Tibetan Villagers Block Highway Construction in Sit-Down Protest

2015-04-21
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Tibetan protesters block construction equipment in Sangchu in an undated photo.
Tibetan protesters block construction equipment in Sangchu in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Tibetan villagers living in northwestern China’s Gansu province are protesting the proposed extension of a Chinese-built highway into nomadic grazing areas, blocking earth-moving equipment with their bodies and demanding that the work be stopped, sources said.

Included in the protest, which began on April 10, are residents of at least one of several  villages belonging to Gengya township in Gansu’s Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

The number of those involved was not immediately clear, but “construction could affect about 689 Tibetan residents and their livelihood,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They have been sitting and protesting for almost 10 days now,” the source said.

So far, authorities have made no promise of financial compensation for those likely to be affected by the work on the road, the source said.

“Instead, they called some village elders in for questioning and threatened them.”

“If the authorities proceed with construction in spite of our protest, they should provide compensation for the land,” he said.

Grassland 'cut into pieces'

Separately, a second source confirmed the protest, citing particular concerns focused on possible damage to a year-round water source used by herders at a place called Demey Natak.

“We are seriously hurt when our grassland, an integral part of our lives, is cut into pieces for the convenience of Chinese transport,” he said.

“Ten days have now passed since we began to guard the area and keep watch so that our grassland is not harmed.”

Last year, more than a hundred Tibetan residents of another Sangchu county township protested the seizure of farmland for the construction of highways tied to state-linked gold mining and industrial operations, sources said in an earlier report.

The April 2, 2014 protest by banner-carrying residents of Hortsang township came two weeks after other local demonstrations against government seizure of Tibetan land, and quickly drew police to the protest site.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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