Authorities in China’s western province of Sichuan detained 11 Tibetans this week, later releasing all but two, after the group petitioned in front of government buildings for the return of land taken from them five years ago, sources said.
The Wednesday protest in the provincial capital Chengdu was broken up by police shortly after it began, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“On January 28, eleven Tibetans from Thangkor village in Dzoege [in Chinese, Ruo’ergai] county in the Ngaba [Aba] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture staged a peaceful protest in Chengdu during a meeting of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress,” RFA’s source said.
The protesters carried banners reading, “We will protect our land even at the cost of our lives” and “We have no home. Return our land,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“About 50 police quickly arrived at the scene, took the banners away, and put everyone into a vehicle, driving them away from the site,” he said.
Nine of the protesters were released on Jan. 30, but two others, who had served as interpreters and were identified only as Jigme and Tsepak, are still being held, he said.
Land taken by force
“About five years ago, a portion of land belonging to Thangkor village was taken by force by authorities for a government development project,” the source said.
“And though the local Tibetans repeatedly appealed to county authorities for its return, they never received a positive response.”
Following Wednesday’s failed protest in Chengdu, authorities called a meeting in Thangkor and threatened residents with unspecified “consequences” if they traveled to the city to stage additional protests of their own, RFA’s source said.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year.
Many result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written by Richard Finney.