Chinese village construction in disputed zone outpaces China-Bhutan border talks

by Jack Lau at

In a remote village in the Himalayas, inside a border zone that has long been disputed by China and Bhutan, 18 new Chinese residents stood waiting to enter their newly built homes.
Each carried a freshly framed portrait of China’s President Xi Jinping – large enough to leave only their heads and lower legs exposed – while behind them a bright red banner welcomed them in Chinese and Tibetan script.

It was December 28 and they were the first batch of people – made up of 38 households from the Tibetan city of Shigatse – to move in to the newly expanded Tamalung village, the Tibet Federation of Industry and Commerce said on WeChat.

The village is one of at least three built by China inside the disputed zone. Local governments in the Tibet autonomous region led a rapid expansion of border villages last year, with Tamalung doubling in size in the latter half of 2023.

Satellite imagery – taken by US-based Maxar Technologies seven days before the residents moved in – shows 147 new houses.

Local media reports said the village expansion was designed to accommodate 235 households, in addition to the 200 people who were living there in just 70 homes at the end of 2022.

The villages were part of China’s state-led poverty alleviation scheme to provide better living conditions but they double as “citadels” to strengthen national security, officials have said.