Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have detained at least a dozen Tibetans, later releasing one, who reoccupied land taken from them five years ago for a government development project, according to sources.
Residents of Thangkor town in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture had appealed to the government for the return of their land on May 15 as no developer had begun construction and local authorities were leasing it out to private individuals, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
But local officials, angered by the appeal, retaliated by withdrawing subsidies for local families, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When residents complained, the local government pledged to resolve the dispute by Sept. 20, but when the deadline passed, “the local Tibetans reoccupied the land,” he said.
“In response, the authorities dispatched a contingent of police from Dzoege county and [other parts of] Ngaba and cracked down on the Tibetans on Sept. 22.”
According to the source, at least 12 Tibetans were taken into custody, including six who had assisted in writing up the appeal—Dobe, Shetruk, Tsering Kyab, Patra, Tsering Tashi and Tsokyi.
Tsokyi, the sister of appeal organizer Jigje Kyab, was “severely beaten and then released,” he said, while 11 others “are still detained in [neighboring] Marthang (Hongyuan) county.”
The source said Jigje Kyab, 39, is now missing “and nobody knows about his condition.”
In April, Kyab, also known as Jigme Kyab, went into hiding after a Thangkor official and local government employees visited his home, and said via video at the time that he had “evaded capture” and was in a safe place.
The custodian of documents supporting Tibetan claims to property taken five years ago in a land grab, Kyab said he had gone into hiding so that he could present the case to higher provincial authorities.
Kyab had also played a role in organizing a Jan. 28 protest by 20 Thangkor-area Tibetans in the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, sources told RFA.
In that incident, authorities quickly broke up the protest and detained 11 Tibetans, later releasing all but two, after the group petitioned in front of government buildings during a meeting of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress for the return of their land.
According to sources, a portion of land belonging to Thangkor town was taken by force by authorities for a government development project some five years ago, and though the local Tibetans have repeatedly appealed to the county government for its return, they have never received a positive response.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of “mass incidents” across China every year.
Many result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.