Chinese authorities are killing Tibetan-owned livestock in large numbers in an area marked for future mining operations, citing fears of an outbreak of disease, Tibetan sources in exile say.
The slaughter, which witnesses described as “indiscriminate,” began early in August in Ngamring (in Chinese, Angren) county in the Shigatse (in Chinese, Rikaze) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), sources said.
“On August 2, government officials arrived in Chungma township’s Genda and Thanga villages and killed 14 dzos [a crossbreed of yak and cow] and two yaks,” A Tibetan living in Nepal told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing local sources.
“Then, on August 7, officials came to Dolo village and killed 68 head of cattle, burying them alive without even examining them for signs of infection,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The next day, another 21 animals were taken by force from their owners and killed in the same way, he said.
“Later, on August 12, officials killed 52 animals belonging to Thanga village and announced that all the rest would be destroyed.”
Local herders objected to this “indiscriminate killing of livestock” and argued that if a disease had spread among the herds, authorities should separate the affected animals from those who were still healthy, he said.
“Those who resisted the killing spree were threatened with ‘serious consequences,’” the man said, adding, “A local Tibetan named Kalsang was taken away and hasn’t been heard from since.”
Separately, a Tibetan living in India confirmed the account, also citing sources in the region.
“A number of milk-bearing animals including cows were killed in three places called Thakyi, Dolo, and Pema in Ngamring county in Shigatse,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Though herders appealed to the authorities to spare uninfected animals, most of the animals kept near the villages were killed, he said.
“In some villages, animals grazing in the hills were also randomly killed, while in another village animals found in the hills were spared.”
Villagers were later forced to sign a document declaring that they had voluntarily given up their animals in order to halt the spread of disease, he said.
Several elderly women in the villages were so shocked by the killing they had witnessed that they fainted, he added.
On Tuesday, China’s state-owned Xinhua news service reported an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in another TAR prefecture, Chamdo (Changdu).
“Local authorities have sealed off and sterilized the infected area, where 57 head of cattle have been culled and safely disposed of, according to the ministry,” Xinhua said.
Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), on Tuesday decried the destruction of Tibetan herd animals, saying “the indiscriminate killing of livestock without a full investigation has caused great hardship to local Tibetans.”
Quoting a “reliable source,” CTA noted that “future sites for mines had been marked off in the area about two years ago.”
Chinese authorities are “fully aware” that mining operations carried out in herding areas can be harmful to livestock, CTA said.
“This is why they have resorted to the killing of animals on the pretext of ‘disease’—so that the local people will have no reason to object to future mining,” CTA said.
Chinese mining operations have already damaged the environment in Lhundrub (Linzhou) county outside Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, destroying farmers’ fields and forcing herders to move away from traditional grazing areas, Tibetan sources say.
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 as they extract local wealth.
Studies show that the TAR has China’s largest chromium and copper reserves, while most of its iron, gold, silver, potassium, oil, and natural gas reserves remain unexplored, according to official reports.
Reported by Thupten Sangay and Thondup Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.