BEIJING (Reuters) - A human rights group appealed to China on Thursday to end what it called forced "mass rehousing and relocation" of ethnic Tibetans that it said had uprooted more than two million people in the past seven years.
The report, by New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Chinese authorities threw lives into disarray by denying rights to forcibly relocated ethnic Tibetans with insufficient compensation, sub-par housing and lack of help in finding jobs.
"The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being remodeled by mass rehousing and relocation policies are unprecedented in the post-Mao era," said Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson.
"Tibetans have no say in the design of policies that are radically altering their way of life, and - in an already highly repressive context - no ways to challenge them."
More than two million Tibetans had been relocated in Tibet since 2006, as have hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau such as in Qinghai province, the report said.
The program's aim, it added, was to help economically, but also to combat separatist sentiment "and is designed to strengthen political control over the Tibetan rural population".
Phone calls to the Tibet autonomous region government office seeking comment were not answered.
CHINA DEFENDS DEVELOPMENT POLICY
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she hoped those issuing the report could "remove their colored glasses" in terms of China's achievements in development policy.
Those examining Chinese policy, she told a news briefing, "should have a correct understanding of China's ethnic and religious policies and respect for the Chinese people's chosen path of development".
Violence has flared in Tibet since 1950, when Beijing says it "peacefully liberated" the region. Many Tibetans say Chinese rule has eroded their culture and religion and agitate for the return of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.
The Chinese government, which brands the Dalai Lama a dangerous "splittist", denies trampling on Tibetan rights and says it brought prosperity to the region and ended serfdom.
Since 2009, at least 117 Tibetans have committed acts of self-immolation in China in protest against Beijing's policies. More than 90 have died.
But in a possible sign of a loosening of some restrictions, authorities in Tibetan-populated areas of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces are allowing monks to respect the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, though not as a political figure, Radio Free Asia said.
While the move appears limited to Sichuan and Qinghai, it contradicts the long-time policy of prohibiting veneration of the Dalai Lama, Radio Free Asia said, citing sources who in turn cited official documents introducing the experimental policy.
When asked about the report, Hua said she was unaware of the specific situation. She reiterated Beijing's stance that the Dalai Lama was "not a purely religious figure" and had long used religion to "engage in anti-China separatist activities".
The Dalai Lama denies he is a separatist and says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his homeland.
(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ron Popeski)