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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Mine Standoff Said Resolved

May 30, 2009

Radio Free Asia
May 27, 2009

Have talks settled a long-running dispute over
plans to mine gold at a sacred Tibetan site?

HONG KONG -- Talks have resolved a standoff over
a planned gold mine in Tibet at a site local
Tibetans consider sacred, a local official said
Wednesday, while some Tibetans said they were determined to keep protesting.

An official at the Markham [in Chinese, Mangkang]
County Business Bureau, in the Tibetan Autonomous
Region’s (TAR) Chamdo prefecture, said a protest
involving several hundred Tibetans has nearly concluded.

"All county leaders are at the scene and the
incident is almost over. The local people just
have a different view [on the mining issue],” the
official, who declined to be named, said in an interview.

"We settled the dispute through negotiations to
make sure both parties are satisfied with the
settlement -- that is to say that the mining
project should not cause environmental pollution
in the future and that the local people will
receive a certain amount of compensation."

But a Tibetan native of Markham county said
several hundred Tibetans doing business in the
TAR capital, Lhasa, had gathered there May 26 to
inform provincial authorities of ongoing
harassment of the protesters by local officials.

"They decided to go before the TAR office in
Lhasa and protest that the Chinese authorities
are harassing the Tibetans in Markham. [They want
to] stop the mining plan,” the man, currently based in Lhasa, said.

A senior official from the Chamdo prefectural
government later contacted the businessmen and
urged them to stop protesting after news of the
meeting leaked out, the Lhasa resident said.

"He assured them the matter was being taken to
higher authorities and told them that he hoped
the matter could be resolved peacefully,” he said.

At the same time, according to a Tibetan living
in Markham county, local authorities informed the
Tibetan protesters that they had no hope of putting an end to the mining plan.

"On May 26, the governor of Markham county and
Dorjee Nak Nak, head of the land protection
division of Markham county, came to the area and
appealed to the Tibetans. They tried to convince
the Tibetans that the mining plan could not be
stopped," the Markham county resident said.

"The Tibetans booed them and they were forced to
leave the area immediately," he said.

Tibetan youths stopped

The resident said that afterwards, armed Chinese
police began to repeatedly threaten the Tibetans
blocking the only road to the sacred mountain,
about 40 miles (65 kms) outside of the center of Markham county.

"Police repeatedly threatened to run over those
Tibetans lying down and blocking the road to the
mining site in Takra village, Tsangshul
subdistrict…When the Tibetans would not clear the
road and begged them not to exploit their sacred
hill, the security forces dared not run them over," he said.

The resident said that Tibetan organizers told
all protesters over the age of 60 and under the
age of 18 to return home because they were
concerned about their health and safety.

Scores of younger Tibetans who said they planned
to appeal their case to a higher authority in
inner-China tried to return home by motorbike
from the protest site but local security forces stopped them, he said.

Sacred site

Residents say protests over the proposed mining
plans have been under way for three to four
months, following local authorities’ approval of
Chinese mining and lumbering firm, Zhongkai Co., to excavate the area.

Tibetans have historically worshipped the site,
known as Ser Ngul lo ["Year of Gold and Silver"
in Tibetan], conducting rituals there in the event of drought, residents say.

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 protesting, 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 began
blocking the road, according to residents there.

Since then, security forces have cut off
protesters from the rest of the village and have
blocked all telecommunications in the area. Calls
to protesters weren’t connected.

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, Jennifer Chou, and
Jia Yuan. Written for the Web in English by
Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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