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China detains more than 40 Tibetans in clash over water rights

June 5, 2017

Radio Free Asia, June 2, 2017 - Authorities in China’s Qinghai province have arrested more than 40 Tibetans following a clash between villagers and police over water rights that left dozens injured, according to Tibetan sources.

On June 1, Tibetans from Shitsa village, in Tsoshar (in Chinese, Haidong) prefecture’s Bayen (Hualong) Hui Autonomous county, confronted authorities over plans to divert a waterway supplying their village to nearby Tharga village, the residents of which are mostly Hui Muslim, the sources said.

“The river flowing within the territory of Shitsa village was to be diverted towards Tharga village, which is inhabited by Muslims and this was resisted by the Tibetan villagers,” Dorjee Bum, a Tibetan living in exile who asked that his location not be revealed, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.

“The dispute escalated into a serious crisis, so armed police arrived at the scene and attempted to quell the situation. In the midst of the tension, the police sided more with Tharga village, and that led the Tibetan protestors to clash with police, leaving 20 Tibetans and 10 police injured.”

According to a second source inside Tibet who spoke on condition of anonymity, and video footage obtained by RFA, police used tear gas to break up the mob of angry Tibetans and detained two Shitsa village heads.

In the aftermath, “the Tibetan village community called on the authorities to resolve the dispute fairly and asserted that truth was on the Tibetan side,” the source said.

“They also called on the police to release the two detained leaders.”

Dorjee Bum said that not only were their demands ignored, but authorities had taken additional action against the Shitsa villagers since Thursday’s clash.

“During the past two days … more than 40 [Tibetan] members of Shitsa village were detained,” including the two leaders arrested on Thursday, he said.

The official titles of the two detained village leaders and whether any of the other Tibetans detained held official positions was not immediately clear.

But Dorjee Bum said he believed the Tibetans were detained in connection with the injuries police officers suffered during the clash, adding that no Muslims had been arrested.

Meanwhile, he added, the dispute over the diverted water continued Friday.

“More residents from both of the opposed villages arrived at the scene today, and the crisis remains unresolved,” he said.

“Many of those who were injured [in Thursday’s clash] have ended up in the hospital for treatment.”

China’s Hui Muslims are largely Sinicized, apart from religious traditions, and live in scattered communities across the country’s Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces, in addition to Ningxia Hui Autonomous prefecture.

A total of 150 Tibetans living in China have set themselves ablaze in protests since the wave of self-immolations began in 2009. Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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