Villagers Attacked for Protesting Graft

Tibetan tenants face unexpected charges for 'free housing.'

An undated photo by Free Tibet shows Chinese paramilitary police marching on the streets of Ngaba.

About 100 Tibetan villagers were injured when they were attacked by Chinese police during a protest against suspected corruption among local officials in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, exile sources said today.

Between 15 and 20 other villagers were detained following the protest on Saturday, sources said.

The protest began at about 2:00 p.m. local time when the residents of Andu village in Upper Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county were brought together for a public meeting, India-based monks Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering said, citing contacts in the region.

“A group of officials from Ngaba county then spoke in praise of two officials who were suspected of embezzling public funds some time ago, saying that they were to be rewarded for their good work,” Yeshe and Tsering said in a statement.

When the villagers voiced their disapproval, about 10 truckloads of armed police who had accompanied the officials attacked the crowd.

“Around  100 people were injured,” Yeshe and Tsering said.

“Among them, Loppon Kyab had to spend the night in the Ngaba county hospital. And 15-20 people were detained, including Tsamchen, Tsenor, and Tenzin Tsering of Tsosum village in Gyalde.”

Where those who were detained were taken is still unknown.

Missing funds

The two officials singled out for praise by the Ngaba county government were suspected by Andu villagers of having taken funds assigned for the building of homes for the elderly, Yeshe and Tsering said.

“After 2008, a site known as Omaylu, owned in common by the village community, was appropriated by the government  for the purpose of building an old people’s home,” Yeshe and Tsering said, adding that the site had been used for communal prayer meetings, public religious teachings by visiting lamas, and annual community festivals.

“People protested against this at the time, but their protests had no effect, and a big army camp was built there which is now occupied by soldiers and armed police.”

Rows of small houses were then built nearby, Yeshe and Tsering said.

And though these were given to people as a form of “state assistance,” the families occupying them were told at the end of last year that they would have to pay 10,000 yuan (U.S.$1,594) of the 80,000 yuan that each house had cost to build.

“The people responded that they had been given the housing as aid, that no demand for money had been made, and that they were not able to meet one now.”

The two local government workers later praised by county officials were suspected of having embezzled funds for the housing, causing a shortfall that resulted in the demand for money from tenants, Yeshe and Tsering said.

“The two have been held in low regard ever since.”

Ngaba has been the scene of many of the 33 Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule which have resulted in a major security crackdown in Sichuan.

Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service.  Written in English by Richard Finney.


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