou in recent years, through the construction of well-off villages on the border, they have achieved a qualitative leap in the living standards of residents. In 2008, Dawa Puci, who married from Shigatse to Simucun Village, Gongri Township, Lebugou, talked about the improvement of housing: “In the past, our house was a large room, with yaks on the ground floor and the whole family upstairs. I moved in in 2019. The new house is more than 180 square meters. Not only can my family live in a spacious room, but there are also rooms to operate a bed and breakfast. To be honest, I thought I would suffer when I got to the border, but I never expected to be able to live such a good life now.” According to Dawapu The second home’s bed and breakfast room is 150 yuan a night, and there are too many tourists in the tourist season.
Awanggelai, deputy director of the Shannan Development and Reform Commission, said in an interview with a reporter from the HQSB that the city plans to build 96 well-off border villages and 62 have been built. These well-off border villages are planned to be completed before September 30 this year, and move in will be arranged immediately so that everyone can spend the New Year in a new house next year.
Xiaokang village realizes “prospering the border and enriching the people”
For the well-off villages on the border, achieving a “well-off” and prospering the border is the core goal. In 2018, all 12 counties and districts in Shannan City were lifted out of poverty. The well-off border villages such as Lecun and Simucun relied on tourism and ethnic characteristic industries to accelerate their progress on the road to prosperity.
Mama Township is located in the core area of Lebugou. It has “titles” such as an ecological civilization well-off demonstration village, a beautiful leisure village in China, and a national rural tourism key village. Due to the relatively low altitude, Ma Ma Township has a different scenery from the impression of snow-covered plateau: cliffs, forests, dense vegetation, winding mountain streams, waterfalls… Relying on the advantages of natural conditions, residents of Ma Ma Township After eating the “tourism meal”, 66 residents of the township opened 49 farmhouses, 5 restaurants, 5 tea houses, 5 shops and 5 outlets for ethnic specialty products. In 2019, the total rural economic income of the township was nearly 5 million yuan, of which the tertiary industry income was 2.8 million yuan, and the per capita disposable income was 17,891 yuan.
In Le Township, next to Mama Township, in addition to the tourism industry, a tea nursery base and a professional tea farmer cooperative have also been established. Lecanglian, a special tea variety of the Monba people produced here, sells well inside and outside the autonomous region, so much so that when a reporter from the HQSB went to the cooperative to interview, a packet of spring tea produced this year could not be bought. In 2019, the tea cooperatives in Lexiang produced about 20,000 jin of tea and generated about 2.55 million yuan in income, which is an average increase of 13,000 yuan per villager.
These well-off villages on the border can realize the free flow of people and goods, and thus develop various industries, inseparable from infrastructure, especially road construction. “If you want to get rich, build roads first.” People in the border areas of Tibet may have a particularly profound experience of this sentence. A local resident told a reporter from the HQSB: “A dirt road was built in Ma Ma Township in the ravine in 1974, and an asphalt road was opened around 2013. Before the asphalt road, large vehicles could not enter, and the village did not have any construction doors. No matter how good things are grown in the past, they can’t be sold. How much money could you earn carrying stuff on your back ?
In recent years, Shannan City’s infrastructure investment has increased year by year, from 14.5 billion yuan in 2015 to 21.08 billion yuan in 2019. According to the data provided by Shannan city government departments to reporters from the HQSB, the road access rate of the 556 organized villages in the city has reached 99.82%. According to data released by the Transportation Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region at the beginning of the year, the rate of hardened roads in the qualified towns and villages in the region reached 86% and 60% respectively. For most Tibetans, road is no longer the biggest obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.
The significance of roads for border construction lies not only in people’s livelihood, but the villages scattered across the border for thousands of kilometers are also connected by roads to form a chain of solid and stable edges. Taking Shannan City as an example, there are two important roads, 219 National Road and 560 National Road, passing through the city. Zhai Kun, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Deputy Director of the Development and Reform Commission of Shannan City, told the HQSB reporter that National Highway 219 connects the outermost ring of the Tibet border area and runs through many border counties such as Luozha and Longzi. In the eyes of the locals, infrastructure construction has promoted the development of the border areas in Tibet, which is a manifestation of “equal attention to strengthening and prospering the border.”
Patrolling the border roads, without conceding an inch of land
On October 28, 2017, General Secretary Xi Jinping replied to Zhuoga and Yangzong, the patriotic border guard herdsmen of Yumai Township, in reply, proposing to “be the guardian of the sacred land and the builder of a happy home”. The construction of well-off villages on the border allows border residents to have a good environment for living in peace and comfort, and they can take root in the border with peace of mind and guard the border. While allowing existing residents to live and work in peace and contentment, Shannan City and other border areas are also advancing the relocation of border areas to strengthen the defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Cona County is an important border county in the country. The total area of the county is 34,979 square kilometers, and the actual control area is about 10,094 square kilometers. Buduo, Deputy Secretary of the County Party Committee and County Mayor of Cuona County, told a reporter from the HQSB that Cuona County planned to relocate 3,222 people from 960 households to the border by identifying weak areas, disputed areas, and blank spots. Budo said: “The people moved to the border, and the living place was less than 2 kilometers away from the actual control line in the air, and the ground distance was 5 kilometers. “Across the mountain is Indian-controlled territory.” He also mentioned that in the past 10 years The population of Lebugou in Cuona County has shown negative growth, with residents moving out from time to time, and border forces have been weakened. The advancement of the Arrival Relocation Plan is also responding to such problems. Among them, the local government mobilized 134 people from 40 households in Quzhuomu, Juela, and Kada townships with harsh natural environment and uneven resource endowments to move to Ma Ma Township. The day before the “HQSB” reporter arrived here, a group of residents had just moved into a new home.
Also in Shannan City, Yumai Township in Longzi County is the administrative township with the smallest population in the country. According to related reports, when the township had the largest population in history, there were only about 300 people in more than 20 households. When the population was the smallest, there was only a family of three. In the past two years, Shannan City has promoted the relocation plan to Yumai Township. A reporter from the “HQSB” found from the Longzi County Government website that on July 10, 43 people from 11 households in Qusang Village, Zari Township, moved to the Niulintang relocation site in Yumai Township. Villagers in Yumai, a former “three-person township” Increased to 67 households with more than 230 people.
According to the “HQSB” reporter, the four border counties in Shannan City—Cona County, Luozha County, Longzi County and Langkazi County—are actively promoting the relocation of the border, involving about 6,000 people. The border counties relocated some residents to the border counties. “I have worked in Tibet for 30 years, and I am shocked by the changes in the border areas.” Zhai Kun, secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Deputy Director of the Shannan Development and Reform Commission, said that the masses can guard the border on the front line and the government gives the greatest degree of support to border residents. Subsidies, provision of forest rangers and other public welfare posts, and various policies have provided a good guarantee for the lives of border residents.
During the interview, “HQSB” reporters felt that the border residents have a strong sense of responsibility and mission to guard the border. Puba, the mayor of Lexiang, told reporters that the local people aged 18 to 65 are responsible for patrolling. In the season when the mountains are not closed due to heavy snowfall, one or two side patrols are organized every month, each time they have to walk more than 100 kilometers, and it takes three or four days. In addition, there are many grazing spots along the border, and herders chasing yaks are always watching the wind and grass on the border.
During a certain side patrol in June this year, Puba and the villagers saw the sudden appearance of simple houses and Indian soldiers near the Kjelang Valley, and immediately reported to their superiors. Two days later, when they patrolled, they found that the simple house had been demolished. Puba said, “Our border village can go forward, but cannot retreat, and no trace of land can be allowed out.”
Gongzhangpu in Se Township, Luozha County, Shannan City is located on the border between China and Bhutan. There are 3 Tongwai Mountain Passes nearby, and its geographical location is very important. Before this, Gongzhangpu was just a pasture. Since March 2017, 10 households and 20 people have voluntarily moved to the relocation site of farmers and herdsmen. Gongzhangpo has a high altitude and harsh climate. There is only one season of the year-winter. Residents in the relocation sites must overcome the high cold and lack of oxygen, and complete two patrol missions on rocky beaches, swamps, and snowy roads every day.
A government official in Shannan City used the words “simple” and “deep” to describe the patriotism of border residents. He told the “HQSB” reporter: “There were old Tibetan compatriots who could not speak Chinese, let alone English, but they learned to write ‘China’ China’.” Border residents would wear brushes and reds when they patrolled the border. Paint, write “China” on some mountain walls and conspicuous stones. Some people will also use local materials to display the five-star red flag or party emblem with stones.
A Monba villager in Lebugou told the HQSB reporter: “Indian personnel sometimes paint the Indian flag on the tree. When we see it, we dig out this part and paint the Chinese flag. Indian personnel see China. The national flag will be dug out again, and the Indian flag will be painted. In the end this section of the tree is dug out, we will cut it off directly, in short, no trace of India will be left.”
Reports of similar contests can be heard in many interviews. According to Wu Jin Ciren, secretary of the Party branch of Bangzhong Village, Milin County, Nyingchi City, he saw someone put a stone in the Chinese-controlled area and a 50-rupee banknote was pressed underneath during a side tour. When Wu Jin Tsering and the reporter of the “HQSB” recalled this “match”, they couldn’t help but smile and said: “We took out 50 rupees and took out a 100 yuan RMB and put it under the stone. Although we are losing the exchange rate. However, we have “earned” in this tone.” Bangzhong Village is about 16 kilometers away from the Indian-occupied area. Taking villagers to patrol the border is also one of Wu Jin Tsering’s important tasks. He said: “In the 1980s and 1990s, we were all carrying shotguns, hunting and patrolling. It took several days to go out at a time. Now that the roads have been built, most of the distances can be driven by car, and we can go back and forth in one day.
The 80-year-old Gesang from Gongri village had experienced the Sino-Indian border Counter Attack War in Self Defence back in 1962. He told the HQSB reporter that earlier, people used to believe not in science, but in rumours (superstition). Information flow also was not unhindered; and there used to be defections and infiltration. “Especially in the late 1980s, the external encroachments and infiltration were rampant”. Describing the current border as “the new frontier”, the elderly Gesang said that “there have been earth-shaking changes since then and living conditions have improved greatly. People are also more united and their determination to protect the border has grown stronger”.
Photo Two elderly people who witnessed the self-defense counterattack on the Sino-Indian border in 1962: Tsering Danzeng (left) and Gesang (right). Photo by Guo Hongsong
The 88-year-old Tsering Tenzin is a native of Lebugou. He has been patrolling the border with PLA soldiers since he was 17. During the Sino-Indian border counterattack in self-defense in 1962, Tsering Dan became a guide for the troops. Speaking of the reasons for insisting on guarding the border for decades, Tsering Tenzin and a reporter from the “HQSB” recalled his experience as a serf before the democratic reforms in Tibet. He said: “At that time, I was going to serve the nobles, carrying seventy or eighty years. A kilo of goods traveled dozens of miles of mountain roads. After Tibet was liberated, the PLA soldiers told me, “This land is your place.” This belief impelled me to guard this place. Now I am old and can’t walk anymore. I can’t even stand, but this belief has not gone”.