Tibetan Environmental Activist Drowns in Attempt to Save Endangered Fish

tibet-nyingchak-june292015.JPG Writer and environmental activist Kawa Nyingchak in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

A Tibetan environmental activist and writer of children’s books has died while trying to gather evidence of illegal fishing in a protected lake in northwestern China’s Qinghai province, according to sources in the region and in exile.

Kawa Nyingchak, who had tried with other Tibetans to block the killing of endangered fish, drowned in Qinghai Lake on June 26 while attempting to haul in nets used by Chinese poachers so that he could hand them in to police, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Two days before, local police had dismissed the Tibetans’ concerns over the poaching, telling them they had no evidence that would implicate the fishermen involved, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“So the group went back on June 26 and began to pull out the fishing nets that had been laid in the lake, and the Tibetans and the Chinese fishermen ended up in a scuffle,” he said.

When Nyingchak stepped a short distance into the lake, “he drowned and could not be saved,” he said.

"Nyingchak got into the water trying to dismantle the net, but was drowned," a second source said, speaking from Switzerland and citing local contacts.

"The other people at the scene couldn't swim, and therefore couldn't help him. When he was finally pulled from the water, he was already dead," the source, named Sonam, said.

Campaign of protection

Incidents of illegal fishing have increased in recent years around Qinghai Lake, also called Kokonor, RFA's source in Tibet said.

“And in response, the local Tibetans have increased their monitoring activities,” he said.

Nyingchak, a graduate in economics from the Northwest University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, was one of the main activists in the local campaign of environmental protection, he said.

“He had also written a well-received Tibetan textbook for young children, and had written a children’s book called Firefly,” the source said.

“There are many other writings, including poems, that he composed,” he added.

Directives from China’s central government urging protection of Tibet’s vulnerable environment are often flouted at the local level by Han Chinese migrants to the area, experts say.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service and by Dan Zhen for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and by Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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