This first broke earlier this week on Phayul, but Radio Free Asia now has more details. Chinese security forces opened fire on a crowd of Tibetans who were peacefully protesting in Palyul county. The Tibetans were protesting ” the expansion of a gold mining operation they say is harming the environment.” The shooting took place on August 17th and it is believed that 4 people were killed and as many as 30 more protesters were wounded in the shooting by Chinese security forces.
RFA reports that Palyul is being locked down by overwhelming Chinese security presence:
Drime Gyaltsen, a Tibetan monk living in India, said he was informed by sources in Palyul that additional security forces had been sent to the area to quell further unrest.
“Additional forces arrived from the neighboring Kardze and Dege counties. Right now all the roads leading to Palyul are blocked and residents are not allowed to move about freely,” he said.
An on-duty officer who answered the phone at the Palyul police station said he had only recently joined the force and was not fully informed regarding the confrontation.
“That incident is not resolved yet. I don’t know the details. You can call tomorrow when our senior officials come to our office,” he said.
The cause of the protests were concerns by local Tibetans of the damage mining activities were inflicting on the area.
The group complained that gold mining operations by the Chinese-owned Kartin Company had led to an overcrowded population, severely degraded the fertility of their farmland, and adversely affected the local grassland habitat.
“The county officials refused to hear their plea and, instead of listening to them, had the petitioners detained,” Drime Gyaltsen said.
“The Tibetan villagers saw this as deliberate bullying, and about 40 additional Tibetans arrived at the Palyul county center demanding the release of those detained and calling for officials to compensate them for the destruction of their land,” he said.
The group picketed in front of the county government office for three days, and in the early hours of the fourth day police used an incapacitating gas on the crowd and attempted to take them away in waiting vehicles, Drime Gyaltsen said.
“When some of the protesters affected by the gas were being forced into the vehicles, their comrades who were unaffected … resorted to shouting and began protesting. At that time, the police fired their weapons,” he said.
Tibetans are not consulted when Chinese mining (or logging or drilling etc) companies come to Tibet to extract Tibet’s natural resources. When Chinese companies (or Western companies for that matter) come to take Tibet’s natural resources, they bring cheap laborers from China. There is no consultation about where the mining can and should take place, leading to the destruction of Tibet’s sacred lands and spiritual places. Throw into the mix the consequences of mining – polluted water, degraded soil, reduced grazing lands and so on – and you have a mix that almost guarantees that indigenous Tibetans will reach a breaking point. Unfortunately, while the Tibetans in Palyul expressed their frustration in peaceful protest, Chinese security forces used homicidal violence to quell Tibetan dissent.
While a crackdown is ongoing in Palyul, RFA reports that local officials are negotiating with Tibetans and the Chinese government may begin an investigation into how mining is affecting the area. This is a step in the right direction, though I doubt it would have happened in the absence of Tibetans protesting the mining and the Chinese forces then murdering them. The inability for the Chinese government to find ways to develop Tibet with consultation of and input from local Tibetans is one of the kinetic forces that is going to continue to drive protest and Tibetan self-identification. This is a huge problem for the Chinese government and their continued military occupation of Tibet.