Tibet: anti-mining protests spread

Over 100 ethnic Tibetans were injured and one man committed suicide in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) prefecture* in the Kham region of Eastern Tibet (officially in Qinghai province), as Chinese military forces broke up protests against diamond mining in the area Aug. 19. As in similar protests elsewhere in Qinghai earlier that week, protestors put up large banners printed with President Xi Jinping's recent speech on environmental protection, and charged that the mines have not been approved by China's central government. The clash apparently began when some 1,000 protesters occupied two traditional Tibetan sacred sites, identified as Atod Yultso and Zachen Yultso, at a mine in Dzatoe (Chinese: Zaduo) township, and security forces fired tear-gas to disperse them. Eight protesters were detained, but two identified as leaders are reported to have "disappeared."

No journalists were on hand in the remote area, but local Tibetan activists were able to get word out to contacts in the exile government at Dharamsala, India. The Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) issued a statement saying: "China's large-scale exploitation of mineral resources in Tibet has led to sustained socio-economic and environmental problems. Massive influx of Chinese migrant workers into Tibetan areas deprives Tibetans of employment opportunities." The CTA said it has "repeatedly called on China to ensure active participation of Tibetan people in all decision making process and that social, environmental and cultural impacts assessment are carried out."

The Beijing government is aggressively seeking foreign investment for a new thrust of mineral development on the Tibetan plateau. Gold production in China has doubled since 2003, and it recently overtook Australia as the world's top producer. Vancouver-based China Gold International Resources Corporation already operates a copper mine at Jiama in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as a gold mine in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and is seeking investment to expand. (Women News Network, Aug. 21 The Tibet Post, Aug. 19; Gold Investing News, July 10; CGIRC Company Overview)

* The CTA apparently considers the Chinese-designated "prefectures" to be "counties" of the territory it claims as Tibet, or Cholka-Sum. Large areas of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, as well as part of Gansu, are considered to be Eastern Tibet, or the traditional regions of Kham and Amdo, while the Chinese-designated TAR is considered U-Tsang. All are considered as lying within Cholka-Sum, also rendered by the CTA's supporters as "Historic Tibet," and by its critics as "Greater Tibet." See map.

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  1. Tibetan anti-mining protester dies under ‘torture’

    A young Tibetan detained last year for his role in leading protests against Chinese mining operations died after being tortured in custody, sources said. His death came as Chinese police moved to round up residents of Driru (iChinese: Biru) county in Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, identified as leaders of the mass protest that forced the shut-down of mining operations on Naglha Dzambha, a mountain regarded as sacred by area residents.

    Driru Samdrub, a Tibetan native of the area now living in Europe told Radio Free Asia's Tibetan Service, citing sources in the region: "Konchog Drakpa, a young man in his 20s from Chana town in Driru, was tortured in prison a month ago. He died in prison, and his body was handed over to his family on Dec. 28, 2013."

    In May 2013, Chinese mine operators announced plans to construct roads and excavate minerals at Naglha Dzambha, prompting about 5,000 Tibetans to gather in protest in Driru, drawing a large security force to the area. About 3,500 then went on to protest at the mining site itself, sources said. (RFA, Feb. 8)