Tibetans protest mining on a sacred site, while in Lhasa, former political prisoner Lodoe Gyatso is rearrested
Around 300 Tibetans have been staging a protest in Sangchu County in eastern Tibet. The protest, which began at the start of this week, is in opposition to a large-scale gold mining operation that has been taking place around the site of Gong-Ngon La Ri, a mountain that is sacred to the local community.
The protesters, who come from Amchok Township in Sangchu County, have opposed the mining operation in the area since it commenced 16 years ago. They have lodged appeals with the authorities, asking them to halt the mining, but to no avail. They decided to carry out a public protest to oppose to the mine and the damage that it has caused to the surrounding enviornment.
Destroying the land "piece by piece"
Protesters held up hand-painted banners and made speeches criticising the gold mining. One of the protesters explained that they were not opposed to the Chinese government and even praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his stance against corruption, but insisted that the land is sacred to the community and that they should be allowed to stay on it, saying:
"You say that this land belongs to the nation and we don't deny that fact, but we also belong here and we have every right and desire to belong to this land and to protect and save it. This land we are on is sacred to us, it protects us and it's precious to us and so it brings us hope and happiness and you are destroying it piece by piece for some individuals' monetary profits. It hurts us physically to see this happening because we know we won't get this back once destroyed. We cannot accept it come what may."
Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, a military taskforce has reportedly been called to the scene. There is no further information on how the soldiers responded to the event, which is ongoing.
The vast scale of the mine can be seen in a video taken by Tibetans at the scene. A panorama shot shows numerous trucks and pieces of digging machinery at work inside the site, which is sealed off from outsiders by a barbed wire fence.
The protest in Sangchu County is one of a number of actions that communities across Tibet have taken recently against mining. Last week Free Tibet reported on protests in Chuchen County in Ngaba that were broken up by police, while in early May a community in Kardze managed to make authorities suspend mining in the vicinity of their farmland after demonstrations against pollution which had ruined the water supply and killed fish and livestock.
Free Tibet has also learned that Lodoe Gyatso, a former political prisoner, was rearrested last month in Lhasa. The reason for his arrest and his whereabouts remains unknown.
Lodoe Gyatso, now 55, was imprisoned in 1993 after killing a man in a fight. In 1995 he had his sentence extended after carrying out a pro-independence demonstration inside the prison, and for distributing handwritten leaflets within the prison. These acts initially lead to prison authorities calling on the Tibet Autonomous Region Intermediate Court to sentence him to death, but after the United Nations and international rights groups raised his case with China, his sentence was instead extended from 15 to 21 years.
For one month after his demonstration, Lodoe Gyatso was severely tortured. He was hung up by his thumbs and kept in such a small cell that he couldn't even raise his head. He was finally released in 2013, in poor health.
Tibet’s environment is under attack, with mining causing damage to meadows and grazing land and pollution to its rivers. Meanwhile, Chinese water bottling companies such as Tibet 5100 are taking water from Tibet’s already retreating glaciers. Send a message to BlackRock, one of Tibet 5100’s international shareholders, telling them to sells its shares in Tibet 5100 and end any financial support for environmental destruction in Tibet.