Thirteen Tibetans, including a pregnant woman, suffered gunshot wounds when Chinese security forces fired into a crowd of villagers protesting mining operations in a central Tibetan county last month, according to sources.
Word of the incident in Tsang Tobgyal township in Shigatse (in Chinese, Rikaze) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) was delayed due to cuts to Internet service and other communications in the area by Chinese authorities, they said.
The Aug. 9 violence occurred when Tibetans living in Tsang Tobgyal in Namling (Nanmulin) county in Shigatse prefecture “protested against mining activities in the area,” a local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“Protesters surrounded township offices, and armed police then arrived in the area and fired on the crowd,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Thirteen were wounded in the shooting, including a pregnant woman who was struck by a bullet in the leg, the source said.
“The majority of the injured were taken to a hospital in Shigatse city, while others were treated at a county hospital in Namling,” the source said.
No further details were immediately available regarding the condition of the injured or whether protests are continuing in the area.
No response to appeals
Chinese mines operating in Namling extract gold, copper, and minerals “needed for producing weapons,” the source said, adding that local Tibetans had frequently appealed to authorities to halt the mining activities, but with no result.
“The township secretary of the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party is known for taking perks from the mining company and for allowing the mining to proceed, saying they have permission from China’s central authorities,” he said.
“When we heard no positive response, we resorted to launching our protest.”
Most of the residents of Tsang Tobyal township’s 16 villages took part in the rally, he said.
After being fired on, protesters responded by throwing stones, and people were hurt on both sides, he added.
Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.
Last week, more than 1,000 Tibetan villagers protested against Chinese mining operations in another TAR county, saying runoff from the mines has polluted local rivers and streams, destroying fish and crops and causing health problems, a local resident said.
“In the past, our rivers were crisp and clean, and the mountains and valley were known for their natural beauty,” the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Now the rivers are polluted with poisonous waste from the mines.”
The Sept. 23 protest at Zibuk village in the Tashi Gang township of Maldro Gongkar (Mozhugongka) county brought no promise of action from authorities, though, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Tibetan residents of the area have been appealing for help for the past five years, alerting authorities to the poisonous waste being dumped in the rivers and asking them to clean it up, but no response has been received,” the source said.
“It is unclear whether they will do anything to mitigate the problem.”
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.