Two villages at risk of being submerged due to the dam's construction
20 Tibetans have been arrested following a protest against the construction of a dam along the Langcan (Mekong) River in Dechen (Ch: Deqin) County, southeast Tibet, Yunnan Province. The project was approved in 2008 and initial work began last year.
On 18 October 2016 the Chinese government issued a relocation order for the village of Yanmen (Ch: Huafengping), requiring the entire town to resettle, as the area would be submerged. Locals were offered money as compensation for the loss of their houses but they feared the amount was not enough to enable them to relocate. Worried that they may be left in poverty as a result, villagers submitted an official petition to their local government on 30 October in which they asked to meet with the authorities in charge of the relocation operation to have their questions and concerns addressed. It is currently unknown what response, if any, this petition received. However, foundation laying for the dam began on 15 November.
On 16 November, three vehicles connected to the project were obstructed by residents of Yangdro (Ch: Yunling), another village expected to be submerged by the dam. Several of these protesters were injured by Chinese armed personnel; photos and video footage from social media show them being manhandled and beaten.
The following afternoon the Dechen County Public Security Bureau arrested 20 people for disruption of public order and the obstruction of ‘government administration’. Unusually, Chinese state media reported on the protest; it highlighted how ‘legal education programmes’ had not worked on the villagers who had acted to prevent police carrying out their duties. However, the local government website reported the arrest of just four people rather than all 20.
Free Tibet continues to monitor this case, but it has been extremely difficult to receive updates, due to communications restrictions in the area, and the current condition of the detained and injured Tibetans is not known.
The Chinese Government’s 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020) stresses the importance of dam building in Tibetan areas as a main source of energy, indicating we may well see many more projects in the near future.