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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Standoff at Tibet Gold Mine

May 24, 2009

Radio Free Asia
May 24, 2009

Tibetan Buddhists regard it as a sacred site.
Gold deposits make Ser Ngol Lo valuable in other
ways too, and tensions are rising.

HONG KONG -- Hundreds of villagers in the Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR) of western China are
facing off against armed security forces at the
site of a planned gold mine on what the Tibetans
consider a sacred mountain, witnesses say.

"The Tibetan protesters are worried," said one
local man, who said he was one of eight organizers of the protest.

"The police, the soldiers, and the miners are
threatening to move ahead with the mine...They
have said they will force their way through and go to the site."

Tibetans have historically worshiped the site,
conducting rituals there in the event of drought,
residents say. Now a Chinese mining and lumbering
firm, Zhongkai Co., has been authorized to
excavate the area, and locals are protesting.

Another Tibetan man said hundreds of protesters
had gathered peacefully at Ser Ngol Lo ["Year of
Gold and Silver" in Tibetan] in the Tsangshul
subdistrict of Lhara village, Markham county, Chamdo prefecture.

"Now there are so many soldiers too. I would say
more than 300 of them," he said.

Another local Tibetan said security forces had
cut off the protesters from the rest of the village.

"They blocked all phones and even cellphones aren’t reachable," the man said.

"We can’t reach any of the protesters. Today
another four vehicles with roughly 30 to 40
soldiers in them went to the protest site. But
the Tibetans all put religious books on their
heads and are vowing to resist even if it means
sacrificing their lives,” he said.

A Tibetan employee at the nearby Markham [in
Chinese, Mangkang] Hotel said the protest had
been continuing for several months.

"There is trouble at the mine," she said, adding,
"There are more than 300 armed police...The
county government also sent more than 100 people.
It’s been three or four months and is still going on."

An official at the Markham county Public Security
Bureau declined to comment on the mine or the protest.

Asked if the demonstration had been quelled, he
replied, "We are not authorized to say. You
should ask [someone] higher-up. It’s inconvenient for us to comment."

'Ready to die'

An employee of Zhongkai Co., contacted by telephone, also declined to comment.

"I am not clear on the situation at the mine,' the employee said.

Pema Thinley, vice chairman of the TAR Communist
Party, was sent to Markham to try to convince the
local population to accept the mine, one of the protesters said.

But residents continued their demonstration, and
Pema Thinley was escorted back to Lhasa, the regional capital, on April 5.

On May 16, a contingent of police and security
forces arrived, but as many as 500 Tibetans
blocked the road leading to the planned mine, one of the residents said.

"The Tibetans slept on the road day and night and
the Chinese group stayed in a school nearby. They
were trying to convince us to stop protesting,”
he said, adding: “The Tibetans declared that they
are ready to die to protect the sacred hill.”

Original reporting by Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s
Tibetan service and Ding Xiao for RFA’s Mandarin
service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo.
Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou.
Translation by Karma Dorjee and Jennifer Chou.
Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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