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Tibetans detained, beaten for protesting construction near sacred site

May 4, 2015

Radio Free Asia, May 5, 2015 - Chinese authorities have cracked down on villagers protesting road work linked to plans for mining on a sacred mountain in Tibet’s Gonjo county, detaining an unknown number and leaving many badly injured, sources said.

Construction of the road leading to Mini mountain near Awong village in the Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture had resumed around April 2 after being blocked last year by local challenges to the project, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Tibetan residents objected to the plan to mine on a sacred site and appealed to the authorities not to go ahead with it,” RFA’s source, Tashi Lamsang, said, citing contacts in the Gonjo area.

“As a result, the plan was temporarily halted,” Lamsang said.

When local Tibetans approved a separate project to develop bathing facilities at a local hot springs, work on the road began again, and a group of 10 village representatives approached local officials to demand an explanation.

“They were told the work order had been given by Norbu Dondrub, the Gonjo county chief, and were advised to accept money in compensation and keep their mouths shut,” Lamsang said.

The Tibetans were then taken into custody when they threatened further protests, Lamsang said.

“This led to a clash between local Tibetans and the police, and many Tibetans were injured," he said, adding, "The local government hospital refused to treat those who had been hurt, forcing them to go instead to a private clinic for help."

Exact numbers for those who were detained or injured in the clash were not immediately available.

A group of Gonjo-area traders were then detained in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa when they went to the Chamdo Liaison office in the city to plead for an end to mining in their hometown, Lamsang said.

“They told the authorities that if the road work and mining are not stopped, they will appeal the case to central government authorities in Beijing,” he said.

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.

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

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