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Tibetan held as 'ringleader' in Chinese mine protest is freed

November 17, 2014

Radio Free Asia, November 14, 2014 - Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have freed the last of a group of Tibetans detained for opposing a Chinese mining operation that had run beyond its leasing contract and had begun to encroach on sacred sites, sources said.

Donkho, one of 27 residents of Karsel village in Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) county in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous taken into custody in June after vowing to block the mining of white marble in their area, was freed on Oct. 28, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Donkho has now been released and has returned home safely,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Of the 27 Chabcha villagers who were taken into custody in June, Donkho was the last to be held back for investigation as a suspected ringleader of the protest, the source said.

“He had been held for the longest period of time, about four months. So now all of those who were detained have been released.”

“The Tibetans in Chabcha have now sent a 16-page petition to Chinese authorities [in Beijing] stating how local authorities and mining companies have colluded in extracting white marble from the area,” he added.

Threat to sacred site

Chinese miners have been digging for white marble in the Karsel village area since about 1989, and continued to excavate even after the end of a contract that allowed them to work, one local source told RFA in June.

“The contract expired this year,” the source said. “So the Tibetans resisted the extension of the mining work after the excavations began to adversely affect the local environment.”

“There is a sacred place near the mining site where the local Tibetans worship and make offerings, fly prayer flags, and burn incense to please the local deities,” he added.

Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations 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.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

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

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