Tibetan herders angered at the theft of their livestock attacked a Chinese-owned slaughterhouse in Sichuan this week, demolishing the building and scattering meat along the road, a Tibetan source said.
The Nov. 29 incident near the town of Minyak Ra Nga Kha in Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kangding) county in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, then sparked a clash between Tibetans and local police, said a Tibetan living in South India, citing sources in Minyak.
“When the police arrived, the Tibetans clashed with them. They damaged their vehicles and seized some arms, smashing them and throwing them away,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Additional Chinese forces then arrived and detained ten Tibetans, the source said.
“People saw the Tibetans being beaten when they were transported to Dartsedo,” he said, adding that “special security forces … are imposing restrictions on the local Tibetans and are forbidding free movement in the area.”
Reached for comment, an officer at the Kangding police station confirmed the incident had taken place, saying that it was "under investigation."
Yaks owned by Tibetans living in the area have often gone missing, with many discovered to have been stolen and butchered by Chinese slaughterhouse owners, the source said.
Local religious leaders have spoken against the killing of animals for their meat, he said.
“Khenpo Tsultrim Lodroe and other lamas have advised the locals not to slaughter animals for meat, but Chinese slaughterhouses were built nearby, causing resentment among Tibetans.”
And in a meeting in October, Chinese officials told Tibetans that the government would soon take land in the area for the construction of high-rise buildings.
“The Tibetans expressed displeasure and resentment at that meeting, so no decision could be reached. Even at that time, the Tibetans were planning to protest against the Chinese plan,” the source said.
'A growing concern'
In a 2007 report, No One Has the Liberty to Refuse, New York-based Human Rights Watch noted spreading “concerted protests” by Tibetans against Chinese-operated slaughterhouses being built in Tibetan areas.
“Local people in areas where these incidents took place claim that they have been ordered to donate animals for slaughter on a per-household basis. In some cases, local protests have been led by religious figures, and have led to arrests and violence,” the report said.
“Clearly slaughterhouses are offensive to Buddhist beliefs, and these have provided some sanction for the protest, but to Tibetan herders it appears that the slaughterhouses also reflect the influx of Han Chinese entrepreneurs.”
Speaking in an interview, Columbia University Tibet expert Robbie Barnett said “we are definitely seeing important signs of a growing concern [in Tibetan areas] about the treatment of animals, and particularly the commercial use of animals for fur and meat production.”
“Added to this are tensions about outside communities coming in and commercially exploiting [local resources] in ways that are not perhaps completely equitable,” he said.
“So I think there are a number of concerns combining—some of them are purely moral, about the treatment of animals, and some of them are about how much one should expect profiteering to operate in one’s own area.”
Reported by Pema Ngoedup and Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.