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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."

Villagers Block Work on Dam

October 4, 2010

A Chinese mining company in Tibet builds on a sacred site.
Radio Free Asia (RFA)
September 30, 2010

Local Tibetans have challenged Chinese work crews
trying to build a dam near a mountain considered
sacred by area residents, according to Tibetan sources.

The mountain, called Lhachen Naglha Dzambha,
rises in Driru [in Chinese, Biru] county in the
Nagchu Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region
(TAR), a native of the region now living in exile said.

"The Gyalmo Ngulchu [Salween] river runs through
the foothills of this sacred mountain," the source said.

"Sometime in August this year, a large number of
Chinese workers arrived in the area. Local
Tibetans were told they were building a dam."

Representatives from each village in the county
then gathered at the site to protest the
construction, another Tibetan living in exile
said, citing sources in the region.

"About 20 vehicles arrived carrying Tibetans from
the northern region of Nagchu," he said.

Villagers 'refused to move'

"The Tibetans confronted the Chinese workers and
county and village authorities, saying that the
Chinese were there not only to build a dam but to begin mining in the area."

Though authorities told them they would be
dispersed by force, the villagers "refused to
move and asserted their right to protect the
environment," the source continued.

The Chinese themselves then left the area on
Sept. 22 and 23, another man said, speaking from
Tibet on the condition of anonymity.

"Chinese workers had already cut a path around
the sacred mountain and had even built some
structures there. They were told to demolish
these and to remove their equipment from the area," he said.

A group of workers then returned to the area on Sept. 26, he said.

"They claimed that their permit to mine in the
area had been approved by the Communist Party
secretary of the TAR. They searched for the
leaders of the [earlier] protest and accused them of ‘separatist’ activities.”

"So the situation is very tense again in Driru," he said.

Frequent standoffs

Reached for comment, a Driru county official
said, "There is no problem. Everything has been settled now."

Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to
frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse
Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual
significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.

In August, Chinese security forces in Sichuan
province fired into a crowd of Tibetans
protesting mining operations in Palyul county of
the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, while
in May, villagers in Markham county in the TAR
renewed protests against Chinese mines operating
on mountains they consider sacred.

Gyegudo county in Qinghai province and Drugchu
county in Gansu this year experienced severe
earthquakes and mudslides that some Tibetans in
the area believe were caused in part by mining and land excavation.

Original reporting by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s
Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee.
Written in English by Richard Finney.
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