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Chinese authorities arrest 60 Tibetan mine protesters

June 16, 2014

June 13, 2014 - Chinese authorities in Tibet’s Dzogang county have detained about 60 men from a village rocked by protests last month against a gold mining project believed to be threatening the environment, sources said.

The men from Gewar village were taken into custody after being summoned to a meeting in Tongbar town in Dzogang (in Chinese, Zuogang) in the Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, a Tibetan living in Europe told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.

They are believed now to be undergoing questioning over recent area protests, including the death in May of a villager who stabbed himself and jumped from a building to oppose Chinese plans to mine gold.

“Sometime around June 8 or 9, some Dzogang county officials arrived in Tongbar and ordered all male members of families in Gewar village to assemble in the town along with the two village heads,” RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region.

“Tibetans who had previously traveled to India were also ordered to be present,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

When the men had gathered, officials ordered that one from each family should go to the Dzogang county seat together with the village heads, the source said, adding that “all are still being held at the Dzogang county detention center.”

“We hear that they are being regularly interrogated,” he said.

Identities not revealed

Separately, a second Tibetan source confirmed the detentions, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I heard that the two heads of Gewar village were detained,” he said. “Tibetans who had visited India were also identified and taken to the Dzogang county detention center.”

“The authorities are interrogating them, but since they are under detention, their identities and other details about them are not being released,” he said.

On May 7, Gewar village resident Phakpa Gyaltsen died in a solitary protest after stabbing himself and jumping from a building in Tongbar town to oppose Chinese plans to mine gold in an area of Dzogang near Madok Tso called Ache Jema, according to Tibetan sources.

Villagers had previously worked in groups of three to guard the site from miners, sources said.

Following Gyaltsen’s death, hundreds of area residents gathered in front of Tongbar government offices to demand a halt to Chinese plans to build the mine, sources said.

Now, Chinese authorities are cracking down on local Tibetans using mobile phones or the WeChat microblogging service to contact outsiders, one source said, adding, “All communications, including exchanges of photos, are being monitored in Tongbar town and the nearby villages.”

“If anyone is caught loading photos onto WeChat, this will cause them major problems,” he said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.

Reported by Soepa Gyatso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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