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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Chinese government admits to fatal shooting of Tibetan in mining protest

September 3, 2010

ICT report
August 31, 2010

Chinese police shot dead a Tibetan "by accident" during a protest
related to mining in a Tibetan area of Sichuan two weeks ago,
according to a rare admission in a Chinese state media report
yesterday. According to reports from Tibetans in the area at least
three Tibetans may have been killed in the incident, in which police
opened fire on a group of Tibetans protesting about environmental
damage caused by mining in the eastern Tibetan area of Kham, although
it has not been possible to confirm the exact number of fatalities.
It is the most serious incident in recent months of armed response to
a mining protest that Tibetan sources reported was peaceful.

The Chinese official news agency Xinhua claimed that a 47-year old
Tibetan called Babo was allegedly leading a group of protestors who
"attacked" police in a courtyard in Payul (Chinese: Baiyu) county in
Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) prefecture, Sichuan, using "knives, clubs and
rocks," and injuring 17 police officers, according to the official
report. In other incidents where police have opened fire, the state
media has reported that police were 'attacked' by Tibetans apparently
in order to justify their actions, and it has not been possible to
confirm that this was the case. "[Babo] was later fatally wounded by
a stray bullet when police fired warning shots with an anti-riot
shotgun. Babo was rushed to hospital but died on August 16," Xinhua
reported yesterday (August 30).

The Xinhua version of events stated that local people were protesting
about the detention of a businessman named as Fu Liang for allegedly
exploiting goldmines and damaging the grasslands, but this could not
be confirmed. Exile Tibetan sources in contact with people in the
area report that the Tibetans were protesting because heavy equipment
brought in for the increased mining operations had damaged farmland.
According to one Tibetan in exile, the protest developed because the
local authorities were seeking to increase the number of mining sites
in the area, and Tibetans began to put together petitions against the
mines. The source, a Tibetan in India in contact with Tibetans in the
Payul area, said: "Local people took the petitions to the government
building and gathered in front of the building, and some sat down
outside the office. Armed security threw tear gas at the crowd and
afterwards opened fire."

Radio Free Asia's Tibetan service reported that at least four
Tibetans were killed when police opened fire, and that as many as 30
Tibetans were wounded in the August 17 shooting (Xinhua reported that
it happened on August 15).
(http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/mine-08262010142756.html).
According to RFA, citing a Tibetan monk based in India, additional
security had been sent to the area to quell unrest. The same source
said that around August 13, a group of Tibetans led by village head
Tashi Sangpo traveled to the government headquarters in the county
seat of Payul to express concerns about an increase in mining
activity. They said that gold mining by the Chinese-owned Kartin
Company had led to an increase in people coming to the area, severely
degraded the fertility of their farmland, and adversely affected the
local grassland habitat. According to the same report, Tashi Sangpo
was singled out first when police opened fire, and was shot in the leg.

There has been an expansion of mining activities in recent years
following an emphasis on exploitation of minerals in the area by the
prefectural authorities in the early 1980s, when official sources
described Payul's Changtai Gold Mine as one of the prefecture's
"backbone enterprises", according to "Tibet Outside the TAR," CD-Rom
by Steven D Marshall and Susette Cooke, published in 1997.
(http://shop3.mailordercentral.com/tibetmerchandise/prodinfo.asp?number=CDRM-
TIBET). "[Official sources] also mention that gold prospecting has
been increasingly developed at rural town enterprise and village
organization levels since 1990, a policy which encourages Chinese
immigrant miners as much as local Tibetans."

"Two weeks after the event, this admission by the Chinese authorities
that 'by accident' they killed a Tibetan who was 'attacking' police
is simply not a tenable account of events," said Mary Beth Markey,
President of the International Campaign for Tibet. "Whatever the
truth of the situation, it cannot be denied that drafting in police
armed with 'anti-riot shotguns' and imposing a blackout on
information from the area once again underlines the vulnerability of
the Tibetan people, and the lack of accountability from the Chinese
authorities both to the Tibetan people themselves and to the
international community."

Tibetans have increasingly been prepared to protest against the
impact of mining or other industrial activity on their local
environment in recent years despite the dangers. On May 15, 2010.
police opened fire on Tibetans at a cement factory in the Tibetan
area of Amdo (Labrang in Gansu Province) after local villagers,
worried about pollution from the factory, started to rebuild a road
that had been closed by the expansion of the factory. Fifteen people
were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds or injuries from beatings
by police, although no one was killed, according to an exile Tibetan
source in contact with Tibetans in the area. (Images of troops massed
at the protest at:
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/police-open-fire-tibe
tans-protesting-cement-factory-pollution).

The incident followed protests by Tibetan villagers in Markham in the
Tibetan area of Kham against mining operations earlier this month,
according to the Tibetan language service of Radio Free Asia.
Thirteen Tibetans were detained and five injured on May 4, 2010, the
day a mining company was given the go ahead, despite earlier
protests, to resume mining at three major sites in Markham (Chinese:
Mangkang) county in Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) Prefecture, Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR). (Report at:
http://www.tibetanreview.net/news.php?&id=6356).

The Chinese authorities started surveying and mining Tibet in the
1950s. The mining industry expanded considerably during economic
reforms of the 1980s and 1990s but generally remained small-scale. As
China has faced growing shortages in the domestic supply of raw
materials there has been an accelerated exploitation of Tibet's
minerals and as infrastructure has developed mineral commodities have
become increasingly accessible. Poor governance and control over
mining have in some cases exacerbated its environmental impact as the
interests of local people have been subordinated to those of
officials and the state. Mining has had a serious environmental
impact in many areas, notably land degradation, pollution, and harm
to livestock and wildlife bio-diversity.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Director of Communications, ICT
Email: press@savetibet.org
Tel: +44 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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