Several hundred security forces violently dispersed Tibetan protesters blocking mining work in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s Qinghai province on Friday, injuring dozens and detaining eight, local sources said.
Among those injured and held in the crackdown in the Gedrong area of Qinghai’s Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) county in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was a man who some sources claimed had inflicted injuries upon himself in protest.
Police stormed two of the three mining sites in the mountainous area where demonstrators had been in a standoff with Chinese mine workers since early this week, and were expected to target the third site over the weekend, the sources told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
One source in Dzatoe said at least 500 armed police had carried out the operation at the Atod Yultso and Dzachen Yultso sites, firing tear gas on protesters and intimidating them with “threats.”
“Several army vehicles suddenly arrived at the sites,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another source in the area said one of the protest leaders, identified as Ketso Sodor, had gone missing, while eight others—including men and women—were detained and 15 were taken to the hospital.
Sources said dozens were wounded in the crackdown.
A Tibetan living in exile, citing local contacts, had said that about 1,000 Tibetans had gathered to protest against the mining activities in each of the three sites since early this week.
The numbers could not be independently confirmed. Villagers are concerned that the mining activities are not sanctioned by national authorities and that they could trigger pollution and other problems.
In the crackdown Friday, one man, identified as Sogpo Choedrup, was seriously injured after he “tried to kill himself with two knife cuts,” and was taken away by police, the source said.
“His present condition, whether he is alive or dead, is not clear,” he said.
Another source inside Tibet but outside the Dzatoe area claimed that he had killed himself.
“The situation is extremely tense and sad,” another source in Dzatoe said after the crackdown.
“Tomorrow [Saturday], the paramilitary and police teams are planning to attack those sitting in protest at the Chidza site.”
Security forces had first arrived in the area on Tuesday after the standoff began when large numbers of Chinese mine workers went to the three sites to start excavation.
The protesters have rejected assurances given by the mine operators that they have a national permit to begin work at the mines, saying they will only stop if Chinese President Xi Jinping gives a public television address authorizing the work, a local source said earlier this week.
Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of polluting the environment and disrupting sites of spiritual significance as they extract local wealth.
In March, operations at the Gyama mine in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar (Mozhugongka) county near Lhasa caused a catastrophic landslide that killed 83 miners.
And in January, Tibetan sources told RFA that Chinese-operated mines in Lhundrub (Linzhou) county, also near Lhasa, have caused “severe” damage to local forests, grasslands, and drinking water.
Reported by Lobsang Choepel, Lumbum Tashi, and Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.