Beating, tear gas and electric shocks: China reacts to environmental protest in Tibet

Monday, 19 August 2013

Security forces in Tibet have responded with violence to a peaceful protest by thousands of Tibetans over mining in their local area. The incident is the latest of many clashes over mining in Tibet.

The protests began in Gedrong Zatoe County, eastern Tibet, (1) on 13 August as hundreds of Chinese workers arrived to start mining operations at three sites. Members of the local community converged at the sites and argued that the mine did not have a proper legal basis. They later erected large posters at the entrance to the site depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping and quoting a speech in which he talked of the importance to future generations of protecting the environment (photos, 2).

Photographs obtained by Free Tibet show security vehicles driving to the site and Paramilitary Armed Police (PAP) gathering at the scene. On August 16, after three days of stand-off between security forces and protesters, the PAP broke up the demonstration by firing tear gas into the crowd (photos) and beating them, including with electric prods. There are unconfirmed reports that 40 Tibetans were injured (photos). An unknown number of protesters, both men and women, have been arrested and local community leader Kaitsa Soldor, who was reported to be among the leaders of the protest, has been missing since the incident.

Another protester is reported to have attempted suicide in protest. Sogpo Choedup, 27, was taken away by security forces and was hospitalised (photo).

Mining is frequently the cause of protest in Tibet. In May, thousands resisted a Chinese company’s attempt to mine on a sacred site (3). In 2010, security forces fired on another mine protest (4). A central objection to the mining is that it is almost always undertaken by Chinese or multinational companies and that while the Tibetan environment suffers its effects, the economic benefits flow to non-Tibetan companies and workers. When a landslide killed more than 80 miners (5) in the Tibet Autonomous Region in April, just two of those killed were reported to be Tibetan – the rest of the workers were Chinese immigrants.

Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Every community has the right to determine how its land is used and environment protected. Tibetans care as deeply for their environment as anti-fracking protesters in the UK or Indonesians resisting logging care for theirs. Tibetans have repeatedly challenged Chinese authorities over this fundamental issue but they are denied the rights to protect their land or to protest when it is threatened. Yet again, the occupying Chinese state has resorted to brutal violence to defend its exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources and its devastation of Tibet’s natural environment.”

For photographs, further information or comment, contact campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie:
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Notes to editors

(1) Photographs can be viewed at
(2) Locations: Aathol, Chyiza and Zachen townships in Gedrong Zatoe county (Ch: Zaduo), Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.
(4) August 2010