Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have dismissed three village leaders from their posts following area protests and ahead of plans to force villagers to fly the Chinese national flag from their homes, Tibetan sources say.
The three had protested Chinese actions against Tibetans following clashes over mining operations in Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) county in August, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in the region.
“On Oct. 16, the Chinese authorities convened a meeting in Dzatoe and announced certain decisions,” Konchog Dondrub, who lives in India, said.
“One of those decisions was to relieve the village heads, who were previously appointed by the Chinese with the approval of the local Tibetan community, of their responsibilities,” Dondrub said.
Citing information received from local sources, Dondrub identified the village leaders removed from their jobs as Khetsa Soetob of Atoe Yultso, Ashak Gyaltsen of Dzachen Yultso, and Tronbu Utsa of Serza Yultso.
The men had “complained against the government” following a security crackdown in August that left dozens injured and saw several detained, he said.
“Restrictions on local Tibetans, both in the villages and the monasteries, have continued for the past two months,” Dondrub said, adding, “Chinese security officials are interrogating area residents and subjecting them to all kinds of pain and harassment.”
Authorities are paying particular attention to how Tibetans in the area communicate with each other, he said.
On Aug. 15-16, hundreds of Tibetan villagers blocked work at three mining sites—Atoe, Dzachen, and Chidza—in Dzatoe county, sparking a crackdown by at least 500 armed police, according to area sources.
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.
Tibetan residents of Dzatoe have long regarded the mountains in their area targeted for mining as the abodes of protective deities, and documents appearing to give central government approval for the work were later found to be fakes, one source said.
"So this year, the Tibetans were determined to resist the mines," he said.
Tibetan government employees in Dzatoe are now protesting the Chinese officials’ decision to remove the village chiefs, Dondrub said.
“They say they are unable to work with the Chinese officials who have tortured Tibetans, and demand that the men who were dismissed be allowed to return to work. They have presented a written appeal to Dzatoe county authorities to restore the village leaders to their original positions.”
Now, authorities plan to order local Tibetans to fly the Chinese national flag from the roofs of family homes and monasteries in a forced display of loyalty to the Chinese state, Dondrub said.
Authorities have enforced similar flag-raising campaigns in other Tibetan-populated areas of China in recent months, prompting clashes in which Chinese security forces have beaten and detained protesters and fired into unarmed crowds.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.